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JGL Strategy is consulting firm based in Cleveland that helps organizations make better decisions for the future.

Filtering by Tag: learning

The Best Books for Leaders, 2018

These are the books published this year that taught me the most about leading: about learning, listening, collaborating, and innovating for maximal impact. My comments for each book are intended to briefly introduce what I perceive to be a main source of value in each book, not to comprehensively summarize or criticize these works.

Amy Edmondson - The Fearless Organization

If you’ve worked with me in the past three or four years, you’ve probably heard me talk about psychological safety at least once. Psychological safety is a group-level dynamic in which people are comfortable expressing and being themselves- even when that means sharing concerns, mistakes, or warnings. Psychological safety is key to effective teamwork, innovation, collaboration, and impact; in short, it’s an essential ingredient to leadership in the 21st century. Amy Edmondson is world’s preeminent researcher of psychological safety and The Fearless Organization, rigorously evidence-based yet supremely practical, is thus far the definitive volume on the subject.

Heidi Grant - Reinforcements

Leading isn’t a solo activity. Human beings naturally want to be helpful but many of us - myself included - are not comfortable asking for the appropriate help at the appropriate time. This holds us back. The key to the best requests for help, and therefore to getting people to help you, Grant argues, is making the act of helping mutually beneficial. Usually lessons on this topic are easy to grasp on a cerebral level but difficult to implement in real world situations. This book bridges that gap in a way that I found, in a word, helpful.

Priya Parker - The Art of Gathering

Leaders show up and they invite others to show up as well. How does one make the most of the opportunities when your leadership resonates, when people do show up? How can we maximize for safe spaces for all? From the physical to the psychological to the emotional, Parker shares great advice on how to make your meetings, convening, conferences, networking gatherings, one-on-ones, etc. more effective, meaningful, and fun.

Tom Peters - The Excellence Dividend

The Excellence Dividend reads like the feisty younger sibling of 1982’s In Search of Excellence, co-authored by Peters and Robert Waterman. This book is direct and unrelenting in compiling the core elements of effective leadership that Peters has learned throughout a career spanning five decades. People and passion, not spreadsheets and software, will drive the best businesses of the 21st century. The little things - such as listening, investing in yourself & in your staff, and a genuine desire to helpful to others - done with care and done consistently are what leadership mastery is all about.

Edgar Villanueva - Decolonizing Wealth / Anand Giridharadas - Winners Take All

I’m grouping these two books together because, while hardly identical, I feel they prompt common questions framed with similar rhetoric: What is the measure of a leader? What is the measure of success? How do we think about what counts as “doing good”? How can we do better? Elite institutions and ultra-wealthy philanthropists are not spared by the critical eye of Villanueva or Giridharadas who speak truth to power regarding how dominant economic paradigms, privilege, and systemic inequalities are germs poisoning society, and how no amount of handwashing (or charitable giving) can rid society of those ills while operating within the framework that created those unjustifiable disparities in the first place. These books are food for thought that should oblige all readers and all leaders to consider shifting a few, or many, habituated mindsets about capitalism and philanthropy.

What books did you read in 2018 that made you a better leader, that made you think, or that made you want to give copies away to friends and colleagues? Please share in the comments section below.

Best wishes for 2019!

Ego, Ownership, and Learning

What is the first business of one who practices philosophy? To get rid of self-conceit. For it is impossible for anyone to begin to learn that which he thinks he already knows. - Epictetus

We all have blind spots. Whether we discover them through introspection or have others enlighten us we need to acknowledge our previous deficiency - to take personal ownership of our gaps in knowledge and understanding - and learn from it. This humility is a prerequisite to personal growth. If we think we have nothing more to learn, then we won’t learn.

For example, last week I had the opportunity to speak with a class of graduate students at the Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences at Case Western Reserve University. The topic was organizational culture.

Among the observations on culture I shared with the students was that diversity is key to innovation. Not only is diversity (ethnic diversity, diversity of ideas, diversity of experiences, etc) integral to innovation, it intersects with almost everything we do in our personal and professional lives: who we hang out with; who we hire/promote; who we choose to read or listen to; who we seek counsel from; and so on. If we are not intentionally seeking out different voices and different ideas we are limiting our own learning and the potential for innovation within our organizations. In this day and age you might as well pack up shop if you’re not demonstrably valuing diversity because any competitive advantage your organization may have will quickly stagnate.

