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Thinkers50 in 50 Seconds with Soren Kaplan

All 50 Second Q&As

Soren Kaplan, author of Leapfrogging and The Invisible Advantage, cuts to the chase.

What book are you currently reading?

Under New Management by David Burkus.  The book highlights some of the outliers who are innovating the practice of management as they struggle to survive and thrive in a disruptive world.

How do you describe what you do?

I help innovative leaders and organizations create “invisible competitive advantage.”  Finding your Invisible Advantage is about fostering an organizational culture where all employees across all functions continually strive to add value through incremental, sustaining, and disruptive innovations.  Today, competitive advantage through technology, products, services, and even business models is transient, so I’m focused on the only thing that’s semi-sustainable – an organization’s innovation culture.

Who or what is your biggest inspiration?

Seeing the convergence of various socially focused business megatrends provides a beacon of inspirational light to the future.  Only recently have social business, the triple bottom line, technology innovation, and new organizational models all converged to shape entrepreneurial mindsets and business models.  I’m most inspired by the sea change in values that underlie many of today’s emerging leaders and businesses.

My two teenage daughters are also an inspiration since they help me realize every day how the next generation uses technology, interacts, and will eventually change the world.

What does success look like?

I look at success as multifaceted.  Helping others, contributing to others’ learning and knowledge, and supporting their own definitions of success may be the greatest measure in my book.  I’m also big on personal growth and development and finding balance between flying on airplanes and family time.

What is your competitive advantage?

When I help clients with their business and innovation strategies, they get solid results.  But more importantly they often reflect on our time collaborating together and say, “our executives and business units are working so much more effectively together, we’re able to accelerate our strategy and innovation in ways never before possible.  My secret sauce is knowing that people support what they help create.

I also live at the intersection between organizational change, culture, business strategy, and innovation, which can be a unique place to be.  I also know how to bridge academic theories in these areas with practical approaches that gets real business results. Plus, I make sure my clients and I have fun and laugh a lot while we transform their organizations and industries – which may be the biggest competitive differentiator out there in the sea of innovation and strategy experts who take business, life, and themselves so seriously.

How do you keep your thinking fresh?

I continually remind myself that there’s always more to learn and there’s a lot of people out there would can teach me new things – from my two daughters to my clients, to other management thought leaders.  I also customize and regularly review feeds from Apple news, LinkedIn, Twitter and BuzzFeed.

How much time do you spend travelling?

A lot.

What is the secret of a great presentation?

Know your audience, reveal your personal story, engage people in ways that inspire insight and change, and don’t take yourself too seriously since most audiences will forget what you said within about a week anyway.

What advice would you give to anyone who wants to follow in your footsteps?

Find the intersection between your personal interests, skill sets, and where you want to make the biggest difference in the world.  Recognize that there are actually no concrete footsteps to follow since life, and business, is about finding your own unique trail to blaze.

What is your next goal?

Follow the unexpected surprises that will surely arise with the publishing of my next book, The Invisible Advantage.

Describe yourself in three words.

Strategic

Practical

Adaptable

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