John Hagel III – Founder & CEO, Beyond Our Edge

Episode 196

How can we address the fear that is holding us back in our careers and in life? Today’s guest is John Hagel III, the founder and CEO of Beyond Our Edge, where he works with companies and people to achieve great impact. John is also the author of eight books, including his most recent, incredible book, The Journey Beyond Fear. John shares how passion and motivation always helps move anyone away from fear and towards great success. Enjoy this episode of #TheKaraGoldinShow

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John Hagel III 0:00
They’ll still be afraid I don’t believe we’re gonna ever going to eliminate the fear. But we’re going to move forward in spite of that fear,

Kara Goldin 0:06
I am unwilling to give up. That I will start over from scratch as many times as it takes to get where I want to be, I want to make sure you will get knocked down, but just make sure you don’t get knocked out knocked out. So your only choice should be go focus on what you can control control control.

Hi, everyone, and welcome to the Kara golden show. So join me each week for inspiring conversations with some of the world’s greatest leaders will talk with founders, entrepreneurs, CEOs, and really some of the most interesting people of our time, can’t wait to get started. Let’s go. Let’s go. Hi, everyone, its Kara golden from the Kara golden show. And I’m so excited for my next guest. I have john Hagel here who is a legend, he is the founder of beyond our edge, and we’re going to talk a bit about his new incredible book that he wrote as well. But before we do that, I’m going to give you a brief intro on john john is actually a fellow marine County resident. And you all know that that’s where I am coming from. And he spent 40 years in Silicon Valley has amazing experience as a management consultant at some of the biggest firms out there really guiding a lot of CEOs and sort of the agenda that they would have going on overall. But the Deloitte center for the edge, if anyone is familiar with this incredible place, he was actually the founder and chairman of that really, really incredible. And john is also the author of not one book as I am, but eight books incredible, and best selling books, including his most recent book, The journey beyond fear. And so you all know how I feel about fear and how I feel about knocking it down. And so we’re definitely on the same page on on this. He’s won two awards from Harvard Business Review for best articles. He’s also been highlighted as a leader by amazing institutions, including the World Economic Forum, as well as Business Week. And so we are so excited to have john here. Thank you so much for coming on, john.

John Hagel III 2:31
That’s a pleasure. I’m looking forward to the conversation for sure.

Kara Goldin 2:34
Yeah, absolutely. So tell me a little bit about john, like, Did you always know that you were going to be an found a founder and sort of have that legacy that you have, or tell me a little bit about you as a kid. Now,

John Hagel III 2:47
as a kid, I grew up in a different country every year. So I had a global upbringing. And I was actually, in a dysfunctional family. My mother had huge anger issues. And she would go in tirades and I lived most of my childhood in fear, my father retreated, he didn’t want to intervene. And so I did felt like I didn’t have anybody to protect me or, and because I was in a different country. Every year, there was no extended family or network of friends that can help. So it was a challenging, challenging childhood, for sure.

Kara Goldin 3:30
Were your parents, diplomats? Or what? What were your parents doing?

John Hagel III 3:33
Now? My father worked for a large oil company and you loved international work every year, you’d ask for another assignment. And most years, he got it. And so he was on the marketing side. So we weren’t in the producing countries. So it was partially Latin America and in Europe for the two continents. So

Kara Goldin 3:55
did you have siblings or one sister

John Hagel III 3:57
slightly younger than these? Yeah.

Kara Goldin 4:01
Amazing. And and so how do you think that you first discovered that you wanted to help people? I mean, that is essentially what I take from your journey, that you’re a helper, you want to, you know, lead and guide and and, I mean, obviously, all of your books have really highlighted this. But tell me a little like, when did you really start to feel like you had a gift to be able to do this. I

John Hagel III 4:25
was very young, and I’m not sure I felt that I had a gift. I was really driven by the fear. One of the messages I got from my mother was that my needs didn’t matter at all, that all I should do is focus on addressing other people’s needs, particularly her needs. So from a very young age, it was about helping others versus, you know, doing anything to help myself and so when I was in third grade, I took an aptitude test and they said that the two things So that was most suited for one was either to be a priest, or a social worker. And I think it just indicated the, somehow they figured out, but my focus was on helping others. And that those were the two professions at the time consultants, management consultants was really a profession. So I was either priest or social worker, and I didn’t end up doing either.

