Ep. 259 - Brant Cooper, Founder of Moves The Needle & Author of The Lean Entrepreneur and Disruption Proof on Empowering People, Creating Value, and Driving Change

On this week's episode of Inside Outside Innovation, we sit down with New York Times bestselling author and founder of Moves The Needle, Brant Cooper. Brant and I talk about his upcoming book, Disruption Proof, and provide a sneak peek into our upcoming IO Live event on September 20. Let's get started

Inside Outside Innovation is the podcast to help you rethink, reset, and remix yourself and your organization. Each week we'll bring you the latest innovators, entrepreneurs, and pioneering businesses, as well as the tools, tactics, and trends you'll need as a new innovator.

Interview Transcript with Brant Cooper, CEO of Moves The Needle

Brian Ardinger: [00:00:30] Welcome to another episode of Inside Outside Innovation. I'm your host, Brian Ardinger. And as always, we have another amazing guest. Today we have Brant Cooper. He's the founder of Moves The Needle, New York Times bestselling author of the Lean Entrepreneur, and author of an upcoming book, which I'm so excited to talk about called Disruption Proof: Empower People, Create Value and Drive Change. Welcome Brant. 

Brant Cooper: [00:01:07] Thanks Brian. Pleasure as always. 

Brian Ardinger: [00:01:10] I'm excited to have you back. As our audience knows you've been a part of the lean scene for a long time. You had a chance to speak at our IO2020 Summit. And we're going to do a little something different with this podcast episode, because we're having you back on September 29th for a live event. It's part of our IO Live series. Basically, we're going to have an hour to talk about the book and have audience questions and do a little bit more in depth stuff with you. 

So, I wanted to save this episode more as a preview to get folks excited about the book and excited about some of the things we're going to be talking about. So, with that, you got a new book out called Disruption Proof. Tell us how you got to the point of writing a new book and what's it all about? 

Brant Cooper: [00:01:50] Yeah. So, I guess it's been in the works for a couple of years, actually. It seems like so pandemic ready, but that was maybe just fortuitous that I was already embarking on it. And then of course the pandemic itself hit and business kind of dried up. So that gave you the opportunity to really crank it out. 

You know, over the last seven, eight years taking some of that lean stuff into the large enterprise. And it's just, that was an interesting journey in the sense that, you know, all of this lean startup, lean innovation stuff really started in Silicon Valley startups.

I mean, honestly it preceeded all of that, but you know, us tech startup people like to feel like we've invented everything. There was a movement. Right. And so, starting in startups and then we bring it into the big companies. And inevitably we start with the innovation groups. As I'm trying to work through the change that is required inside of these companies, I really realized that there's uncertainty everywhere inside the enterprise.

There's something happening here, way bigger. And this is perhaps obvious to a lot more people. It takes me awhile. I think really this fundamental shift from the industrial age and management practices and even management organization, that's based around the industrial, really this level of complexity and endless disruption that is in the digital age, leads to this uncertainty.

And we continue to try to tackle the uncertainty the way we did in the industrial age. And it just creates more angst, and it creates more doubt and people just really wondering what the heck is going on. Then the pandemic hits. And I think we blame all of that angst and anxiety on the pandemic. And now people are like, ah, man, I can't wait to get back to the old normal. And yet the old normal was still filled with that uncertainty. 

And so that's really what the book ended up addressing. So again, I didn't start out with writing, you know, sort of this post pandemic book, but because I was writing it right in the middle of all of this, there really ends up being these pandemic…and how do you respond to it? And what does this mean in that bigger picture that ends up being what the book is about? 

Brian Ardinger: [00:04:05] It's interesting because I think, you and I have I've been talking about disruption forever. And innovation groups have been talking about it and trying to figure out how to do this. And the pandemic really seems to have taken that theory and made it real for most people.

I mean, everybody on the planet to some extent has been disrupted by various means of, of what happened during the last 18 months. And it really, I think has brought out the conversation where it's no longer theory we're talking about. It's like, yeah, I get it. But now I really get it. But I still don't know what to do about it.

So, you know, I've seen a proof of your book in that you really capture it and talk about the five elements of what you need to be doing to embrace this new world of work. So maybe talk through a little bit about that and some of the things you found out. 

Brant Cooper: [00:04:48] Yeah. So, to me, the key is to all of this, is that it's not really the technology, even though we're in a digital revolution and we're doing digital transformation and we're working in innovation. It just really isn't about the technology because there's not that much uncertainty around the technology.

It's really about the mindset and the way we have to change our thinking and our behavior relative to this massive change in technology. And so, I described the behavior change that we need based upon these five elements. 

And so, empathy, exploration, which is basically admitting what we don't know. And so going out and learning. Leveraging evidence, so data plus insights to help us inform decisions. We don't want just algorithms and AI deciding for us, but certainly what we go and figure out needs to inform our decision. 

This concept of equilibrium, which is building a balance between the execution, everything that we know we have to get done, and this exploration work, meaning that we have to go and learn something first. That's a continuum throughout the organization. Even your core business needs to do some amount of exploration. It's not this bifurcation of one side of the house is execution. And one side is exploration. I think that's industrial age innovation thinking. 

And then the final one is ethics. And with all of the data problems that we have, and with livable wages and all of these other things that have really come to the fore, it's really incumbent upon businesses to figure out how they live up to their own values that they establish and that they broadcast.

