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Using Thought Leadership to See the Future | Lisa Bodell

Using Thought Leadership to See the Future | Lisa Bodell

How to Teach Complex Skills by Breaking Them Into Small Steps

An interview with Lisa Bodell about the life of a futurist, and how to teach others to listen when opportunity knocks.

Today we are excited to sit down with Lisa Bodell. Lisa is the CEO of FutureThink, an award-winning learning company that is transforming the way teams work in organizations. She helps leaders guide teams to build skills that are radically simple and immediately impactful. Lisa defines herself as a “futurist,” and is an expert on the topic of innovation. She’s been named one of the Top 50 speakers in the world by Thinkers 50, and is the best-selling author of Kill the Company and Why Simple Wins.

Lisa explains what it means to be a futurist, and how she brings a compelling message of simplification and innovation to over 100,000 people each year. Lisa also discusses manufacturing strategic luck, and ways to teach others to recognize potential and capitalize on opportunity. It’s not ESP – it’s science!

Teaching these powerful skills is no small task. It may take work before mastery becomes instinctive, but Lisa’s innovative process breaks the challenge into many small steps. Through studying these steps and integrating them one by one, a leader can change behavior, overcome difficulties, and move toward greater success.

Don’t waste your time looking into a crystal ball! Learn how to be a futurist, and predict tomorrow’s opportunities – today!

Three Key Takeaways:
  • Thought Leaders need foresight as well as insight. Learn how to see the potential in opportunities, and act.
  • Thought Leaders often suffer “the curse of the expert.” Breaking down complex knowledge into simple steps can help others master difficult skills.
  • If you are seeking to change behavior with Thought Leadership, simplify the changes you want to see, create small challenges that teach fundamental skills, and build on those skills to achieve high-level success.

If you need a strategy to bring your thought leadership to market, Thought Leadership Leverage can assist you! Contact us for more information. In addition, we can help you implement marketing, research, and sales. Let us help you so you can devote yourself to what you do best.



Peter Winick And welcome, welcome, welcome. This is Peter Winick, I’m the founder and CEO at Thought Leadership Leverage, and you’re joining us on the podcast today, which is Leveraging Thought Leadership, and today I’m honored that my guest is Lisa Bodell. And let me give you her bio because it’s impressive. She’s an award-winning author and the CEO of Future Think, she was recently selected as one of the top 50 keynote speakers in the world when the world had a lot more keynote speaker. So as a futurist, an expert on the topic of innovation and simplicity, she serves as a global council member of the World Economic Forum and has helped thousands of senior leaders ignite innovation at Blumberg, Pfizer, Lockheed Martin and more. She’s an advisor on the boards of the Association of Professional Futurists and Novartis Diversity Inclusion Board in Basel, Switzerland. And she’s also taught at American and Fordham universities. And I left that a bunch of stuff, including your TEDx talk in the middle class. Good stuff. So here we are. Welcome.

Lisa Bodell Hey, thanks. I think you got most of it. Thank you. Thank you. It’s so fun to be here.

Peter Winick So let’s let me let me start with one of my favorite questions is, OK, so how the hell did you get here? Because most people, other than a handful of academics here and there, ever make a deliberate plan to say, When I grow up, I want to be a thought leader.

Lisa Bodell I always say to people, I do not remember a single moment in elementary school when I looked at my parents or teachers and said, You know, I’m going to grow up and be a keynote speaker and a futurist. Like, that just wasn’t thing, right? So you know how I got here, I always say, is strategic luck. Like I had a plan and then everything changed, and I got lucky that I met different people, or I took the right risks. So, you know, by background, I’m a recovering ad agency person. I was always the businessperson in a really creative area. But and everyone said because I wasn’t in the creative department, you know, you can’t be creative. And I thought that was B.S. So I that was right around the dot coms. You know, those times, those 90s and I decided, screw it, I’m going to leave and I’m going to go join a dot com. So I learned how to run a business, a creative business, right? Web design on someone else’s dime. Nice. And yeah, I mean, you really couldn’t go wrong back then. So I got cocky and I laughed and I said, I’m going to do this on my own. Then I realized how hard it was to start my own business. But here I am, 20 years later, still knocking it out, and it’s changed along the way. I met a futurist who turned me into a study of future. I met somebody who wanted me to write a book. I thought that was crazy. Then I did it. It changed my life. And I guess the net of it is you never know where you’re going to go. But as long as you take a chance and are somewhat strategic about it, it just might work out

Peter Winick To stay there with me for a minute, because I love the strategic luck, because a lot of accomplished people don’t like to acknowledge that some of this was beyond their control. They were in the right place at the right time or took that one, meaning that one thing happened that led to another led to another. And then the other side of it was that a lot of folks don’t put the thinking and the effort into strategy as it relates to these types of businesses. And I think there’s a lot of reasons, some of that because it’s not capital intensive as you’re going out to raise one hundred million dollars to go be a thought leader. We don’t tend to measure our own time effectively in terms of the opportunity cost.

