The B&N Podcast: Beth Comstock on the Power of Imagination

Every author has a story beyond the one that they put down on paper. The Barnes & Noble Podcast goes between the lines with today’s most interesting writers, exploring what inspires them, what confounds them, and what they were thinking when they wrote the books we’re talking about.

To kick off 2019, Beth Comstock, the author of Imagine it Forward: Courage, Creativity and the Power of Change, joins us for conversation about what it means to turn your ideas into realities. Comstock tells the story of how her early dreams of being a science journalist led her into an unexpected career taking one of the world’s biggest and most powerful corporations, General Electric, into a new era of technology innovation — in the process landing her on both the Fortune and Forbes lists of the World’s Most Powerful women. In her fascinating book, Comstock examines the power of creativity in the workplace, the very real difficulties corporations have with seeing things differently, and the ways each of us can change the direction of our lives to do the work that we find inspiring. The author joined us in the studio to talk about what she’s learned – and why not all her lessons have come from success.


Confronting change is incredibly hard, both organizationally and personally. People become resistant. They are afraid. Yet the pace of change in our world will never be slower than it is right now, says Beth Comstock, the former Vice Chair and head of marketing and innovation at GE.

Imagine It Forward is an inspiring, fresh, candid, and deeply personal book about how to grapple with the challenges to change we face every day. It is a different kind of narrative, a big picture book that combines Comstock’s personal story in leading change with vital lessons on overcoming the inevitable roadblocks. One of the most successful women in business, Comstock shares her own transformation story from introverted publicist to GE’s first woman Vice Chair, and her hard-won lessons in shifting GE, a 125 year old American institution, toward a new digital future and a more innovative culture.

As the woman who initiated GE’s Ecomagination clean-energy and its (and NBC’s) digital transformations, Comstock challenged a global organization to not wait for perfection, but to seek out emerging trends, embrace smart risks and test ideas boldly, and often. She shows how each one of us can become a “change maker” by leading with imagination.

“Ideas are rarely the problem,” writes Comstock.  “What holds all of us back, really—is fear. It’s the attachment to the old, to ‘What We Know.’”

As Comstock makes clear, transforming the mindset and culture of a company is messy. There is no easy checklist. It is fraught with uncertainty, tension and too often failure. It calls for the courage to defy convention, go around corporate gatekeepers when necessary, and reinvent what is possible.

For all those looking to spearhead change in their companies and careers, and reinvent “the way things are done,” Imagine It Forward masterfully points the way.

 

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