A conversation with Jeanne Liedtka

Colin White, President of Invetech

Last year I had the pleasure of reading The Catalyst, an impactful book by Professor Jeanne Liedtka and colleagues at Darden business school, who studied successful growth leaders, identifying the unique attributes of those who are more likely to succeed with the growth challenge. Professor Liedtka’s findings were both refreshing and surprising, and have reshaped the way I think about growth, the role of leadership and professional development, both for myself and for my team.

What most resonated with me was that successful growth leaders who formed part of the study were not the innovation superstars (like Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg). Rather, they were regular corporate type people, who can be more easily identified with and whose challenges seem to mirror my own. It was important to me that these findings were backed up by research, they had some foundation, and this made me want to explore the topic further with Jeanne herself. And so, I am very pleased to be talking with Jeanne today in the first of a continuing series dedicated to the topic of growth.

Jeanne Liedtka
Professor Jeanne Liedtka

Colin: Jeanne, good morning, thank you for your time.

Jeanne: It’s my pleasure to be here, Colin. I always look forward to any opportunity to talk about growth and innovation.

Colin: Jeanne, I guess in an increasingly competitive world, the topic of developing growth leaders is more relevant than ever, yet it is not very well covered. What motivated you to select this as a topic for research?

Jeanne: Well, I am a strategy professor by training and the Darden School of Business at the University of Virginia, where I teach, is very management-focused. I normally spend about half my time with my full-time MBA’s and the other half with practicing managers who come to Darden for a week-long course in some field related to strategy. And one of the things that always bothered me was that the number one problem for the managers who came to Darden was growth. When they looked to me as a faculty member and expert in the area for help, I had very little to give them because most of what we teach in strategy, is typified by the structural analysis, the S.W.O.T. (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) analysis. These types of techniques may be useful for thinking about getting in and out of an industry, but they are really not useful at all for helping an individual manager find an additional dollar of revenue.

“I felt that we were really letting managers down because the academic research was just not there”

So, I felt that we were really letting managers down because the academic research was just not there. Of course, there are reasons from our own world of academia why there is not much research: It’s hard to research rigorously, it’s cross-disciplinary, it doesn’t fit neatly in the normal academic categories, but the bottom line was that there was just remarkably little out there to help managers address what they were telling me was their single most significant strategic problem.

Colin: I can certainly identify with growth as the number one strategic problem, so thank you for responding to that with the research that you did. Perhaps you can give us a thumbnail sketch of the research that you and your team undertook?

Jeanne: Sure. If you looked 10 years ago or so, which is when we first got interested in this topic, really all of the literature about growth and innovation was centered on developing new products. It was very product-focused and, because of that, it had a strong research and development focus, so there was lots of discussion on how to run your R&D lab and how much money you should spend on R&D.

But for us there was a certain type of growth that was not driven by new technology and new products necessarily, but was the kind of growth that a manager in key roles was expected to produce year in and year out for his or her business. So, we were really interested in the role of operating managers in producing organic growth and we just set out to figure out how to study it. Of course, big traditional quantitative academic studies are almost impossible because, even accounting for growth, M&A activity and other factors, it is very difficult.

“We finally got to a point where we said, let’s find some managers who are succeeding at this and let’s spend the time with them.”

So, we finally got to a point where we said, let’s find some stories of managers who are succeeding at this and let’s spend the time with them to really understand not their attitudes or philosophy about growth but their practices. And see if we can go really deep to understand what they are actually doing to see if this is any different from what we are teaching or what we think other managers are doing.

We started out by just writing to all of our alumni, all of the companies who recruit at Darden, and anyone who was a friend of a school. We wrote to probably 10,000 people and we said look we are looking for a certain kind of manager, we don’t want Steve Jobs, we don’t want high-tech start-ups, we want managers in fairly mature businesses who are running businesses or are in the heart of operations and who are responsible for top line growth and who seem to have consistently been able to beat market growth rate. And that was what we were really looking for. We joked and we said we want stories of unsexy managers and unsexy businesses, right, that are in the background, growing their businesses. And out of that process we got hundreds of nominations from mostly in the US and North America.

