Leading From Within: Self-Leadership with Andrew Bryant and How To Shift Your Businesses Ahead with Allen Adamson

Believing that to be an effective leader has to begin by leading oneself is global expert of self-leadership and leading cultures, Andrew Bryant. He teaches us the practice called self-influence of intentionally influencing your thinking, feeling, and actions toward your objectives. Showing the importance of having self-control as a leader, he talks about how our reaction to external circumstances and where we put blame tells us of what we need to improve. Going beyond the self, he then shares how he deals with people who are from cults or are from different cultures—having the global mindset—when coaching.


The fast-paced world has too often become a reason why businesses fail today. Allen Adamson, Co-Founder and Managing Partner of Metaforce, talks about the need for businesses to shift ahead. He lays down some great examples that show us the dangers of not being able to do so, lining down some similar issues and patterns he sees that makes it challenging for businesses to reinvent themselves—from Kodak and Xerox, to Forbes and National Geographic.

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I’m so glad you joined us because we have Andrew Bryant and Allen Adamson. Andrew is a motivational speaker, executive coach, bestselling author of Self-Leadership. He’s got a great TEDx Talk. Allen is a Cofounder of Metaforce.co. He’s the author of Shift Ahead, which is a fascinating look at some organizations and what they’ve done and what they need to do to shift.

Listen to the podcast here

Leading From Within: Self-Leadership with Andrew Bryant

I am here with Andrew Bryant who is a global expert on self-leadership and leading cultures. He is a TEDx speaker, executive coach and the author of Self-Leadership: How To Become a More Successful, Efficient and Effective Leader from the Inside Out and the bestselling Self-Leadership: 12 Powerful Mindsets & Methods to Win in Life and Business. It’s nice to have you here. 

My pleasure.

I’ve been looking forward to this. I loved your TED Talk. I laughed out loud when you’re talking about birth and how we come into this world. There are a lot of great messages in your talk. I want to know your background. I hope you give a little bit of what led you to be interested in self-leadership and how you got to this point.

I always think we teach best that which we most need to learn. I needed to learn some self-leadership which is why I was interested in the topic. I have an eclectic background. I’m British by birth, Australian by Passport. I live in Singapore and I’m married to a Brazilian. In England for my education, I went to an English grammar school. I was a straight-A student. I was destined to do medicine. The British government decided to merge my boy’s grammar school with the girl’s high school before my A-levels. That’s before university and for some reason, I got distracted. I didn’t get the grades I needed for medicine. My second choice was physiotherapy, which you would call physical therapy in the US. I graduated as a physiotherapist in 1982. I did a couple of years in hospitals and soon decided I was sick of sick people. I did what most male physiotherapists do. I got involved in sport.

[bctt tweet=”We teach best that which we mostly learn.” via=”no”]

I was a physio for soccer teams, Olympic athletes and even a ballet company. Quickly I became interested in what makes the difference in who wins and who doesn’t. I realized that was more mental than it was physical. Back then in the 1980s, positive psychology hadn’t been invented, sports psychology hadn’t been invented. We were driven by curiosity. We looked at things like hypnosis and the early NLP. This has been my curiosity around human performance ever since. I moved to Australia in the late ’80s, early ’90s. I set up practices. I got involved in sport in Australia. Sport in Australia is always sponsored by business. One day I got a call from a managing director who said, “You helped my sports team win. Can you come and work with my management team because they suck?” That was the beginning of my work with corporate.

You use the word curiosity a few times, thank you for that since that’s what I write about. We had a lot in common in terms of our interests because I speak about some of the things you speak about. I’m interested in leadership in general and what makes people successful. Curiosity is a huge part of it. You mentioned you were driven by it. What do you think led to your natural level of curiosity? Some people have it impacted so much by their family, their fears and their different settings. I found that it’s fear assumptions, technology and environment are the four factors that impact it. It seems you were curious to continue into different directions. Who do you credit for that or what do you credit for that?

We now know with up-to-date psychometrics that openness to experience and inquisitiveness is a trait. I was wired for that. My father was an entrepreneur in the sense he owned his own businesses. I began working for my father at ten years old. He taught me to read the customer to make the sale. I became interested in people early on. Early in my education, my teachers thought I was stupid. We had a bunch of educationalists come into the school and run some form of IQ test. Apparently, I did well and then I got scolded for being lazy. I realized I wasn’t being stimulated. I have an eleven-year-old son who I think is me also. I was interested in what I was interested. I wasn’t interested in anything that was shoved down my throat. It’s a natural trait. Environmental factors are there. A grammar school education was good. I was forced to learn things like Latin, German and French as well as the standard things. I was exposed to a lot early on and I’m grateful for that. I left home at eighteen to go to university. I left England at 25 to go to a different country. My behavior is reinforced to curiosity.

