Book Review: Furr Et Al., Leading Transformation

Companies frequently have to reinvent themselves, a task that tends to be neglected because of comfort with the familiar and fear of the unknown and because management simply doesn’t know how to go about envisaging a different trajectory for the company, let alone implementing it. Nathan Furr, Kyle Nel, and Thomas Zoëga Ramsøy pooled their skills and experience to write Leading Transformation: How to Take Charge of Your Company’s Future (Harvard Business Review Press, 2018).

The tools of change the authors recommend may seem bizarre—science fiction, comic books, applied neuroscience, and archetypes—but companies as diverse as Lowe’s, Pepsi, IKEA, Google, and Walmart are already successfully using them. So it behooves other companies to take their recommendations seriously.

Science fiction has inspired many notable technologies, from the submarine to earbuds. “Indeed, many argue that science fiction underpins the entire culture of Silicon Valley and the technology revolution created there.” Whether or not that’s true, the authors believe that science fiction “can be a tool to break the bonds of incrementalism and to imagine other possibilities.” Companies can use science fiction to dream bigger. Specifically, the authors suggest that companies use their existing data as a foundation and give it to five writers, asking each of them to write a short story about what the future could look like in five to ten years in light of the data. That’s, of course, only the first step, but it’s a step that might just set a company off on a wildly successful venture.

In the course of this book the authors propose a series of actions that companies might take to transform themselves. They are not the run-of-the-mill suggestions that one finds in business books but what I would consider frontier ideas (as opposed to cutting-edge or fringe ideas). Maybe they will be how the new West in business will be won. 

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