And again, that ends up being something that we have to drive down into the human behavior. And so rather than some of the big management theories on how you do change, which is very top down. I wanted to describe the behaviors of what people actually have to do day in, day out inside of their jobs. And it really is a ground up initiative.

It requires obviously leaders to buy in and go, yes, we're going to change. It's kind of a pincer move, but you have to start with developing that behavior on the ground. And I guess the one other point I would make about it is the reason why I'm somewhat optimistic about that is this behavior already exists, right?

The people that are subscribing to your podcast and that read your stuff, Brian, Design Thinkers, and Agile people, and Lean Startup people and entrepreneurs, people that are doing side gigs, these are people that already have this mindset. And so, what we have to take is not put them all in this silo, but rather get them to be the leaders of tomorrow, bringing this diverse mindset, this exploration skillset to the rest of the business. 

Brian Ardinger: [00:07:32] All the stuff you talked about, it's just so messy. And I think everybody's still looking for that silver bullet. Like if you do this, this, and this follow this particular path, you will have success. And Lean Startup was never meant to be the perfect path. Even if you follow lean startup 100 percent, you're still not guaranteed a successful product, service, whatever you're trying to create. It's that journey. 

You have to put on those exploration hats or backpack or whatever. I talk about going into a cave. The only way you can get out of the cave is you got to stumble around and figure it out. And the challenge is we don't reward that stumbling around. 

We don't provide the tool sets or the skillsets for folks that are not inherently like the entrepreneur that kind of has that built into their ecosystem. So, what can an average Joe hearing about this, understanding theoretically, like they need to do this. Are there tactics or things that you've seen that help start building that muscle? 

Brant Cooper: [00:08:26] There's a couple of things in there that come to mind. Number one is go find the like-minded people. Go find the people that maybe already exist inside of every big business. So go find them. And it could be just doing an innovation mindset happy hour once a week or every other week. 

But it's something that you want to try to spread throughout the organization, because these are your early adopters. And what you find is that there are leaders that actually belong to that group. And suddenly you make, you have these areas where you can start running experiments even with budget or even with permission. So, number one is finding like-minded people. 

Number two is to not wait for permission. To go and run experiments and come up with data. And then when you actually are seeking permission or advice or input. You're actually bringing evidence to the table and not just ideas. And I really do believe that ideas are a dime a dozen. 

Every big organization I've worked with has no problem with ideas. And I think leadership and middle management and all the rest go, yeah, we really need to empower the ideas of people. It's just not taking it far enough. If you've got thousands of ideas, literally it's how do you choose those ideas? 

The people on the ground need to themselves, not just go ask for stuff. They need to be able to provide evidence for what they're asking for. And I think that that added layer is actually going to start changing the conversation.

And then the third thing that I really encourage people to do is to try to go and get empathy for their leadership. And so, it's kind of a funny concept because we often in that hierarchical command and control structure, are either afraid to do that, or don't think that we're even allowed to do that.

And it doesn't mean that we are to whatever the whims are of the leaders. There's a selfish aspect of developing empathy in the sense that the more I understand my bosses, the more I understand how I'm going to get what I think that I need. Right. 

So, you're learning just as if they were a customer. You're learning how to navigate your relationship with the leader in order to get what you think is the right thing for yourself, your team, and your company.

For More Information

Brian Ardinger: [00:10:45] Yeah. Oftentimes it is a balance. You still have to hit those quarterly numbers and still do what you're designed to execute on and optimize but knowing full well that if you do that and only that you're not going to get to where you need to be or not create the next future, whatever ends up on it.

Again, we can go and talk for hours and we're going to do that here in the coming months. So, I encourage people to go to Insideoutside.IO. We'll have information posted there about signing up for the IO Live event here with Brant Cooper and in the interim, if people want to get a little sneak preview, find out more about yourself, more about the book, what's the best way to do that?

Brant Cooper: [00:11:20] Yeah. So, I'm brant@brantcooper.com. Brant Cooper on all the social media. And I really encourage people to reach out. I respond to everyone. The website is Brantcooper.com right now. And people can pre-order the book as well as get some other goodies and we'll be sharing a content from the book in the coming months. As we prepare to join you on your show. 

Reach out, say hello and join the conversation. Really. I think that one of the things that you said, Brian, is that there isn't a formula. I mean, there's actually not one way out of that cave. And that's what complexity is right. Is that there's no best practices. 

And so, all of these different variables that people face based upon their businesses and based upon the history and based upon the people that are inside that business, everybody's going to have to figure out their way out of the cave, but there are some fundamentals.

And also, what we want to do is try to create community around what works. We can share, what works and what doesn't work and those types of things. So, all of these people can start figuring it out, what works in their organization. 

Brian Ardinger: [00:12:21] Excellent. Well, Brant I'm excited for this conversation. Thanks for being a part of it. I look forward to having, again, a more in-depth conversation with the audience and encourage people to come out for that. Participate in that. And we look forward to talking in about a month or so. Thanks again for coming on. We'll talk to you soon. 

Brant Cooper: [00:12:35] Thank you, Brian. Great to catch up, man.

Brian Ardinger: That's it for another episode of Inside Outside Innovation. If you want to learn more about our team, our content, our services, check out InsideOutside.io or follow us on Twitter @theIOpodcast or @Ardinger. Until next time, go out and innovate.


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