From that, we started out by selecting 25 managers that we thought would give us diversity across industries, and we started studying them. We now have about 80+ managers that we studied for quite some time, doing a detailed look at one particular growth area that they had led and then we paid attention to every detail of their execution, from where the idea came from to right through to some kind of moving into the market place for real.

So really, we were just looking at practices across industries, across ages of managers, across different functional backgrounds, whatever we could find to help identify what are the practices of these growth leaders.

Colin: I think that this was one of the key insights that I took away. When we think of growth, we often look for favorable market conditions but, as you mentioned, there are many folks who are able to out-perform market growth and take market share and I think that your research found that growth can be achieved irrespective of what the underlying growth rate is in the market, due to the attributes of the individual who is driving it. Can you tell us a little bit more about that?

Jeanne: I think that was one of the most interesting things that we found in our study, that the growth opportunities were already there for the most part, but what we were seeing was that some managers saw those opportunities and other managers didn’t. So, for the most part, as you said, it wasn’t that something in their external environment changed, competitors didn’t start to behave differently, customers didn’t develop new needs, you know the interest rate didn’t drop dramatically, there wasn’t a giant technology break-through that suddenly allowed new things to happen.

“The managers that we studied would literally move into a new business area and they would see an opportunity to grow their business that the manager before them, just as smart and just as experienced as they were, simply did not see.”

So, we started to talk about how do we prepare our minds for growth, because it starts with the ability to recognize opportunity and we were looking at a set of managers who seemed kind of hard-wired to be able to ferret out these opportunities where other mangers would just say, “You know my business is just not going anywhere,” or “I’m looking for the big idea and I can’t find it.”

Colin: The way you describe it is almost as if they have an innate instinct for sensing these things. From your research, what is your view? Is it instinctive and in their DNA or is it is something that they develop through their own environment, or are they simply all born this way?

Jeanne: This is one of those million dollar questions. We eventually called these managers the Catalyst, because we felt that what we were looking at was very similar to the chemical behavior of a catalyst. You know that a catalyst is a new substance that enters a previously inert situation and catalyzes action. That was what these managers were doing.

We also came to think of them as the naturals, the natural catalyst; that is, they had somehow failed to learn a lot of the lessons that other managers had learned that were keeping them from succeeding. I think that this is where we understand the extent to which large organizations in particular are designed for predictability and control. And the extent to which all the things we do to achieve predictability and control, if we are not careful, can easily drive innovation out of the market.

“Many of the behavioursbehaviors that we teach in business school can absolutely get in the way of our ability to create new business.”

So many of the behaviors that we in business school teach managers is that extremely well-run organizations like Danaher expect of their managers, these same behaviors that help us do an expert job of managing an existing business can absolutely get in the way of our ability to create new business.

What these natural catalysts did was understand that they were the classic people who didn’t ask permission, only forgiveness. But they even rarely needed to ask for forgiveness because they naturally adopted a set of practices that in some ways are almost the opposite of what we teach managers to do in large organizations and they literally were able to grow their businesses in spite of the organizations that they operated in.

So that for us was key and one of the most interesting questions in this study to me was, to what extent have your organizations’ systems, culture, and processes either supported or inhibited your organization’s ability to grow their business.

“Overwhelmingly, these successful mangers told us that theretheir businesses had actively inhibited their growth activities.”

Now they had succeeded despite that – how had they succeeded? Mostly by operating under the radar, by having supportive bosses who provided cover for them to create this environment of experimentation that allowed them to behave the way they behaved. They had refused to adopt the set of practices that were being requested and instead had come off with a set of highly successful practices that allowed them to deal with the environmental uncertainty surrounding growth.

