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To set the stage, let me start with a couple of essential questions. Asking questions is at the heart of this book and the key to unlocking new ideas and delivering greater value to customers.
How many times have you arrived at work, exchanged greetings with your colleagues, conversed at the coffeepot or water cooler, attended a meeting or two, and then sat down at your desk overcome by the incredible feeling that you were surrounded by geniuses? If you're like most people, the answer is "never." In fact, when asked in a large group, this simple question causes most people in companies and organizations to laugh hysterically.
How many times have you left work, climbed into your car or boarded a bus or train, then looked around and been struck with an awesome sense that you were surrounded by a world of geniuses and brilliant ideas? If you're like most people and companies caught up in the pressures and routines of day-to-day life, the answer is also "never." In fact, as you take the journey home, you're more likely to see a world filled with aggressive drivers, total (or partial) idiots, and mindless advertisements than to see sources of great inspiration.
Yet as funny as these two questions might sound, they are at the heart of what it takes for companies and organizations of all kinds to innovate, grow, and succeed in difficult times. In a world that constantly rewards new and better ideas, we must all find ways to consistently deliver greater value to the customers and stakeholders we choose to serve. We can only do this by unlocking the everyday genius in ourselves, our coworkers, and our partners. It sounds like a tall order, but it's hardly impossible. In fact, our work with leading organizations in many industries over the past twenty years has shown that all of us have the ability, under the right circumstances, to make a real difference in small and large ways-not by doing business as usual or by sitting around a conference table brainstorming until a breakthrough occurs or our brains explode, but by working together to tackle the world around us head on and seeing it as a place already filled with brilliant ideas, unlimited sources of inspiration, and endless possibilities that can be used to transform our companies, organizations, the lives of our customers, and even ourselves.
Preface to the Paperback Edition vii
Preface to the First Edition x
Part I: The Context 1
Chapter One: White People Swimming Slowly .5
How the slowest swimmers in the world came to dominate the world of swimming, and why you don't have to be brilliant to do brilliant things.
Chapter Two: The Quest for Compelling Value .13
Why you have to reinvent the game if you want to win.
Chapter Three: Genius in Chains 31
Why traditional approaches to strategy, innovation, and marketing no longer make any sense and what to do about it.
Chapter Four: Curiosity as Competitive Advantage 37
Why our innate gift for curiosity is the only real weapon in the battle to remain relevant and how to rediscover it; and Why geography matters, and why a thirteenth-century traveler might be the most important business thinker of the twenty-first century.
Part II: Ten Journeys 49
Chapter Five: The Power of a Promise 55
What if we could make and deliver on a promise that really mattered?
A journey back in time to meet a man with bad feet, a reasonable idea, and a powerful promise...
(Leon Leonwood Bean)
Chapter Six: The Magic of a Conversation .71
What if we could create more meaningful conversations?
A journey through the neighborhood with a nine-year-old girl, a box of cookies, and the magic of a recurring conversation...
(The Girl Scouts)
Chapter Seven: The Wonder of a Performance .87
What if we could create a performance filled with wonder and possibilities?
A journey under a tent where the concept of a circus has been reinvented...
(Cirque du Soleil)
Chapter Eight: Your Wish Is My Command .99
What if we could solve practically any request no matter how difficult?
A journey into the lobby of one of the world's great hotels and a day in the life of a world-class concierge...
(The Ritz Carlton on Central Park)
Chapter Nine: When Every Second Counts 113
What if we could really deliver compelling value 24/7?
A journey into one of the world's finest shock trauma centers where life and death decisions are all part of a day's work...
(University of Maryland Shock Trauma Center)
Chapter Ten: Fastest 131
What if we could be the fastest at the times when it really mattered?
A journey across the harsh savanna of Africa where speed is everything when you're not the biggest or baddest cat around...(The World of Cheetahs)
Chapter Eleven: When Nothing Is Everything 143
What if the little things really mattered and we could do all of them right all the time?
A journey onto the set of one of the most successful TV shows in history where life's everyday problems are a cause for celebration...
Chapter Twelve: It Is Rocket Science 157
What if we believed that failure was not an option?
A journey to the world of rocket scientists where their mission, like all of ours, demands perfection...
(Lockheed Martin and the Atlas 5 Rocket)
Chapter Thirteen: No Smile, No Gain 173
What if we could make customers healthier?
A journey to the front-lines of an unusual effort to make exercise fun and accessible for everyone and its implications for all of us...
Chapter Fourteen: Spider Sense 187
What if we could anticipate customers' needs?
A journey into the life of one of the world's most human superheros to rediscover the amazing power that we all possess...
Part III: Building a New Model of Success 199
Chapter Fifteen: Unlocking the Genius Within 203
How to find the brilliance in ourselves.
Chapter Sixteen: Bringing Genius to Scale 213
How to create an organization that nurtures the genius in all of its people.
Chapter Seventeen: The Essential Work of Leaders 229
How to become a compelling leader in the brave new world of customer and business success.
Concluding Note 235
Map of the Known World 239
About the Author 249
Dr. Alan S. Gregerman is the founder and president of Venture Works, Inc., a consulting firm based in the Washington, DC area, working with clients such as Marriott, Lockheed Martin, CitiGroup, and Verizon. He is a nationally known expert on business strategy and innovation. He is the author of Lessons from the Sandbox, and lives in Washington DC.