When I studied curiosity, I found many things were holding people back. I’m always impressed with people who are able to overcome some of the issues out there. It sounds you’ve done a lot in the field of leadership. A lot of people maybe don’t know what you mean by self-leadership. When I wrote my dissertation on emotional intelligence, I dealt with a lot of understanding of yourself and others and some of the stuff that you deal with. Can you explain what self-leadership is?

I started writing about self-leadership in terms of articles way back in 1999 to 2000. At that time, I thought I’d invented the topic. There are other writers on self-leadership, Charles Manz, Neck and Houghton are researchers in the US. I co-authored my first book on self-leadership, which was published in 2012 by McGraw-Hill. I co-authored it with Dr. Ana Kazan. Together we defined self-leadership as the practice of intentionally influencing your thinking, feeling and actions toward your objectives. It’s a practice of self-influence. We all have thoughts. We all have feelings. We all take actions. How do we intentionally do that? We have random thoughts. We have thoughts that have been given to us by parents and the environment. We have emotions. We are constantly being stimulated by the environment to respond emotionally.

The self-influence requires a high level of self-awareness. We become aware of our scripts and narratives that we’re talking to ourselves. We have self-regulation. We are able to manage our emotions and put ourselves in the best emotional states to perform. We have self-learning. We take the feedback and auto-adjust towards our objectives. You can define leadership or self-leadership by what it is, but you can also define it by what it’s not. It’s easy to spot the lack of self-leadership because of its randomness, its reactivity and it’s a victim mindset. Anybody that’s blaming on the external circumstances and external locus of control has a low self-leadership.

You bring up many fascinating things in your talk that tie into how we deal with self-learning. How we’re given this identity from birth. You bring up some of the things that I researched how we change, of how we’re set in this environment that tells us we’re supposed to be one thing or another. For practicing this script in our head based on our own objectives, how do we develop more empathy? To be able to step outside ourselves to realize that maybe we aren’t doing the best things we can as a leader?

I use the term frame. If you’re wearing glasses, the lenses of your glasses are held by the frame. If you look at a picture, it’s surrounded by a frame. If you watch a movie, the director has framed the image that you see just as a photographer does. People understand that we are looking at the world through a frame. That frame holds in place the lens. If you’re wearing sunglasses, you see the world slightly colored through those sunglasses. Our birth and nationality or ethnicity, the religion or the football team that our parents follow frames our initial bias and preferences. At first, we never challenge them, unless we do. I did have a sense of challenging some of those frames early on. I’ve coached people who’ve been brought up in cults. Even though they were programmed from birth to, “This is the way to believe. This is the way to follow.” Their parents were part of the cult. Intrinsically they went, “This is wrong. It doesn’t feel right.” It’s quite traumatic to go against that.

[bctt tweet=”You can define leadership or self-leadership by what it is, but you can also define it by what it’s not.” via=”no”]

At some point, you get a sense of authenticity and, “This doesn’t fit.” It’s like wearing a set of clothes and hand-me-downs that are not yours. You have the courage to go, “I’ll try something different.” Sometimes you go through a number of iterations of what that is. When you start to find, “This works for me. This is my frame.” With that comes the empathy, because as you recognize you’ve been framed. You become empathetic that everybody you’re speaking to is speaking through their frame, their nationality, their gender, their political bias. In your country, that’s huge at the moment. The empathy to realize, “They’re seeing it through their frame.” Research by Tangney in 2000 was talking about humility said, “Humility is not having an accurate sense of your own abilities. It’s the ability to consider somebody else’s perspective as equally valid as your own.” The humility is my frame, it feels real. It’s just a frame and the empathy is, “Somebody else’s frame is probably equally valid.”

It’s perspective-based. I dealt with a lot of that when I teach ethics courses because it’s subjective. It’s challenging. I’m curious how you deal with cults. When people have come from cults and they’ve been programmed, you coached them. How do you even start with that? That would be challenging.

The reason I bring this up is the stories in my 2012 book on Self-Leadership. I hadn’t told it as a speaker. I’m creating a new model of self-leadership. What I realized in 2012, because I’ve collected all the information from all the writers on self-motivation and self-awareness, I thought I created the universe with theory. What was missing was a congruent model. I have one that I’m testing. I read my 2012 book again to see what fitted the model and what did not. I came across a story that I’d written and it goes way back to the year 2001 when somebody came to a workshop. He approached me afterward and he was awkward. It wasn’t my ideal client at that point.