And that was what really came out, that our hope and now I think our certainty, having done that for quite a few years now, is that whereas most managers will not be natural catalysts, we can teach managers the behavior of catalysts. And that they can succeed by adopting and learning these new behaviors. Will we turn a normal manager like most of us into a Steve Jobs or a Mark Zuckerberg? No, but can we significantly improve someone’s ability to find growth opportunities? Absolutely.

It’s like taking golf lessons. Golf lessons aren’t going to turn the average golfer into Tiger Woods, but they will probably allow them to significantly improve their golf game with discipline and practice. And that was what really came away from our study believing: That there was a set of very concrete behaviors and attitudes that these managers had adapted that were in fact teachable.

The Catalyst Cover
The Catalyst: How You Can Become an Extraordinary Growth Leader

by Jeanne Liedtka, Robert Rosen, Robert Wiltbank

Colin: As a struggling golfer, I really like the analogy that you make. And I also think that this is one of the strengths of the way that you and your colleagues have brought this book together. You talk about a set of practices of attributes or behaviors that can be identified very clearly in these folks and therefore can be developed to build on people’s natural instincts and natural DNA for the growth leadership task. How would you describe this set of practices or these key attributes of growth leaders?

Jeanne: We generally divide them into three large categories. The first one is really the mindset with which these managers approach, not just growing their businesses, but in fact their lives. I think the most interesting research that is done to help us understand how managers succeed or fail at growth has actually been researched on elementary school children by a Stanford psychologist named Carol Dweck, who argues that very early on in our education, we take on one of two mindsets. One is what she calls a fixed mindset, and in a fixed mindset we come to conclusion that our natural abilities are fixed at birth for instance and that we are kind of as smart as we’re going to be and that the trick is to not let other people see us making mistakes and looking stupid.

So being right becomes equal to being smart and early on we learn that if you know that you don’t have the right answer, then don’t raise your hand in class. The young children get a series of messages, that when you give a wrong answer it makes you look stupid and you want to avoid that.

The Catalysts on the other hand somehow picked up a very different mindset. Dweck calls it the growth mindset. And it was the mindset of learning, that life is a journey of learning. I can do better at everything, what it takes is persistence. So, these managers would throw themselves into a set of new experiences consistently in order to try and learn as quickly as they could. So, whereas someone with a fixed mindset avoids stepping into uncertainty or situations where they don’t know the right answer, the Catalyst with the learning mindset looks for opportunities to expand his or her comfort zone by moving into areas where they don’t have a capability yet so they can learn and build one.

That attitude that we pick up as school children, turns out to have a significant impact when we look at managers in their forties and fifties who have been successful versus those that haven’t because that learning mindset produces what we call a broad repertoire. Limiting exposure to things that one already knows produces technical experts who in an environment of stability and certainty have a great asset, but have a lot of trouble when the environment becomes uncertain and the trick is to go out and find and explore new opportunities.

So that’s the first of this whole mindset piece. The second piece is really an attitude and skill set towards understanding customers. So, we all know that in this day and age we need to be customer-centric and everyone has the voice of the customer program and we are all out there trying to know our customers better.

“But what we found is that these growth leaders had an empathetic understanding of customers. Empathy turns out to be really critical if you want to identify unarticulated needs.”

And the most profitable growth opportunities, when I put my strategist’s hat on, are clearly when you’re meeting needs that are not well known in the market place? So, this deep understanding of customers, this understanding of customers as human beings and an understanding not through the lens of how do I sell them more of my product, but instead through the lens of how do I help them solve the problems that they have in the daily lives, turns out to be critical. Because, you know, until we can go back to Ted Levitt and his famous HBR articles from 50 years ago now, I think, nobody wants to drill, instead they want a hole. When we start to think that we are in the drill business, it’s easy to lose sight of any innovation opportunity that represents another way of making a hole. And we make ourselves very vulnerable to the person who actually does figure out how to make a hole some better way than with a drill.

