As an expert on overstepping boundaries, Gabor George Burt helps companies expand and succeed by teaching them how to eliminate perceived limitations. He provides an informative, step-by-step framework for re-imagining self-imposed limits in his book Slingshot. He has been called a visionary for shaping strategies for organizations, which have included start-ups and Fortune 500 companies.
SPEAKING.COM: This year Forbes published an article saying that U.S. firms are struggling to compete internationally because they are experiencing an “innovation slowdown.” How can U.S. firms reverse this trend?
BURT: I think the key trend affecting not just American companies but firms worldwide, is the explosive reduction in innovation cycle times and the severe consequences of getting caught standing still. Today companies must continuously innovate and do it organization-wide in order to actively shape the future of the market space they occupy. Otherwise, they risk being left behind.
The industry that best illustrates this trend is mobile telecom, whose speed of progression is unprecedented in business history. It has gone from market introduction, market acceptance, full market saturation, and market transformation in less than 25 years – changing the way people work and live worldwide in the process. Nokia, the Finnish company largely responsible for creating the industry, was so dominant that as recently as 2010 its global market share was bigger than the next three players combined. Yet it failed to take a leadership position in smart phones and in the U.S. market. As a result, it was left behind and forced to sell its telecom business to Microsoft in 2013 for a fraction of what its market value had been three years before – signaling its exit from the industry it created.
The best way to avoid this fate is to adopt a culture and process of ongoing, market-driving innovation. Companies should not fear this shift, but rather embrace it as an exciting opportunity for growth.
SPEAKING.COM: What are some common self-imposed limitations that people have and how can they overcome them?
BURT: There is an interesting paradox in our human nature. On one hand, it is our natural state to be creative, curious, and seek new experiences. On the other hand, we need boundaries to feel safe and protected. The problem is that most people operate within self-imposed boundaries that are too confining, which prevent them from achieving their full potential and expressing their natural creativity.
How can we bridge this paradox? Once we learn how to go beyond our mental boundaries by systematically exploring new possibilities and new territories, our comfort zone expands as well. What was unfamiliar becomes familiar. The result is a continuous process of creative exploration and comfort zone expansion. It is the same process with organizations as well.
SPEAKING.COM: What are some common challenges people face in learning to re-imagine their boundaries?
BURT: Picasso said: “Every child is an artist, the problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up”. This is the main challenge we face. As children, we rely on our imagination and mental flexibility to make sense of the world, but as we grow older, we are conditioned to replace our creativity with adherence to established norms and boundaries. This leaves us detached from and unable to apply our power of imagination as adults. Reconnecting with our dormant creativity is therefore the main challenge to re-imagine boundaries, and a key foundation in the work I do.
SPEAKING.COM: What are some steps leaders can take to foster environments that encourage their employees to go beyond their perceived boundaries?
BURT: Here are few key steps:
- Commit the leadership team itself to continuous change and adaptability (exemplified by Samsung CEO’s style of ‘management by perpetual crisis’).
- Create an internal culture and process that foster, encourage, and reward overstepping perceived boundaries.
- Empower all members, not just specific teams of the organization to re-think, re-imagine, and re-formulate boundaries in the pursuit of customer-centric innovation.
SPEAKING.COM: The slingshot is a recurring symbol in your work; you have a book named Slingshot, in which you present “the Slingshot framework.” Could you explain the significance of this symbol in regard to innovation?
BURT: A slingshot is a universal symbol of childhood. It is a reminder of the creative mindset we all had as children, that powerful resource we all possess and can re-connect with in order to re-imagine boundaries as adults. This re-connection is a starting block for my Slingshot Framework.
Moreover, the very mechanics of a slingshot is such that we apply tension against an elastic band in order to launch a projectile forward. Similarly, when we push against self-imposed, mental boundaries, we launch ourselves forward towards limitless new possibilities and market spaces.
SPEAKING.COM: What are some of the key components of “the Slingshot framework?”
BURT: The Slingshot Framework is designed to provide a simple, intuitive, and immediately actionable path for re-imagining boundaries that limit the success of an organization. Its three key components are:
- Identifying the Pain Points of your customers (where they feel the most frustration, the most disconnect) and turning them into Points of Infatuation – transforming your weakest points into your most attractive.
- Continuously re-examining, re-thinking, and stretching the definition of what business and market space you are in.
- Embracing the ‘innovation shortcut’ – instead of pursuing outright inventions, simply look to combine already existing components in meaningful, new ways.
SPEAKING.COM: Which companies today exemplify successful implementation of the Slingshot framework?
BURT: The exciting change in the dynamics of the business world is that the most successful companies today are the ones featuring the Slingshot principles. They are the ones rapidly shaping new market spaces, continuously overstepping perceived boundaries, creating legions of fans, and making traditional industries obsolete.
These companies include Google, Apple, Virgin, Ikea, Nest Labs (which was acquired by Google), T-Mobile in the U.S., Koenigsegg (the maverick upstart that has re-defined the supercar market space), and the Dollar Shave Club. All these companies are in the business of identifying and taking advantage of significant market opportunities by daring to challenge conventional boundaries, and they are excellent examples of the three key Slingshot components in action.
SPEAKING.COM: Does innovation matter more in some industries than others?
BURT: I think the word innovation is overused and too abstract. If you were to ask the CEO of any company whether innovation is important, the answer would be yes. But if you were to then ask ‘what type of innovation is it important to pursue?’ the responses would be vastly different.
As a result, my approach is not to position innovation as the goal, but rather as the outcome. Instead, the goal of the Slingshot Framework is to instill a mindset and simple process of continuous, customer-centric renewal. This goal is equally important for any company or industry. As part of the outcome, the framework helps create internal alignment around the optimal pursuit of innovation.
SPEAKING.COM: What is the link between systematic creativity and strategic thinking?
BURT: The link between the two is critical, because systematic creativity provides the fuel for organizations to re-imagine boundaries in pursuit of smart strategies. There is an abundance of expertise on creativity as well as on leadership, but as separate topics. Therefore I perceived a void in addressing the important link between the two. My Slingshot Platform is designed to fill this void and empower organizations to leverage the collective creativity of their workforce to help shape their ongoing success.
To bring Gabor George Burt to your organization to help re-imagine boundaries and cultivate innovation, please contact Michael Frick at: Mike@Speaking.com.