He genuinely said, “I’ve been through some stuff. Could you help me?” There was something about his genuineness and I went, “Buy me a coffee. Let me see what I can do.” He told me the story that his parents had moved from Eastern Europe to Australia. Didn’t know anybody so when they were befriended by a cult, they ignored the cult-like things because it created a social structure for them. He was born into that. At seventeen he started to smoke. He was told that wasn’t allowed and if he didn’t stop that he would be excommunicated as it were. He saw that as his mark of freedom. Unfortunately, he had no framework. When he left the cult at seventeen, he couldn’t exist in the world. He spent ten years bouncing in and out of psychiatric institutions and living on the street. I met him ten years later. He’s got himself a job working behind the bar at a golf club. Not serving customers but filling up the drinks. He found the money to come to a workshop.

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Self-Leadership: Self-leadership is a practice of self-influence, intentionally influencing your thinking, feeling, and actions toward your objectives.


That level of commitment from him which was a greater commitment for him to be in that workshop than anybody else. I don’t teach you’re responsible for anybody else, but I admired his courage. The first place we had to start with a mantra was, “It’s my life. It’s my choice.” Something that is fundamental to most of us that it’s my life. As Bon Jovi would sing, “It’s my life.” It’s such a powerful anthem. For him, to take ownership, “It’s my life and they’re my choices,” was huge. Getting him to recite that mantra and then to see how that impacted transformed him. He went from working behind the bar to working at the front of the bar. He began to travel. He met a beautiful lady. They got married. They had kids. They started a business. His life unfolded beautifully. It started with this level of autonomy. How many people do we meet that are living their life for somebody else? They’ve been guilted. We all have some level of accountability to look after our parents and contribute to the community. At some point, you have to live your life.

This is a challenging line to discuss, the difference between guilt and accountability. It’s all subjective. When you’re dealing with people, that’s got to be challenging if you had a lifetime of maybe a cult where, “You’re going to be damned if you do this. You’ll be ashamed if you do that.” It’s challenging and I’m sure it’s different across different cultures. You deal with global markets and different people from all over the world. What’s the biggest challenge you see when you’re dealing with different cultures and the global mindset?

I’ve lived in Asia for many years. I visit the United States regularly. I visit Europe regularly. Living in Asia it’s much more of a we culture as opposed to the I culture of the West. Family values and community is such a high value. Hierarchy is still much more powerful in the East than it is in the West. The level of autonomy is always contextual. If I was teaching self-leadership in North Korea, it could be a life-ending move to say, “It’s my life.” In some organizations, it would be a career-limiting move. As you go to lateral organizations and a more Western concept, you want people to have ideas to be creative, to take responsibility for their job, their role, their career and therefore their contribution. I talk about the small context and big context. You and I are in a small context in the relationship that we have through this interview. Then there’s the big context of your audience and the culture that they’re in or a national culture. There’s a small context and a big context. Often, people are quite adaptable. You see people in a Western organization but from an Indian or a Chinese culture. They’re actually quite adaptable. They can actually step up and speak up in the Western organizational culture. They go back home and they’re traditional. It’s interesting that people are quite adaptable.

What have you seen in terms of the curiosity mindset globally? Do you see a difference since you’ve been in many different countries of levels of curiosity and things that impact it?

[bctt tweet=”Humility is not just having an accurate sense of your own abilities. It is also to consider somebody else’s perspective as equally valid as your own.” via=”no”]

Trait by psychometric is a standard deviation. You’ve got high-end and low-end. Being a standard deviation, the tail goes on forever. You have extrovert and curious Japanese as much as you’ll have introverted and fixed mindset Americans. It’s dangerous to make too many generalizations about countries. Creativity or curiosity manifest in different ways. People tend to self-judge their level of curiosity compared to the natural norm. If you’re an American you say, “I’m creative,” but you’re comparing yourself to Steve Jobs. You might be somewhere else where somebody’s curiosity is a different way to put a stamp on an envelope, in which case you’re curious. Often as a comparison factor, I meet smart people from all cultures. I meet stupid people from all cultures because they refuse to challenge. My natural bias as yours to curiosity, to challenging the norm in the status quo tends to make me judgmental of those that accept things without question. I recognize that’s a bias and forgive me for that for that level of judgment towards them. If you’re not going to be replaced by machine learning in AI, you have to make a contribution. That contribution has to be the curiosity around how can you add value?