Kara Goldin 5:26
So it’s so interesting. So you, you went to Harvard Business School, you graduate, and you become the chief strategy officer for Atari, that little company that was just this, you know, I mean, I don’t know if it really was or not, but I view it as the, you know, kind of the, the one that put gaming on the map in many ways. And what was that? Like?

John Hagel III 5:52
No, it was really interesting. There was a, there are a few steps in between, I didn’t go directly from Harvard to to Atari, as I actually went, first of all, in the Boston Consulting Group for a couple of years in Boston. And then I got this idea to start a new company in the computer business. Even though I had never used a computer before, or had any technology background here, I was going to set up a computer company, and I figured out, you know, where, where else to go, but Silicon Valley to start this company and computer business. And so I came out here, I started it and built it up a cup for a couple of years and sold it off to a larger company. And then I was recruited into Atari to become the head of strategy for Atari. So it was a bit of a journey. I feel like

Kara Goldin 6:47
there wasn’t a roadmap, you know, for Atari, necessarily. I mean, especially being in charge of strategy, did you? How did you tackle that I think about startups today. And, you know, it’d be, it’d be great to be able to have somebody to look at to sort of guide you as to what to do next. But certainly, you know, looking back and kind of the early stages of some disruptors that are out there that like Atari, how did you think about tackling in many ways fear, right about what if we make a mistake? And how do we move forward?

John Hagel III 7:25
Yeah, and in fact, I think the key lesson I took from Atari, and I joined Atari, it had already become generating over a billion dollars in revenue. So it was a very large enterprise at that point, hugely successful was that at the time, that was the company that had gotten to a billion dollars in revenue faster than any other company in the world. But what I found was that it’s become a key theme in my work is that success breeds complacency, that the more successful you become, the more vulnerable you become. Because you become so confident and complacent, you know, hey, I’ve accomplished amazing things. I’m just gonna keep doing what I’m doing. Don’t distract me with any other things. You know, why would I do that. And so that was the challenge that I faced at Atari, one of my missions there was to actually open them up to the potential, they actually were one of the first companies to offer a home computer, not just video game player, but a home computer. And I thought that was a huge business opportunity to be pursued. But now they’re the whole focus was gaming. It’s all about gaming, don’t distract us. Yeah, we have a computer. But that’s just a minor thing and never amount to much. And so again, I think it was really the lesson we’re in that you can become too successful and complacent and not really alert to the opportunities and needs. I mean, again, the other thing about complacency is that there were competitors emerging in the gaming business and they were just dismissing the competitors saying, you know, they’ll never amount to anything. The story of Atari did not end well.

Kara Goldin 9:20
It’s so interesting. I mean, I think it’s one of the things that I’ve realized in starting my company hint is, I, I, when we were out, in the early days looking for capital, everybody kept saying, you know, if you’re really successful, Coke or Pepsi are gonna crush you. Right? And I always believed that now they’re focused on, you know, even bottom line, not necessarily, you know, looking for the innovations that are maybe once they get a little bit bigger, but for, for us, the real key was kind of looking around at other people who were fearless enough to go and start something right versus the big guys. And I think like, that’s just another great example, when you look back in history, it wasn’t, it’s not the big guys that you have to really be worried about. It’s the little ones that start cropping up and get capital and have ideas and figure, what do they have to lose? And I think that’s such a great example of, you know, what, what would you say to that?

John Hagel III 10:23
Now, I have done a lot of research and talk about it a bit in the book on the this notion that we’re in the early stages of what I call a big shift in the global economy, long term forces that are reshaping the global economy and one of those forces is intensifying competition. That’s just the notion that it’s far easier now to start a business start a company than ever before. And the large incumbents are becoming increasingly vulnerable, they need to be alert to your point, to those who are on the edge coming in from from nowhere to challenge. And, again, if you’re too complacent about it, it’s gonna be very dangerous.