So, the focus here is how do we understand the problem that the customer is trying to solve, the job they are trying to do and understand that we create value in business not by putting out a certain stream of products but, by helping customers to get the job done. That is the role of customer empathy and this deep understanding as supposed to a survey-based, quantitative, marketing methodology that produces information about customers that is really no deeper than the people I am competing against have. And so, they have this deep empathetic understanding of customers and when you combine that with the broad repertoire, that is what we hypothesize allows these managers to see opportunities that others miss.

Because again, we know that it is largely a myth that innovative ideas are new to the world and they have never existed before and they suddenly spring out of the head of a genius. In fact, most innovative ideas in business either come from something we’ve taken from another industry into our own or things we’ve recombined or redesigned in our own industry to improve the value creation potential.  If that is true, then the broader our repertoire, the more experiences we have had across cross functions and businesses, the more likely it is that we will be able to see a solution to some deep customer need that we are able to identify through our empathetic understanding of customers. When you put that broad repertoire with that deep understanding of customers together, it’s very powerful for generating ideas.

“First is mindset, second is customer empathy, third is an experimental approach to their market.”

I guess I’ve got one more. First is mindset, second is customer empathy, and third is an experimental approach to their market. We call it placing small bets fast. The idea that analysis is not how you want to de-risk a project early on because the data from the tests are not good predictors of the future. So, the way to succeed is to conduct small bets, this is the old kind of Silicon Valley fail-safe and the cheapest way. What these managers know is that as an innovator I am managing a portfolio of ideas, and the really critical job is to figure out which ideas to stop investing in. So those are my big three, a learning mindset, an empathetic understanding of customers, and an experimental approach to the market.

Colin: The notion of repertoire is a very important one.   Certainly, at Invetech we do try and move our team around so they can experience different market segments, opportunities at different stages of maturity, different product and commercial environments. From a practical standpoint, did you gather any thoughts on how to develop repertoire?

Jeanne: When we talk about repertoire, there were really two different kinds. One was cross-functional repertoire and that was extremely important. I would say that in our entire data set, we don’t have a single manager who started out in one function and stayed there his or her whole career and was then successful as a growth leader. In nearly every case, even managers who never changed companies had perhaps started as an engineer out of school, so they started in research and development or they started in manufacturing, but then they got the opportunity to go to marketing and they took it. Then they got the opportunity to manage a business overseas and they took it.

“They were consistently moving across functions, so that by the time they were growth leaders, they really had an enterprise perspective.”

One way to think about this is really just about hypothesis generating and testing—any growth idea is nothing more than a hypothesis. We get ourselves into trouble when we actually believe that they are right and true and great. As long as we treat them as a hypothesis that needs to be tested and we figure out how to test them in quick economical ways we are unlikely to lose lots and lots of money on bad growth ideas. And these managers then were good at creating hypotheses and that was the repertoire part.

If I am able in my head to understand what a hypothesis is going to look like in implementation across functions, chances are that I am already eliminating the ones that only work from one function. So, one part of repertoire was cross-functional and if you look back for a long time, companies like GE, which were the gold standard for employee development, have known that you really have to move managers around if you want to produce well-rounded managers. And so, in some ways, this was just evidence of that.

We also saw benefits though to moving across divisions and across businesses because when we started the research two of the first five managers we interviewed turned out to be CPAs by training. They weren’t CPAs when we met them, but they were CPAs by training, which of course immediately made the research team panic because no one thinks of public accounting as a hot bed of innovation organic growth, right? So, we thought. “Why are we getting these CPAs in here?” But think about the repertoire that a young person develops as a CPA. They look at not one business, but they audit a variety of different businesses and so what they learn is that there is no one business model that works, but there are a lot of business models that work and some of them that don’t. So that broad exposure that they were getting as young accountants to a variety of businesses was really preparing them to be really good hypothesis generators and testers later on.