That’s one of the reasons I’ve done much research in this area. With innovation as being the hot topic, artificial intelligence is a big thing. Everybody’s worried they’re going to lose their jobs. They have to be retrained to do new jobs. If you don’t know what people are aligned to do or what they’re interested in doing, you may be placing people in jobs where they’re going to be even less engaged than they already are. It’s important to create a culture of innovation where people are aligned well. What are you doing to help people become more innovative and aligned in this new age of everybody being shifted possibly due to AI?

I’m encouraging everybody as the young man that was caught in the cold. It doesn’t matter whether I’m working with CEOs or frontline managers. I’m saying, “Whose thoughts are they?” Everybody’s like, “They’re my thoughts,” and I go, “We live theoretically in a post-truth era. What are you thinking? Are these your thoughts?” I’m challenging people that if you don’t have an idea. If you’re sitting in a meeting, whether that’s a physical meeting or there’s a microphone in the middle of the table. Are you contributing your ideas? You don’t have to be right. Even if you’re contributing your perspective and your experience, you need to own that and you need to contribute to that. Being quiet means you’re not adding any value. Neither is I suggesting you should be bombastic, but you should own your idea. Do you own your emotions? If you’re saying, “He makes me angry. She makes me frustrated. They make me fill in the blank.” You’ve externalized your emotions. You’ve given somebody powers. The key to self-regulation around your emotions is taking ownership of them. Anger is not a bad thing. Anger and frustration lead to creativity, sometimes more so than passion. Uber was not started by two people that were passionate about transportation. It was started by two people who were peed off they couldn’t get a taxi.

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Self-Leadership: How to Become a More Successful, Efficient, and Effective Leader from the Inside Out

The internal ownership and then the external ownership of taking ownership of your voice, you need to speak up. Back to the meeting, I’m on the faculty of Women and Leadership at Singapore Management University. I say jokingly that, “Perhaps we wouldn’t have had the financial crisis of Lehman Brothers if they had a Lehman sister because she might have said something.” We need people to speak up. Lastly is ownership of actions. With all of that ownership comes the responsibility for those actions, words and ideas. With taking that responsibility, there’s a clear boundary. I’m not responsible for what you think. I’m not responsible for what you think about me. I’m not responsible for what you feel about me. I’m only responsible for my thoughts.

Having said I’m on your show, we scheduled this. I’m accountable to that contract. I’m here. I’m ready to chat with you. I made sure I was in a fit state to take this interview. I have accountability to you because I agreed on it. I have accountability to my own values, but I’m not responsible for anybody else. I’m married but I’m not responsible for my wife. She’s a beautiful, intelligent, creative, strong Brazilian woman. In fact, if anything, she’s responsible for me. I’m accountable for her because we agreed to certain things in our marriage. We agreed if we were upset with each other to talk about those things and not do the passive-aggressive and sulk about it for five days. We have agreements, but I’m not responsible for her. Having taught her this and rather her sitting in my lectures, speeches or listening then she’ll throw this back in my face if ever I feel that she’s responsible for anything I’ve said about something. She’s saying, “Who’s the self-leader?” It’s a powerful way to live because you’re not waiting for somebody else to make you happy.

You’re creating a new model of self-leadership. When is that coming out? When can we see this new work that you’re coming up with?

2019, it’s well and truly underway. A good friend of mine who’s an organizational psychology professor read my work, he said he loved it. He said, “There’s something missing.” I said, “Take it apart.” He took me apart and together we found the model was there all along, I hadn’t made it explicit. I hadn’t simplified it. Each piece of self-leadership course is backed up by other people’s research. What I’ve done is I put it together in a way that each of the segments of self-leadership has a mechanism that leads to the next piece. It’s a cybernetic system. Self-leadership becomes self-reinforcing. I’ve got to do some testing on those mechanisms. Make sure what seems self-evident stacks up in terms of research and I want to get that. If you’ve got a good contact at Harvard Business Review, please pass that on because that would be a great place to publish it. You notice the action of self-leadership there which is an influence? I had a voice, I used it. I asked the question.

What you write about is important. A lot of people enjoyed your TED Talk and would learn a lot from your work. Can you share how people can find out more about you, read your books and watch your videos?