A few hours before the class I was struck by a startling realization: all the authors/researchers I cited as topical resources were white. I was embarrassed but glad that I at least had the realization. It would have been far better to have known this earlier - to have been able to diversify my own reading list, which is an essential learning complement to my firsthand experience consulting and advising a variety of organizations - to prevent this uncomfortable experience in the first place. But better before the class than after.


I owned up to this blind spot during the discussion with the class; I admitted the performative contradiction of extolling the importance of diversity within organizations and teams while at the same time citing a slate of excellent yet nonetheless ethnically homogenous authors. The students and the professor were thoughtful interlocutors as I went on this tangent about the need to admit and learn from our own shortcomings. Meaningful dialogue ensued about the implications on an organizational level (particularly with regard to communications and talent management) and I challenged the class to seek out non-white, non-Western authors on organizational culture and to share them with me.

By letting go of my ego and admitting this blind spot I was able to deepen my personal learning journey and leverage this realization as a teachable moment. I urge us all to not fear admitting when we are wrong; when we do not know; when we realize we have been operating under the influence of a blind spot, an unconscious bias, or an echo chamber. To paraphrase some classical but timeless wisdom: if we cannot admit our imperfect knowledge, we cannot learn.

(PS) If there’s are any non-white, non-Western experts on organizational culture or strategy who you think I should look into, please leave those names in the comments section below. Thanks!

3 Podcasts That Cultivate Innovative Thinking

We are big fans of lifelong learning here at JGL Strategy. We are fortunate to live in a time when so much quality information is so accessible. Podcasts are a great vehicle for learning. While there are many we recommend today the focus is on three we think do a great job cultivating innovative thinking; podcasts that will make you pause during a stroll and write a note to yourself or your team.

1) Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders

Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders is a speaker series presented by the Stanford Technology Ventures Program, the entrepreneurship center at Stanford's School of Engineering, normally hosted by Professor of the Practice Tina Seelig (@tseelig).

This podcast gives you a front row seat as some of the smartest people on the planet share lessons from real-world experiences across entrepreneurial settings. Speakers include entrepreneurs, leaders from global technology companies, venture capitalists, and best-selling authors.

An open mind is required; knowledge of advanced technology is not. Being able to connect theories embedded in nascent technologies or ideas from entrepreneurs in other fields to your own work is one way of bringing fresh, innovative thinking to problems you are trying to solve.

ETL at Stanford's eCorner

Most Recent Episode (Season 12, Episode 24 The Ethics of Innovation)


2) Seeking Wisdom

Seeking Wisdom is the podcast from Drift, a Boston-based company re-inventing marketing. The podcast features Drift CEO David Cancel (@dcancel) and Director of Marketing Dave Gerhardt (@davegerhardt) talking shop on issues ranging from hiring, learning, growing (companies and people), marketing, start ups and everything in between.

The episodes provide conversations that are super accessible. Accessible with regard to both their short length (10-25 minutes, typically) and the common language dialogue between David and Dave. Whether introducing a concept that is new to me or giving their views on subjects I'm more familiar with, I find value in each episode.

Seeking Wisdom's ability to cultivate innovative thinking stems directly from the podcast's tendency to induce a slight shift in your perspective on familiar business topics: organizational design; strategic planning; talent management, etc. It's akin to seeing the same play more than once sitting in a different seat at the theatre each time: you pick up on subtleties you only notice through your new vantage point.

If you have ever listened to an episode of Seeking Wisdom, you know why this podcast is worthy of a six star review on iTunes. These are smart people who are passionate about learning and are having a blast sharing their knowledge with listeners.

Seeking Wisdom home

A Favorite Episode (#41 A Quick One On Gratitude) 


3) Walter Isaacson's Trailblazers

Trailblazers is a new podcast about innovations that have disrupted industries touching many people such as news, entertainment and hospitality. Trailblazers is hosted by Walter Isaacson (@WalterIsaacson), President and CEO of The Aspen Institute and author the definitive biography of Apple co-Founder Steve Jobs.

Trailblazers is about the technical innovations that spur human progress. If all Trailblazers did was to examine a popular digital disruption, it would still deliver education about innovation. However, Trailblazers goes deeper and takes special care to place these digital disruptions in historical context, examining them as part of a continuum of disruptions to a particular industry.

The historical insights not only deepen your understanding of innovation but also highlight the importance of widening your lens as you and your organization explore how to best accelerate social progress. Zoom-out, learn about & from the past, and you can uncover the mindsets or knowledge to better inform your innovative thinking.

Trailblazers with Walter Isaacson

First Episode (Lights...Camera...Disruption)


What are you listening to? What helps you cultivate innovative thinking? Share your favorite podcasts, reflections and questions in the comments section below.



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