Lisa Bodell Totally.

Peter Winick Sometimes it just happens. So I love the combination of the strategy of luck, and I do think, you know.

Lisa Bodell Yeah, I agree with you. I mean, you know this to Peter, probably from, you know, your own trajectory, which is the best laid plans. But you know, I’m glad I pivoted when I did because, you know, outside influences change. But I, you know, the harder I try, the luckier I get, you know, that kind of thing, which is some people, right? Some people you look at some and you’re just God. They were just in the right place at the right time. There’s no way that guy knew that that was going to happen. But you know, you know, there’s always that. But I feel like, thank God, I went out there and I, you know, I took that coffee. I took that meeting. And the reality is 90 percent of the time, it’s not going to work, but the 10 percent that does, that’s all you need. And that’s how I got to where I am. I just had some lucky meetings. And then it clicked.

Peter Winick Right? But it’s not all luck. So then, then you also have to understand how to listen to the market because as a futurist, right? You know, that’s not, you know, there’s lots of job titles that you go, I know exactly what a future is. Doesn’t like this. You know, my friends are accountants and it’s tax season. They’re doing like, what is it, day in the life of a futurist? What is it?

Lisa Bodell Well, it’s funny you said that because, you know, everyone thinks it’s like a corporate psychic or something like, yeah, right about right. So a futurist. That’s a great example of, you know, it’s about, you’re lucky. But then you know what to do with it when you get the chance so you can recognize an opportunity that’s strategic. Look to me. But so, for example, I met the guy who was a futurist. He was a Dow Chemical and my family’s from Midland, Michigan, and I happened. Dow Chemical is and this guy said, Hey, you should come meet me. I’m in Midland, Michigan diner. That is my thought. What a weird — no one knows where Midland, Michigan is. So I said, Sure, I’ll come and visit my grandfather and I’ll happen to have a coffee with you. And I saw the potential in being able to teach people, you know, potential and change a bit in a structured way. But I wanted to take what futurist did, right. This is the opportunity and make it more tangible and more businesslike. So. Rather than science and voodoo and big, big trendsetting, I wanted to break it down and the tools that people could use. So I took that meeting and I made an opportunity out of it. And Future Think was born.

Peter Winick So stay there for a minute because I think it’s a critical piece. So it’s not that whether it’s a futurist or an innovation expert or leadership manager, whatever, you don’t live in a sort of guru world, meaning I have to bring you in because what happens is you’re here’s what I think and I’d love you. Push on. This is large organizations come across like someone like you, and they’re going to put you into one of two buckets. Holy cow, brain on a stick. She’s amazing. She’s brilliant. Throw all the money at her. Bring her into the board and she’s going to, you know, shake her magic eight ball and tell us what’s next. Right?

Lisa Bodell Right. Corporate psychic.

Peter Winick Yeah. Well, whether it’s corporate psychic, Yeah, it could be innovation or creativity or DNA. It doesn’t matter what the expertise is, but we need her in a room or in a room to impart her brilliance and knowledge on it. Great. And that’s a brain on a stick. You’ve done both where you’re clearly the brain on the stick, but you put a lot of energy and effort and resources into taking what you’ve got and making it teachable to others so others could think like it. And that’s really the magic because it’s not about the lizard. You have charisma and you’re a good speaker. All those things are lovely but moving into the capabilities development business is where the money is from. So can you touch them bit?

Lisa Bodell Well, so there’s a there’s a strategic luck thing right there. So which is like, take what you’re good at and then do something with it, right? Because then you’ll be passionate about it and everyone knows. You know this, Peter being an entrepreneur is you better be passionate about what you’re doing because you’re going to work really, really hard at it if you’re going to be successful. So, you know two things that my background is I’m a Midwesterner, which if you want to follow a stereotype, I’m very practical. I’m a very, very practical person. So, you know, head in the clouds is not my thing. I love the creativity, but it’s got to be grounded in something. So I I really believe in the teaching part of it, right? So that that was one piece of how I got the future think versus, you know, brain on a stick. And then the other piece of it to me is that I’m impatient. And so I really like accelerated. I didn’t. I really hate.