[bctt tweet=”Creativity and curiosity manifest in different ways.” via=”no”]

The easiest way to find my YouTube channel is to go to SelfLeadership.TV and that will forward you straight to my YouTube channel, for those of you who like to watch videos. If you want to download a PDF of my 2016 book, which is more of a handbook than a textbook, you can go to Learning.SelfLeadership.com. There’s an opening video there from the TED Talk and some of my online programs, most of which are free. A free download of the 2016 book which will get you started on your journey to self-leadership. That’s my gift to you because I believe that we need more self-leadership in the world. If you want to speak up your conference, you can find me there. Otherwise, go to AndrewBryant.global. That’s how you find me. My Twitter handle is @SelfLeadership and the Instagram handle is @SelfLeadership.

That’s great of you to share all this information. Andrew, I was looking forward to this. Thank you so much for being on the show.

My pleasure, Diane. It was great to connect.

How To Shift Your Businesses Ahead with Allen Adamson

I am here with Allen Adamson who is the Cofounder and Managing Partner of Metaforce. He is a noted industry expert in all disciplines of branding. He’s the author of Shift Ahead: How the Best Companies Stay Relevant in a Fast-Changing World. Nice to have you here, Allen.

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Self-Leadership: It’s a powerful way to live not waiting for somebody else to make you happy.


Thanks for inviting me. It’s a pleasure to be here.

I received your book and it’s a great book. I’m interested in what led you to want to write this and what your background was to do that? Can we get a little background on you so people know more about you? 

I was in the marketing and branding business. After business school, I decided to go into the Mad Men business and advertising. Spend a little bit of time at Ogilvy & Mather in my office and not quite Don Draper. I went on to work on the other side of the table at Unilever where I worried about skin and soap. A good place to learn marketing despite what they want you to believe, there’s not much difference between one soap and the other. It comes down to how you market and tell the story. After that, I joined a firm called Landor, which helps companies with their brand and branding. I got to work across a lot of categories. That’s what I’ve been up to before starting Metaforce.

Marketing is about telling stories and it’s challenging. Before I left my job as the MBA Program Chair at Forbes, I had to write a brand publishing course with Forbes that was challenging. The CMOs at the time were completely overwhelmed how to get their message across in a meaningful way at scale. Still hitting people at an individual level where they feel they’re being spoken to. In my book, I wrote about Kodak, which I noticed you included Kodak and other examples in your book. I want to go over some of that road barrier, Chapter Three examples. Can you first explain what you mean by shift? Is that a pivot?

[bctt tweet=”Being quiet means that you’re not adding any value.” via=”no”]

The impetus for writing a book and where the title came from is every day you open the newspaper, for those people who still know what a newspaper is or double-click on their feed. There’s another company or organization that’s close to disappearing, be it Barnes & Noble, Sears or Toys “R” Us. Every day there’s another organization for this challenge. The issue is that there are basic businesses becoming irrelevant. I want to step back and say, “Is it me? Am I focusing on these companies disappearing every day?” and ended up partnering with a professor at NYU who I work with. We did a lot of research. We looked at big companies and small companies, private and non-profit. Everyone knows they need to change to stay relevant. The theory is pretty easy. Lots of companies were struggling to flip from, “I need to stay relevant and shift my business ahead,” but were struggling. That’s how the title for the book came. If you’re unable to shift what you do into the future, you will be your father’s old mobile pretty quickly.

I was looking at it from a curiosity perspective of how people can become more innovative. Part of the problems with companies like Kodak or Blockbuster, these opportunities are presented to them and then they overlooked them sometimes. Kodak could have gone ahead and been the leader maybe, instead they fell. In terms of innovation, not just marketing, how do we make sure that we’re open culture so people can ask the questions without feeling that they’re going to be shot down? How we’re going to get people not only asking questions but providing content and becoming more curious to develop ideas, to be more innovative so that we can avoid some of these problems? You wrote about Kodak and Xerox and a lot of different companies: Toys “R” Us, Procter & Gamble, BlackBerry, National Geographic, Playboy, American Cancer Society and Teach For America.

Let me start with Kodak and go back in the history books. I had the privilege of working on Kodak when Kodak was still synonymous with great pictures. If you were taking pictures anywhere in the world, Kodak was the brand that was connected to that. Having worked there when it was still at the peak, they didn’t see the train coming. They were merrily dancing along. We ended up doing a lot of research with people that worked there when they were king of the hill and when they began to fly, then tumble, fall and disappear. One of the most interesting conversations was with the Head of Strategic Planning who was there for a long time. He shared with us that they knew eight, nine, even ten years in advance almost the month and the year that digital would surpass film. When he told me that story that they had phenomenal research and projectability and they saw that train coming not when it was right in front of them, but miles down the track. “If you saw that train coming, why didn’t you get out of the way? Why didn’t you do something about it?” That gets into a lot of the reasons that theory is easy. One of the things they had trouble with was something we called golden handcuffs.