Kara Goldin 11:07
It’s so true. So you touched on your new book, let’s talk about that. It’s the journey beyond fear, which again, is such a great book, do you have a copy there for those people who are watching? on YouTube? Awesome, it’s so good. It’s like a it’s kind of a bluish, slight bluish, little darker than slight bluish, but with some white and yellow print on it, and I actually loaned my copy out and just realized this morning that they didn’t give it back to me because it was so good. So but one of the quotes that I had in here is it that you say it starts with the observation, that fear is becoming the dominant emotion for people around the world, while understandable Fear Fear is also very limiting. Do you want to talk a little bit more about that? When, like, what do you think? Why do you think people are so afraid to move forward? Yeah,

John Hagel III 12:04
I should hasten to say that I’m talking about a specific form of fear. I mean, people are afraid of spiders, people are afraid of heights and lots of things that make us afraid. But what I was focused on was fear that’s driven by our view of the future, when we look ahead, that we’ve seen primarily threat or opportunity. And the fear that I’m talking about is more and more of us, I think, are viewing the futures threatening, and very scary. And you know that we’re never going to be as good as we are today. And so I think that, again, in the book, I say that it’s, it’s understandable, I should say, the trigger for the book was I started writing it three years ago. And every travelled around the world as part of my work. And everywhere I went, the dominant emotion that I was encountering was fear. at the highest levels of organizations, lowest levels out in the community. Fear was everywhere. And this was well before COVID. So don’t want people to say, oh, we’re just talking about pandemics. But the reason I think your question of why there’s so much fear is, again, that we are in a period that I call the big shift, and part of it is intensifying competition for all of us as as companies and as individuals, I mean, increasingly workers are saying once the robot that I take my job, you know, my, how long am I going to have this job and, or when is a worker from a lower income country going to take my job, but you know, our jobs are at risk. So intensifying competition, accelerating pace of change, things we thought we could count on are no longer there. And then because of all the connectivity we’ve created around the world, extreme events coming out of nowhere, and disrupt our best laid plans and actions there. I mentioned pandemic is just one example. But combined, all of that intensifying competition, accelerating change extreme disruptive events. Who wouldn’t be afraid? That’s, uh, yeah, no, it’s very understandable.

Kara Goldin 14:18
And I think it’s, you know, I would add to that what I’ve seen and running my own business is that it’s the go to market strategy has changed significantly. So we were already set up as a direct to consumer brand, but that was not in the beverage industry. It was a nice to do it wasn’t a must do and, and the whole concept of data and you know, all of that almost 50% of our overall revenue is direct to consumer today. And so does that mean that stores aren’t important? No, I mean, stores are really important. It just means that consumers are also willing to go out and find do a Google search or go on Facebook and see an ad and purchase a product and in an industry that typically was not getting a percentage of sales from a direct to consumer. So it speaks to your to your comment about, you know, the barriers to entry. A lot of people can go set up a Shopify store and go and do this, do they have the capital to go and start, you know, getting letting people know that they’re available online? That’s, that’s tougher. And then the other piece of it that I think is really critical supply chain, how many people have relied on Europe or Asia? And, and, you know, now it’s like, we’ve realized that this virus is on a different schedule. Throughout, right, and if you don’t have localized supply chain opportunities, I think you really are at risk. So it’s scary, it’s scary, and you got to actually go do some work. Yeah, I really, really appreciated your book for that reason to just kind of thinking about all the different things that I even think about as a leader every day. So you talk about the three pillars of positive emotion to move beyond fear. Can you chat about that a little bit? longer? Yeah, I know