Peter Winick That’s why you moved to New York.

Lisa Bodell Yeah, everyone is patient and calm, right? Yeah. So, right. So it’s I like the fast pace, but I recognize that everyone has added. And so that’s why I think the accelerated part of all my stuff came in. If it’s a 12-step program, I don’t have time for it. If it teaches me, if I got to learn it all day, I don’t have time for it. So getting really bite size and micro so people can learn things fast practically was my shtick. And right now, guess what, Peter? It’s the right time for that. So again, like sometimes you’re a little ahead of the curve. Sometimes you get you hit it right. But those were the things I was good at, so I created the business in that way.

Peter Winick So, talk about, I call it sort of the curse of the expert. Where if you were to try to, if I were to say to you, Hey, listen, let’s jump in the car in the driveway and go into Starbucks, go into town to grab a coffee. But you got to tell me one hundred and seventeen steps. It’s going to take us to get the car back it up. Look in the mirror, you know, whatever, but you can be like, No, he’s out of his mind, right? But that’s really where the magic is, is to take the things that to the experts are so damn obvious when you see it, or you just take it down to the Lego pieces and explain it to me like I’m a third grader, because in many ways…

Lisa Bodell No, no, you’re not. Yeah, that is part of the magic. It’s kind of like you kind of fool yourself because you’re thinking, Well, if it’s so easy to me, everyone else must have already figured it out. I mean, everyone has that. It’s kind of like that imposter syndrome, right? But for thought leaders like I’m I think I’m telling the magic and I bet they think that, Oh God, I’ve already known this. Why would I pay you for this? But there is some magic to it. Like some people will say to me, You know, I’m good at simplifying, I’m really good at getting rid of unnecessary stuff. So I think some of the tools of the trade that I have when I do that well, everyone must know that. But then I’ll say the simplest things, Peter and everyone will go, That’s magic. Well, that’s a good thing, right? Because that means that’s intuitive to me, and that must be something that I can share with the world. So I am getting over that out, I think.

Peter Winick If you’re enjoying this episode of Leveraging Thought Leadership, please make sure to subscribe. If you’d like to help spread the word about our podcast, please leave us a review and share it with your friends. We’re available on Apple Podcasts and on all major listening apps, as well as at Thought Leadership Leverage dot com forward slash podcasts.

Peter Winick There’s also another thread, too, that if you will. Folks like you tend to get brought in to solve big, hairy things that the company couldn’t solve on their own. They could have figured this out, they would have figured it out

Lisa Bodell Well and that’s what goes through your head, right?

Peter Winick Right. Yeah.

Lisa Bodell What am I going to do?

Peter Winick So they’re willing to pay the big bucks to bring in the brand, an expert to solve it? Right? But oftentimes, the money isn’t what I would say. I call it the democratization of the content. Right. So what are derivatives of what you’re doing that might work for a front line employee or a mid-level manager or a newly minted manager, et cetera. It doesn’t mean they’re going to have the domain expertise that you do, but using the same models, frameworks, whatever that you’re using to solve the biggest issue, that’s the CEO’s Arizona fire to a middle manager with something more pragmatic.

Lisa Bodell Well, so here’s the pragmatic partner. I love what you just said. It’s like, how do you teach people techniques that can be learned at any level? And to me, it’s, you know, we’re the big consulting companies come in and there’s a place for everything, right? That’s the sphere of concern. They come in at the organizational level, the corporate level, the regulatory level, like where everybody has these big concerns, right? Redoing the travel policy and the structure. I want to help. I’m about behavior change in practical ways. So I’m about the sphere of control. And so everything I teach, I think the reason change can happen faster or we can’t find potential or whatever because we’re worried about the things that we can’t control the sphere of concern. I want to teach them the sphere of control, which is the unsexy tactical behavioral things that we can affect every day. So. All right, Peter. So people will say, you know, I want to be more innovative. Well, they can’t because they’re too bogged down with crap every day. And I’ll say, OK, so what’s in your sphere of control? The work you do every day, like, don’t talk to me about what’s corporates doing and all that? Yeah, what? Look at your calendar. What could you get rid of? And they start to see that they have more control than they think. But it’s, you know, it’s kind of starting within your own purview and then looking at the bigger picture. I think there’s something about