The film business was phenomenally profitable. They shared some numbers and here you could suspect they got it down to such that they would make 70% on every dollar spent on films. Anything else they did was going to be less profitable. The golden handcuffs were that if they did anything else other than made film and sell the film, their profitability would plummet and Wall Street would punish them. They were unable to what they describe as make an asymmetrical bet. Take money from the profitable film business and build up a new business. Lots of companies have that issue, which they’ve learned how to make a lot of money in their product. New products tend to take time and new offers certainly the most profitable. Telling Wall Street that, “You’re going to make 50% less this month because three years from now you’re going to make more money,” is a story that’s hard to sell.

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Self-Leadership: It’s human nature to be familiar with the comfortable because doing what you did yesterday seems better than changing what you do for tomorrow.


The reason I asked you if it was Xerox is that you talked about the golden handcuffs and you talked about that in Xerox as well. We’re running down some of the similar stories and issues within each company. Did you find a pattern?

There are several other patterns. The other thing that most of your audience and you know is it’s never one thing. If there’s one thing most people could shift ahead, it’s a combination of a lot of things happening at once. They may get a few things right, they don’t get them all right. There was no magic recipe. There was no, “Do these three things and you’ll always be successful in business when shifting ahead.” If you did all these things, you have a higher likelihood of success. Few magic, “Stop eating doughnuts and you’ll lose weight,” type of thing. The other big constraint is that you need to realize that human nature familiar is comfortable. Doing what you did yesterday is more comfortable than changing what you do for tomorrow. If you realize that you’re automatically programmed to come and do your same thing. Open your five emails, have your coffee from the same coffee shop. That is going to put you at risk of having your future Uberized.

I’ve had Steve Forbes on the show. I know Steve pretty well from working with Forbes. He brought up many times I’ve spoken with him away from the show about that challenge that Forbes Media had to reinvent themselves from being a magazine to digital. I noticed you include Forbes in Chapter Seven. You have a lot of great examples in here of some of the challenges they’ve met. What did you find about Forbes that was interesting to you?

There are a number of things for Forbes and National Geographic. There’s often a sense of shifting so long. One is the same as marketing. You look at your business. National Geographic’s in the magazine business. Forbes is doing the magazine business. That’s partially true. That’s how they’re making the money now. In fact, the other part of that is they build a culture that knows how to do the magazine business. When we spoke to the folks at National Geographic, it was the same thing. They were proud. If you go to the National Geographic office in Washington, it’s like the Smithsonian. There are oil paintings on the wall of the famous explorers. They were in the magazine and journal business. You don’t have to be a marketing genius to realize that not many people are spending time sitting in their family room in the chair reading magazines anymore. Part is zooming out and realizing what business you’re in. With National Geographic, they realized the last possible minute that, “Maybe there’s more than a magazine business,” and they formed a smart partnership with Lindblad Expeditions. If you get on Lindblad boat, you can sail on many adventures.

[bctt tweet=”In order to stay relevant, you need to change.” via=”no”]

You can go up to Alaska. You have somebody on the boat teaching you how to take pictures as you work for National Geographic, whether you have an iPhone or a more serious camera. You go exploring and a National Geographic naturalist will explain what’s going on. You have lectures at night from National Geographic talking about the ecosystem and what’s going on. When you leave that trip all over your social media feed is, “Here’s what I learned on my National Geographic adventure.” They finally pivoted from thinking they were in the magazine business and realized they needed to create experiences. They were based on a lot of the same things that National Geographic stood for, but they needed to get beyond it. It was the same thing with Forbes. They were in the news reporting business. Opening up that platform to allow contributors like you to hear points of view in a curated smart way so it’s beyond a bunch of people pontificating. It allowed them to get better content.

It is interesting to see the companies who’ve done it well and some of them have had to make shifts after many years and different ways. I know you have American Express, Facebook, New York Life, Delta, and Sony. You’ve got a lot of examples. The number of companies you listed is interesting. Who was doing the best at shifting? Do you have any examples of that?

There were more cases of people struggling to shift ahead than successfully shifting. Federal Express is still doing a pretty good job of staying relevant. Part of that is they’ve defined their business as not necessarily just sending business documents and business information between two locations. They define their businesses as delivering absolute certainty and they have reimagined with absolute certainty. Part of it is always luck. FedEx is still delivering business things for me. When you go home, your doorstep full of what you’ve been shopping for at the office online. They’ve pivoted pretty well to move from a business to business brand to a consumer brand. In the world of double-clicking and having absolute certainty, that access remained relevant.