John Hagel III 16:22
exactly. The challenges the three pillars I can say very quickly. One is narrative. Second is passion. The third is platforms. But the challenge is that I have very different meanings associated with all three of those. So people think they know what I’m saying, but they really don’t. And so I have to explain why I think these things are so important than what what I mean by them. So now, let’s type in start with narratives. I make a big distinction. Most people think narratives and stories are the same thing. And I distinguish, for me, a story is self contained, it has a beginning, a middle and an end to it, the end. And the story is about me the storyteller, or it’s about some other people real or imagined. It’s not about you. In contrast, for me, a narrative is open ended, there is no resolution, yet there’s some kind of big threat or opportunity out in the future, not clear whether it’s going to be achieved or not. And the resolution of the narrative hinges on you, it’s a call to action to say your choices, your actions are going to help determine how this plays out. And again, based on my own part of my book, it’s a personal memoir. So it’s partly based on my own experience. But partly based on research, I’ve come to believe that narratives at many levels can be very powerful in helping us overcome fear. And that’s what I would call opportunity based narratives where we look ahead and we see some kind of opportunity that’s really exciting, and motivates us to move forward and call others to help in that process. And I think that we can talk with them in the book goes into personal narratives. I think corporate corporations can have narratives,

Kara Goldin 18:18
and the passion side of it. The second one, the second pillar, do you want to touch on that one?

John Hagel III 18:24
Again, very different. Everybody talks about passion, everybody in my experience has a very different meaning. What for what passion is, I’m talking about a very specific form of passion that I call the passion of the Explorer. And this comes from research looking at environments where there’s sustained extreme performance improvement, I was looking for what could I learn from those environments. And one thing that I found was that in common across all these environments that were very diverse was, the participants had a very specific form of passion. And this passion explorer has to do with, you’re committed to having increasing impact in that specific domain. You’re excited about having more and more impact. And you’re excited about unexpected challenges, because they’re an opportunity to learn faster and have even more impact. And you’re also driven to connect with others. When you confront those challenges. The people with this passion, want to connect with others to figure out how can I get a better answer faster, to have even more impact. So very powerful. Call it the fuel level, bribe us in the journey beyond fear because once we find that passion, that really excites us, and motivates us to have more and more impact, you know, yes, we’ll still be afraid I don’t believe we’re never going to eliminate the fear. But we’re going to move forward in spite of the fear.

Kara Goldin 19:52
So letting the fear ignite you and to move forward. And then the last one, the platform

John Hagel III 20:00
No. platform. Again, everybody talks about platforms these days, we all know what platforms are, I make the distinction, I think the platforms we have today fall into two categories. One category is what I call aggregation platforms. It’s all about helping facilitate short term transactions, buying and selling products, retail platforms. The other kind of platform is a social platform, which is all about helping you to connect with friends, family, broader network of people online and have interesting conversations with them. But the platform I’m talking about is something that I don’t believe it really exists yet. It’s what I call a learning platform. And here, I emphasize, when I talk about learning, I’m not talking about learning in the form of going to an online course, you know, there’s Udemy, there’s Coursera, all these learning platforms, but they’re just courses sharing existing knowledge, what I’m focused on is the opportunity of need to learn in the form of creating entirely new knowledge that didn’t exist before. And the only way you can do that is through action. Coming together, through and acting and, and learning from the results of your action. I believe there’s a huge opportunity to design platforms, where the primary focus of the platform is how can we help all the participants to learn faster together. And that’s, I believe, going to be the accelerant that will help us to move beyond Pyrex. Once we found that passion, we want to connect with others so that we can learn faster and have even more impact.

Kara Goldin 21:45
Absolutely. And you talk about, well, obviously you were the founder of the center at Deloitte, the Deloitte center for the edge. What did you see was kind of the biggest challenge for leaders who would come in there. I mean, what was what did you think were? I don’t know, 70% of the people plus, like came in and what was the what was the challenge that that you heard most?