Peter Winick Stay with the behavioral thing for a minute because, I will often tell a client or someone that I’m talking to that’s about to become a client. It wasn’t. Your business is really simple. You’re in the business of changing behaviors that drive business outcomes that are measurable. And as long as what you charge for, that is less than the value the client gets, you’re going to make a lot of money. Right. Would I pay you a dollar to save me 10, of course. And I think people don’t realize, what do you mean, behavior? I’ve got a Ph.D. in this, and I’ve written seven books on them. You know, whatever it’s like. I don’t know if you can’t change the behaviors at an individual level. That in the aggregate means a lot of teams that in the aggregate of that means the organization and connected to a business leader. Right. Because there are certain things like, Hmm, OK, I might be able to change that behavior, but does it drive the business lever that matters? No, then it’s just not a priority of that organization at that point.

Lisa Bodell I think a lot of people. Well, first of all, the big thing with behavior change and any problem, I think, is because people look at it too big. I got to break them down into parts. So having somebody that can just break them down into parts, you can tackle individual pieces. The first thing is just having someone be able to do that. But for me, behavior change, Peter, to your point, is, you know, changing a behavior that’s holding you back to get a more desirable outcome. Right. So it’s kind of like, you know, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different outcome. They also say that the way for you to get better behavior change is to understand what you do that hold you back, but also what you wish you did in moving forward. So, you know, one of the things people say to me is I wish I could. You know, I go to too many meetings and I’ll say, Well, why don’t you say no to more meetings? Why I can’t do that and I’ll say, Well, then let’s break it down to something more simple. What if you could say yes with intention, right? So every day is when you say yes, you’re saying it with intent because you know it’s going to get you something rather than just a response like a trigger. And what if you said no with purpose? Mm hmm. You know, you know why? Because so I said, let’s figure out what the intent is for your yes and your purposes for now. When you put into that kind of framework, it gives people more of like a guideline versus handcuffs of how to approach something 12-Step programs. The reason I have a problem with them is because I feel like that one size fits all doesn’t work. The guard rail does.

Peter Winick The difference between a 12-Step program, which is one way to change the behavior and the power of a model and a framework and a methodology, which is what you’ve got, right? So you gave people a way to say, Oh, wait a minute, think about, you know, if your default is to say yes to every meeting and then you resent being in all these meetings and you’re doing the work at eight o’clock at night and you’re frustrated. And that’s not wanting to be most creative and thoughtful. OK?

Lisa Bodell Yeah.

Peter Winick We need a mechanism to say, Well, I’m going to say yes with intent, meaning I want to be in this meeting. I will add value to this meeting. This is a meeting that is important to me. And then there are other ones that you don’t want. I haven’t opened my mouth in three years on the Tuesday afternoon thing. Let me try blowing that off, right? Because I’m always amazed. And maybe it’s the entrepreneur in me. It’s like how many people feel as if they have no control? And it’s just habit. I did a project several years at ESPN and they had their weekly meeting and it was the president and there were like fifty eight people in the room. And I’m like, That’s insane. And I’m like, How did this happen this year? A bunch of smart people as well. We’re, you know, it started with, you know, three butt cheeks on the desk and then. And then there were more and then it was like, now it’s like if you’re not invited, like, OK, we need to recalibrate this whole thing here because 50 minutes of that meeting was reading a spreadsheet and I said, Well, isn’t everyone in that room literate? Could they not have read this before? They know on Tuesdays, a hockey game and Thursdays,…We don’t need to waste their time here.

Lisa Bodell Yeah. Well, they missed the purpose of meetings. They missed they got into a habit, like you said, because, you know. So one of the things we always say is that emails are for information, meetings or for decisions. So. Right? Understand. So clearly, these people were just there for information, not for decisions. So it’s a total waste of time. You know, giving people ways to just think about their behaviors and to change them is really powerful. So like. So for example, when you tell people, tell me what you say yes to and I’ll tell you who you are. Suddenly they go, Oh yeah, and they start to realize, so why do I say yes to so many things? And it gets down to most, most behavior, right? Anything you can you can tell me the business is all about frameworks and economics, but really, the best thing people could do with their MBAs is go get a degree in psychology and human behavior. And they would be so much more successful because they would realize that so much is driven by risk, fear, power control and trust and the biggest of those with fear and trust. So if we

Peter Winick Well, we use the logic words, right, but we don’t say I’m in this meeting for fear of missing out.

Lisa Bodell That’s exactly what it is. Yeah, I got to show up.