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Shift Ahead: How the Best Companies Stay Relevant in a Fast-Changing World

Amazon’s changed everything too. They’re going to probably have drones dropping things on your doorstep the next day. Do you think Amazon is keeping up? Are they shifting and doing what they need to do?

Predicting what will happen is hard. Predicting what and when is almost impossible. I do think that Amazon is realizing that to be an important part of your life, they need to be more than double-clicking to get shopping done. Figuring out where to be physical with their purchase of Whole Foods and they’re experimenting with Amazon stores in some cities and locations. What is stocked in the store are the 150 or the 200 most popular items that month on Amazon. You go in and it’s not always the socks in one corner and the shoes in another. You will go into the store and every month what would be there would be what’s relevant then based on the huge amount of data they have about how people are shopping. They’re pivoting the other way. They’re shifting from purely online and physical. They’re in your home now. In the morning when I get up and I want to see what’s going on I say, “Alexa, turn on the news.” My TV goes. All of a sudden, they’re not thinking about themselves as, “We’ve got to give you the cheapest way to shop online.” They’re thinking about how do they create experiences and get out of their bubble.

It is interesting to see all the technology that’s coming in to tie everything in. A lot of people are a little worried about having so much recognition, people listening and all that stuff. Technology is fun and interesting for me to watch. You talked about IBM. I worked with the company that was a value-added reseller for IBM in the ‘80s. We’ve seen some of these companies that were the name at the time that you don’t hear about much now. The names we hear about now, I can’t remember the percentage of what they say the companies will be gone in whatever number of years. Most of them will be gone. It’s interesting to see what the next one is going to be to disrupt the industries that we know. When I was young, you can’t fathom a time that Kodak wouldn’t be in every store. What do you think is the next industry that we’re going to see a lot of change? There’s a lot of talk about education being overhauled. There are many different industries that could shake up quite a bit. Did you see some that you thought, “This is ripe for reinvention?”

The entire auto industry is going to be shifting. How is it going to be shifting and when is it going to be shifting and who’s going to be involved? I read in a paper, Ford is buying a scooter company. Realizing there are many factors at play in the industry, whether it’s younger kids not thinking that driving is so much fun. Not looking to, “I’m never dropping my son off at college and we get to the airport. I’m all excited so I’m going to go get a rental car,” and he looks at me like I’m from Mars. “What do you mean a rental car, dad?” I double-clicked on my phone and we’re going to Lyft it down to campus. Will kids be driving? Will those cars be shared? When you need a car, you tell your phone you need a car to go to the grocery store and the car will show up.

It’s about not one thing changes. It’s not just Elon Musk figuring out how to do an electric car. It’s a convergence of all these things happening once and things get to the tipping point when the car can drive itself. It’s cheaper. It’s free. Culture changes and no one wants to own the car anymore because it sits in your garage overnight and it sits at your office parking lot all day. If I only need the car for two hours a day, why don’t I buy the car when I need it? All the things are going to change. There’s a lot of agreement that the industry is changing, which is why Ford has decided to buy scooter companies and not spying more car companies. The trick is going to be when? If you’re too early, you’ll be ending up selling scooters when no one wants scooters. If you’re too late, scooters won’t be the one people want anymore.

[bctt tweet=”If you’re unable to do what you do into the future, you will be your father’s old mobile pretty quickly.” via=”no”]

You mentioned predictive analytics a little bit with Kodak and how they knew almost to the day what was going to happen. Do you think it’s more that people know what’s going to happen but they’re not acting on it appropriately? Do they just don’t know what’s going to happen?

There are two reasons we found. One is something you alluded to with IBM. What’s also important is your company culture and your skill set. I like basketball, but at 5’9” the NBA wasn’t interested in me. No matter how hard I practiced. To some extent, businesses and companies were good at certain things. Kodak was a chemical company and a sales company. They saw digital, they had a lot of technology but culturally their DNA was chemical and sales. IBM built things, they were a manufacturer. They built big name computers. The shift for them from selling hardware to selling cloud-based solutions or consulting is probably the right shift. It’s hard when all your people grew up making things to go to consulting. Part of it is you need to shift to be something else. Do you have the right talent, the right culture, the right DNA to be successful in the business? Lots of people try to shift into something they are not good at.