John Hagel III 22:11
Well, I think the biggest challenge was on the one side, a sense that the world is changing in a profound way. But on another side, the fear associated with Oh my god, you know that my, my company’s at risk my jobs at risk, I just can’t afford to take any risk, I’ve got to be really holding on to what made me successful in the past and continue doing that. And don’t, don’t distract me with with new things. And so there is on the one side interest. But on the other side, you know, this beard, I believe that one of the things that one of the reasons fear is so limiting, is because we can’t even go back to the big shift that I talked about mounting performance pressure, the big shift. At the same time, the big shift is creating exponentially expanding opportunity, we can create far more value with far less resource far more quickly than would have been imaginable a few decades ago. But that was driven by fear, we can’t even see those opportunities, much less have the motivation to pursue them. So I think the real need here is to recognize acknowledge the fear because again, I think one of the big issues we have around the world is that expressing fear or acknowledging fear is a sign of weakness, you don’t want to do that. So you know, just pretend you’re not afraid. But we need to acknowledge the fear. And then we need to look for these opportunities that can excite us and motivate us to move forward. And I think for all companies there is exponentially expanding opportunity, if we only are willing to look for them and address

Kara Goldin 23:57
them. Yeah, and I think it’s also you, I saw you touch on this before about scalable learning and how the entire team needs to be learning and you need to be learning together. It can’t just be about, you know, the CEO at the top or the management and not having, you know, buy in from the top everybody needs to be learning. So let’s talk about your new company are not so new. But I mean, kind of new, beyond our edge. Can you share a little bit more about what you do with that? Well,

John Hagel III 24:28
it’s just in the early stages. The first piece was just to get this book out. But my real intent is to create a new center based on the book that will offer programs to help people in the journey beyond fear and to create again, my passion if you want to know my passion, it’s it’s around this opportunity for learning platforms. How can we create a learning platform that will bring people together so they can learn faster together and that’s My real intent here with the beyond our edge.

Kara Goldin 25:04
I love it. So everybody needs to go out and get this book The journey beyond fear. Is it on Audible as well?

John Hagel III 25:11
Unfortunately not yet. The publisher has been slow in getting it an audible, but it’s on Kindle print. Sure,

Kara Goldin 25:19
awesome. So but everybody should read this. I think like this is a book too, that you’re going to want to have up on your bookshelf. And I was highlighting things, hopefully the person I loaned it to doesn’t go over my highlights, because that really, really bugged me. But I really, really loved it. It was so good. And again, the book is the journey beyond fear. And john, where can people reach out to you to learn more about what you’re up to?

John Hagel III 25:47
Well, I have a website, john And I would certainly encourage anybody who’s read the book and interested in this idea about a center and wanting to help and in driving that forward, I’m looking for as much help as I can get at this point. So encourage you to go to john, there’s a place to sign up for news about the center and ways to collaborate. But then, you know, I’m very active on social media. I’m on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, so you can find me in many places and social media as well, for sure. And I have a blog on my website. So that’s a place to keep up with my latest writing.

Kara Goldin 26:28
I love it. Well thank you so much, john, and thanks everybody for listening. Give john five stars and subscribe and download and everybody. If you have not picked up a copy of my book undaunted, overcoming doubts, and doubters, I hope you’ll get a chance to read that or listen to that on Audible. And of course everybody have a great rest of the week. We’re here every Monday and Wednesday. And we would love to hear from you. I’m on social as well at Kara golden. So, goodbye for now. And thanks again everyone. Thanks, john. Thank you. before we sign off, I want to talk to you about fear. People like to talk about fearless leaders. But achieving big goals isn’t about fearlessness. successful leaders recognize their fears and decide to deal with them head on in order to move forward. This is where my new book undaunted comes in. This book is designed for anyone who wants to succeed in the face of fear, overcome doubts and live a little undaunted. Order your copy today at undaunted, the book calm and learn how to look your doubts and doubters in the eye and achieve your dreams. For a limited time. You’ll also receive a free case of hint water. Do you have a question for me or want to nominate an innovator to spotlight send me a tweet at Kara golden and let me know. And if you liked what you heard, please leave me a review on Apple podcasts. You can also follow along with me on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn at Kara golden golden thanks for listening