So, repertoire is the interesting thing. What we quite often find is that when we meet managers at Darden school, they are fairly senior people and it’s a little late to start talking about getting cross-functional experience when you’re running a division in your forties. And that’s where the team comes in, really. At some point, we’re not talking about how to groom 20- and 30-year-olds for senior positions, but we’re talking about an existing set of managers. The way we help them with their repertoire is not by personally giving them cross-functional training anymore. It’s by exposing them to discussions outside of their core business. It’s by helping them to realize how important diversity of function, of background, of business, or perspective is when you are putting together a growth team. That is really where repertoire starts to show up when we start to work with managers who are at a stage in their career where it’s just not feasible to go back and start getting personal training in a bunch of different issues.

Colin: One of the thoughts that came to me from the book is that growth is really a team sport and you must bring in people who understand those other functions to a greater depth than perhaps you as a leader do, to make sure that you have everybody needed to both generate and test the hypothesis, as you say.

Jeanne: It’s interesting; we have known for a very long time that diversity is the key to innovation, that in fact there is the great man myth, that there is Picasso in his studio revolutionizing the art world. Most business activity really is collaborative and we do it in teams, but we know that it is a lot easier to work with teams of people that see the world in the same way that we do.

“The same diversity that really is critical to achieving innovation also tends to make it very hard to manage teams like this, because everyone sees the world in a different way.”

So, one of the tool kits that has turned out to be important is kind of a collaborative research and idea generation method, because it is really critical that you align a team around what you are trying to accomplish so that they can channel that diversity they bring into working together to create higher-order, better solutions then any one of the team members came in with in the first place. That’s not easy. Often that diversity will trip us up and actually result in worse ideas than if we are able to really marshal it and make it an asset that helps propel us to better ideas.

Colin: You talked a little earlier about the importance of mindset and of having that collaborative mindset to allow those diverse experiences to be harnessed. One of phrases that I remember from the book and I have reused, is this notion that “the monkey is not on your shoulders, it is in your head;” you know the mindset that barriers to growth are to some extent artificial, as you said self-generated, perhaps from a fear of failure or worrying about making mistakes, and only being comfortable asking questions where you already know the answer.  I know this is a tough one, but we’ve talked a little bit about developing repertoire — how do you go about developing a growth mindset?

Jeanne: That is really a challenging question and it’s not just how we develop a growth mindset ourselves, but those of us who are leaders, how do we encourage a growth mindset amongst the people we lead. Most organizations operate on the unspoken principle of avoiding mistakes, right? And so, people don’t try if they can’t be sure that they won’t make a mistake, that is people start making choices based on avoiding error rather than proactively seeking something new and, until you break out of that approach, until you figure out a way to make it safe to be wrong, this is very hard work to do. And that’s really, I think, where a lot of my recent work has been in the area of design thinking, and looking at the design thinking process and methodology.

Take companies like IDEO and Continuum and the major consulting firms, what they have is a systematic approach to doing all of this and a method for conducting these small experiments. So, these techniques that they use actually reduce the risk and investment that you make in any one idea. And because of that they literally make it safer to be wrong. The world that we are living in now, and I often talk about the reality of venture capitalists, you know when you have Silicon Valley and you talk to the best venture capitalists, they will tell you that if they’re very, very lucky, maybe one or two of the new companies that they invest in actually turn out to be successful companies long term. Now how many managers and organizations do you know that can get away with a 10/20 percent success rate?

Not only that, but we come in expecting to succeed 100 percent of the time, hoping to succeed 100 percent of the time because we know that is what everyone else expects. You just can’t do innovation that way. You have to acknowledge that people that do this kind of thing for a living max out at about 20 percent success rate – you’re not going to do a whole lot better than that. Which means you better develop a set of skills and tools that help you to experiment very cheaply and to learn very quickly. Because the issue is not which two to invest in, out of those 10, if he or she knew that then they wouldn’t be investing in the other eight, it’s knowing which eight to stop investing in. We know that about the only thing that is harder for managers to do than to start a new idea is to kill a new idea once it’s going, because killing an idea is an admission of failure. So, if we want to use these methods we have got to be just at good at shutting down an idea that isn’t passing our experiments as we are about starting up a new one. And that is a mindset shift that is very hard for most individuals and most organizations to handle.