Peter Winick I’m here to represent my department and duh duh duh…

Lisa Bodell And I’m obligated. Why are you obligated? Because I don’t wanna hurt someone’s feelings? Because I don’t. Yeah, it comes down to behavior and feelings so we can start to get OK with that. And that’s that softer side of business. We’ve got to find a way, Peter, to repackage soft things into and give them a level of importance. So, for example, I think we have to stop calling the really important skills that people need to learn soft skills, their power skills. And you know, it’s actually an rising frame, right? I mean, it’s soft skills kind of like God, God forbid, you should be empathetic. You know, that’s a soft skill. Well, yeah, but I’d rather work with the person who can, you know, lead the team than is just the expert on one thing. So we’ve really got to get to a point where we are embracing more of the behaviors and these power skills to really lead, not just authentically because that’s another bad word, but lead powerfully and productively.

Peter Winick Yeah, with integrity. So I would be remiss if I didn’t take advantage of of asking the futurist What’s, what’s, what’s next? So and I mean that through the lens of thought leaders, right? So, so much has changed and will continue to change as a result of COVID. And that’s not all. I mean, COVID is bad, but the changes that are coming out of this us learning that we can work in different ways and we don’t have to. I’ve been in office and all that. But what do you? I don’t wanna say the new normal, but what do you see that are things that might become more normalized or different or whatever in the next year?

Lisa Bodell Oh, my god, Peter, I don’t think we — don’t have enough time. But this is amazing that you said this. So my realm is in human thought and behavior and so I like looking at how — you know it’s things aren’t what you think. You know, like we, we always like to say the future isn’t who you are, it’s who you’re becoming, and we always have to realize the implications of things. And so, for example, I think I’m really hard on voice commerce right now because voice commerce is it is the future, right?

Peter Winick Yup.

Lisa Bodell With assistants, voice assistants, like I don’t know if you have a Google Home or an Alexa, I’m sure you do.

Peter Winick Yeah.

Lisa Bodell But so much of what we’re buying right now is that way, and it’s going to become even cooler and creepier in the future because it’s cool because we can just order things with our voice. It’s creepy because it’s going to the algorithms are going to start to hear my voice and respond differently, depending on my tone and the words I use. So in the morning?

Peter Winick Time is a, and time is a…yeah.

Lisa Bodell Oh fill, my coffee. Yeah, you’re going to respond to me differently than later when I have a glass of wine. So and you’re going to be able to manipulate an upsell me or you’re going to be able to help me, depending if it’s cool or creepy, depending on these, these very behavioral things. So I think we’re coming into a time period when behavior is not just important, but it is going to be very powerful. So it affects you in a business way, like with commerce, but it also affects you in terms of behavior inside your company.

Peter Winick So, it’s the creepy-convenience trade off, right? So. So there’s the creepy convenience trade off, like when it goes just over that line, it’s creepy. But when Siri or Alexa knows what’s on my mind, I’m like, Oh, that’s pretty cool.

Lisa Bodell But see, this is the deal. This is and that’s what futures want to teach people is what there’s always a cool in the creepy. There’s always a good in the bad. And so but it’s so how we understand it and how we use it, right? Really, it helps us understand our motivations and outcomes, and we have to understand both of those things, right? So imagine in a future where you could, there’s just going to be so much more converging, right where we can literally get healed while we drive our buildings will make us healthier. Our cities are going to be able to track our every movement. I mean, there’s so many things behaviorally that could have good outcomes because it could give us healthier lives or it could be surveillance. So depending on how it’s used and monitored right now is really, really important. So behavior and data, by the way, are not two different things. They’re together. So I think you’re going to see all these different things coming together. And that’s why these jobs that don’t exist right now in ten years that my son, when he’s out of college, he’s going to have, I’ll go. I hope he doe it in a cool way. Not a creepy way.

Peter Winick Very cool. Well, this has been fantastic. I appreciate your time so far and your insight.

Lisa Bodell Always, always fun.

Peter Winick So fun.

Peter Winick You’re a great interviewer. Thanks for having me.

Peter Winick My pleasure. Thank you.

To learn more about Thought Leadership Leverage, please visit our website at to reach me directly. Feel free to email me at Peter at Thought Leadership Leverage dot com and please subscribe to Leveraging Thought Leadership on iTunes or your favorite podcast app to get your weekly episode automatically.

Peter Winick has deep expertise in helping those with deep expertise. He is the CEO of Thought Leadership Leverage. Visit Peter on Twitter!

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