That’s going to be interesting to see where people put their focus. I remember going to a Forbes Summit years ago and they talked about 3D printing and things that were coming out. A girl came out in a 3D-printed dress. In the future, we’re talking about you can print your own clothes. You can print your own makeup. There is no reason to go to the mall anymore because you can print whatever you want at home. The malls are starting to be impacted by this. We’ve seen Toys “R” Us and some of the stores that we’re used to going to being taken away because they’re not doing what it takes to keep up. What do you foresee for a lot of the stores and what they’re going through? The Toys “R” Us of the world and different organizations like that?

Clearly, retail is under siege. You don’t have to be reading “a newspaper” to see that and go to the malls. It’s painful to watch. What’s painful to watch is most of them are pedaling faster, doing the same thing more sales. Trying to do the usual things that worked many years ago and they’re not working now. I do think consumers are not going to not go out and stay at their home, look at the screen and double click for everything. We’re not going there. People want experiences. They’re going to have to rethink what a shopping experience is like. How do you create one that is more experiential than lining up, picking up something and putting it in the bag, going to your car and going home? What retail will look like in the future is still to be determined. It’s probably not going to be five or six big stores in a mall surrounded by ten or twenty smaller stores with people aimlessly walking by to see what they might need. Connecting the physical and the digital world is going to happen. How and where? It’s difficult growing up in a retail family. My father-in-law was in retail and it’s hard to watch, even walking up the streets in New York. How many storefronts are empty? If you’re not a drug store or a bank or a restaurant, lots of the small little stores, the little bookstore around the corner, is gone.

It is interesting to watch the malls around here. They’re doing a facelift on our fancy mall that we have. I’m thinking all it is a nicer entrance and nicer floors. They did add an Apple Store. Different things, trying to change what’s going to bring people in. It will be interesting to see how that changes. That one fascinates me, so does how we get our television shows. You mentioned HBO and CNN. You have a lot in your book about different stations that we’re used to being able to see things a certain way. Now you have many different ways to find content. You don’t necessarily have to sit through commercials anymore.

You have the option to get what you want or watch when you want to watch it. It’s been good for the macro entertainment business. There’s never been better content and more content. It’s not because Netflix is throwing millions of dollars at Hollywood. Apple is throwing money at Hollywood and Amazon is throwing money at Hollywood. Now that everyone can see anything they want and whenever they want, the only thing that makes a difference in quality and content. The best content is winning, be it on Netflix, Amazon, HBO, and Hulu. Where you see it, most people aren’t that concerned. Once there is good content in the social media-connected world, it buzzes. People can watch it whether they’re watching it on their phone like my kids or they’re going to go to something called a movie theater. It’s about the experience. I went to a movie theater up in New York. It’s set up like a little café where you can sit in comfortable chairs, have some coffee and watch a movie. It’s no longer fifteen people sitting in chairs or 50 people sitting chairs that are sticky with popcorn and uncomfortable. That’s an example of how the theater business needs to shift and say, “In a world where you can see anything you want anywhere, how do we create a place that you want to sit here to watch this movie?”

I definitely have seen some do it better than others. It’s a nice change and it makes me want to go to movies. You have a lot of wonderful examples in your book. We touched on a few of them but a lot of people are going to want to know how they can find your book and to find out more about you. Can you share any websites that might be relevant for people?

They can go to Amazon to find the book. They can go to ShiftAheadBook.com and the book is there. The business I started called Metaforce is a special force to help companies shift ahead. It’s Metaforce.co. They can read about the book there and/or talk about whether you’re running a doughnut shop or running a big company. How do you make sure you don’t end up like Kodak?

[bctt tweet=”Many people tend to shift into something they are not good at.” via=”no”]

You’ve done a great job of preparing people and giving them a lot of great information. It was so nice to have you on the show. Thank you so much.

Thank for inviting me. It was a pleasure.

You’re welcome, Allen.

I want to thank Andrew and Allen for being my guests. We’ve had many great guests. I hope you check them out. I hope you join us for the next episode of Take The Lead Radio.

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About Andrew Bryant

TTL 286 | Self-LeadershipAndrew Bryant is a global expert on self-leadership and leading cultures. He is a TEDx Speaker, executive coach, and the author of ‘Self-Leadership: How to Become a More Successful, Efficient and Effective Leader from the Inside Out’ and the Bestselling, ‘Self Leadership: 12 Powerful Mindsets & Methods to Win in Life and Business’


About Allen Adamson

TTL 286 | Self-Leadership

Allen Adamson is the Co-Founder and Managing Partner of Metaforce. He is a noted industry expert in all disciplines of branding. He is the author of Shift Ahead: How the Best Companies Stay Relevant in a Fast-Changing World.




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