Colin: I think you make a great point and I can identify a lot with my own mindset development, where probably as a young and enthusiastic product development engineer, I used to see showing new products and new product concepts to customers as an opportunity to test a hypothesis and to have them reinforce that we were on the right path. The older I have got the more I see it as a learning opportunity to get customer input and to really shape the ideas that we have and to shape the directions that we have, which may include killing it because it simply doesn’t get the level of customer traction that perhaps we had thought at the start. As you say, it’s about experiments, it’s about learning, it’s about not betting the bank and really learning as you go rather than pursuing one mega idea that you hitch your sense of worth and career to and then, when it falls over, the whole thing is relatively disastrous.

Jeanne: Absolutely, you know at some level a lot of this is just logic, it’s amazing how we’ve twisted our logic in large organizations so that what seems completely obvious in retrospect is such a startling revelation, but if we know that the number one reason for new business failure is that they fail to create value for customers.

So, we talk about what are the ingredients in a really good idea? What are the tests that any new business idea has to pass to succeed? They are pretty straightforward. Number one is that they have to create enough value for somebody relative to what someone has got already that they will pay you money for it. And then you have to be able to execute it, you have to be able to defend it against competitors and scale it, and all those other things, but none of the other tests matter if the new idea fails the value test. So, what is this single easiest way to make sure that any new idea doesn’t fail the value test? Well it’s to co-create it with your customers. It’s to pull the customers into the conversation and at least the right kind of customer who wants to be a partner – which is not all customers. But the sooner we pull customers into our creation conversations, the more likely it is that we will avoid the number one source of new product failure.

“And it’s not about selling customers, as you said, it’s about having conversations that allow them to give us honest feedback to our ideas.”

And it’s not about selling customers, as you said, it’s about having conversations that allow them to give us honest feedback to our ideas. So, we speak as if prototyping is critical and it’s not prototyping, as Michael Schrapp calls it, correctional rehearsal. We show it to the customer when it’s almost there and really the only answer we want is “I love it, when can I get it.” The argument he makes is that prototyping should be a playground, not a dress rehearsal. An early prototype that may be nothing more than story boards is really just about creating a better conversation so that we can get a deeper understanding of their needs.

Colin: I was interested in the research you identified showing that growth catalysts tend to be customer focused in a particularly nuanced way. That, in general, they see customers as people rather than segments on a graph or as a mass of individuals and that they have a genuine interest and empathy with the customer as people and their lives as people. Can you perhaps just give us a few examples or make some comments on that aspect of customer focus?

Jeanne: Yes, I really think that focus on the kind of lived experience of the customer, what they are going through and what they are trying to accomplish, comes through loud and clear in the story that these growth managers tell. One, for instance, that I recall – one of your Danaher colleagues in the health care business- was talking about his engineers coming back and saying to him “We’ve got this new injection and we are finding that the tolerances need to be this and that” and going into a whole set of technical details and he said to them, “When I go into the hospital and I look at the life of a nurse and she is overworked and exhausted and there are too many patients and she has about two minutes to administer the shot and it has got to go right – tell me how we help her make her life better, don’t tell me about tolerances and the technology and all. I know that you are going to get the technology right, you’re smart people, but tell me how we are making her life easier.”

One of the techniques we use most with managers when we are trying to help them develop this empathetic understanding is called customer journey mapping. In customer journey mapping, we teach people to lay out a customer’s journey not as they interact with your product, but from the beginning to the end of the job they are trying to do. So, you are situating whatever interaction they have with you in a much larger processor system of what they are trying to do. And then understand what each of those steps or activities look like and understand the emotional high points and low points. Because those of us who work in the B-to-B space tend to focus on functional product performance as the key thing of importance to customers and if your product doesn’t work you’re not even in the game. But what we find is that even in the B-to-B space unless your products are being bought by robots, there are human beings involved and they have emotional needs as well as functional needs. If you think of the story of the nurse, a lot of what is going on there is around emotion as well as function and the opportunity to create value by understanding that deeper level of emotion and what their life is like and what they are trying to get done, the opportunities that will pop out to create more value for that person are significant. So, it’s not just people are nice and we want to love our customers and so we want to pay attention to their deep needs and go after it. It’s basically a strategic advantage. The more you are meeting deep unarticulated needs, the more you are helping your customer get a job done by understanding, in some cases, more about their needs then they even articulate to you, the more likely it is that you are going to have a differentiated profitable new product or service by the time you get it to market.

Colin: I think it’s a great insight and certainly something that re-enforced the importance to me that it’s not actually robots that buy products, it’s people, and they are used by people and their whole experience and emotional connection that they have to that experience will be a strong factor in their desire to buy the next one or to recommend it to their friends or speak positively about it.

So, Jeanne that’s the gist of my final question, having studied growth leaders you’re in a terrific place to be able to offer some thoughts to managers who are either looking to enhance their own capabilities or to develop that capability in their team and organization. What would be your advice to those folks?

Jeanne: Like any other attempt to improve our personal effectiveness, I think it starts with self-awareness. It really helps to step back from this little cocoon of good business practice and say how am I getting in my own way? How are the behaviors that I have learnt and internalized and have in fact been responsible for my success to date, how are they inhibiting my ability to innovate and grow my business? And I think that by opening ourselves up to acknowledge that there are places that we control regardless of what’s going on around us, and ways in which we can go off and improve the depth of our understanding of customers, improve our willingness to put small experiments out in the market place and to be wrong and to acknowledge that we are managing a portfolio, our willingness to take a calculated risk and to step into an environment that we aren’t as familiar with.

All of these kinds of new behaviors start with an acknowledgement that the only person whose behavior I control ultimately is my own, so let’s start there. For leaders, there is also set of messages around culture and this culture of avoiding mistakes. I have always been a big Monty Python fan and back at one point John Cleese was making this hilarious set of management videos and one of them was called “no more mistakes and you’re through” and in it he talks about the different kinds of mistakes. This isn’t an excuse to make stupid mistakes – Cleese says, “I’m not talking about starting a land war in Asia kind of mistakes” or “black bra under a white blouse” mistakes.

“This isn’t an excuse to make stupid mistakes. Mistakes in service to learning, mistakes that are about well thought through experiments that we are conducting, are not mistakes.”

Those are in fact learning experiences and learning is going to be the key behavior that we need people to have in an environment of uncertainty in order to grow a business. So, I think a leader has to recognize that, when we are asking people to grow a business, we are putting in an entirely different set of rules to the game and the nature of the game is uncertainty. Fighting uncertainty when you want growth is like defying gravity, it’s a natural law. What we have to do is develop a more effective set of behaviors to address that uncertainty.

And I think in this day and age with the emphasis on innovation and, in my own particular case, the more I study some of these very specific design thinking tools, like customer journey mapping, the more I come to believe that there is a tool kit out there, we’ve just ignored it. And it’s time as a leader also to think not their attitudes or philosophy about growth, but practice their skill sets up to be more effective innovators in an environment of uncertainty.

Colin: Jeanne, its being terrific to talk to you today. The Catalyst was definitely my reading highlight of 2013. It reframed for me the nature of leadership and what it takes to drive growth and helped me reflect, in quite a deep way, on my team, their development, my own development and how we need to develop in order to be stepping up to the growth challenge going forward. Thank you for your time today, it has been a true privilege to talk to you and hear some of your thoughts. You’ve been very gracious with your time.

Jeanne: It’s been my privilege because managers like you are the reason why I do this for a living, Colin, so it’s always very rewarding to have a conversation like this.

Colin: Thank you and I’ll try not to let you down and live the life of a catalyst as we go forward.