These are my notes from a presentation by Stephen Harvill of Creative Ventures, titled “Forward Thinking: The Art of Peak Performance” from today.

There is a big difference between the way fishermen and surfers think
– fishermen always talk about the fish they CAUGHT
– surfers are only thinking and caring about the NEXT WAVE
– people thinking forward must think about motion and movement
– Energy is tangible and measurable, in the way a focused individual or group is energized and it becomes contagious

My role is analogous to the cartographer, but we are going to chart new ways of thinking
– we are not talking about traditional mapping, GIS applications, North/South distinctions, or circumnavigating the globe
– my role is to be a mapmaker of the way you think

You can’t change how you behave unless you change how you think
– changing our thinking is so hard because in many ways it is hard wired into our chemistry, and reinforced by our learned routines (patterns of behavior)

There are no “motivational speakers”
– Hans Sellhe (?) points out that motivation is self-driven
– no one can instill motivation in you
– what you are looking for should be inspiration: those who can inspire others
– turning inspiration into action is up to you


Future thinking and higher performance always starts with SETTING THE BAR (picture of a high jumper clearing the bar)
– most organizations start at the wrong place
– when you start at the wrong place, when you ask the wrong questions from the start, you don’t end up going to the right place
– what is the first thing a travel website asks you? Where you ARE. You have to know where you are to effectively start any process of work or improvement.

Leaders set and create reality. Leaders define reality.
– Good to Great, whatever program of improvement you want to talk about, all planning for transformational thinking starts with where you are starting from
– Cartographers of thinking: We need to have 1000 reasons to cheer


Lots of buzzwords have been used and are still used in the context of change:
– think out of the box
– paradigm shift
– change management
– synergy
– million versus billion

Here’s a concrete way to conceptualize the difference between a million and a billion
– all of the people on the current Forbes 400 this year are BILLIONAIRES
– you can’t get on the list just by being a millionaire
– the difference between a million and a billion:
— Tell a millionaire they have to spend $10K per day, and the will be about of money in about 90 days
— Give the same requirement to a billionaire but start them spending on July 4, 1776, and today they are still spending money ($10K per day) [I DID THE MATH AND THEY WILL BE SPENDING $10K PER DAY FOR OVER 270 YEARS!]

You need to be engaged in your work at a passionate level

How to think forward?

1- Simple thinking
– simple thinking is not conjugating a verb or using the pythagorean theorem
– simple thinking involves thoughtfully reducing ideas, information and content
– your brain is like a gigantic microprocessor
– the big picture can appear confusing, but your brain doesn’t just focus on the 90,000′ altitude level, it sees details
– it’s not about more, it’s about better
– the simple way is often the preferred way
– you have been confused by the words “easy” and “simple” most of your life
— easy = lack of effort
— simple = lack of complexity

How many devices have you seen that come with the statement: “Easy to assemble. No tools required.”
– is that ever true?

Stating what you want to do or you want others to do in THREE STEPS is key
– if you go to a fourth step, you reduce your chances of success by 37%
– that is the tipping point
– only 15-20% of casual jugglers can juggle four balls at once
– I have never had a group where no one could juggle

2- Overcome the FEAR of challenge
– everything that is worth doing is worth doing big
– Herb Brooks coaching the ’81 U.S. Olympic hockey team confirmed this, he wanted to beat the Soviets because they HAD one the Olympic gold in five of the past six contests
– the story of the 999 Failures (of Thomas Edison and the incandescent light bulb)
— Edison was amazing with building teams
— he just slept in 15 to 20 minute bursts, that made him pretty grumpy and unpleasant to be around most of the time
— imagine you were on the lightbulb team for Edison
— all was failure until trial 798, which held a charge but blew up
— it was around trial 1000 that things started working
— Edison’s famous statement about how long it took the team to discover the right technique and method, and asked how he felt about all those consecutive failures: “You must be mistaken, we created it in 999 steps.”

Bold steps have setbacks
– ROI = return on investment
– we also need to talk about ROF = return on failure

Image of Georgia O’Keefe
– grew up in New Jersey
– was missing inspiration
– all her artist friends tried to stop her from moving out to the American southwest

The language of an organization never changes when they say “we can’t do it”

Story of President Kennedy calling Stillson and Courtney (?) into his office after Sputnik and asking why the Soviets were beating the Americans, and if the problems were solvable.
– 2 days later JFK gave his challenge to put a man on the moon by the close of the decade speech
– this is the story of our ONE GIANT LEAP
– NASA had to move beyond thinking about blowing up rockets on the launchpad to sending rockets into orbit and to the moon
– they had to change the way they think

Movies and film clips are great, but the most motivational stories are not the ones that are fiction but the ones that were REAL
– not the fights you dream, but the ones you fought and lived
– that is the case with the US space program and moon project
– showed the image of the human footprint on the moon

(showed film clip of Grumman engineers in Jan 1963, not sure what the movie was)


Reason NASA engineers succeeded was they had clarity of vision
– the #1 problem they had to overcome was weight
– there was never a LEM before, they couldn’t go look at the models in Home Depot
– they started with nothing


The Mustang was the first dominant model of cars after models become differentiated
– then the Taurus dominated
– then Toyota came along with the Camry
– Song by Jacob Dillion: Put up your arms, lift up your head and watch what is about to happen…

Organizations that are pushing the envelope of performance and possiblity are LISTENING
– In some ways there are ONLY new things coming out
– focus on brain research and what we know now about cognition and learning
— persuasion is chemically driven
— 87% of everything you’ve ever stored in your brain is VISUAL
— only 7.5% of what you have stored in your brain is audio-based

To a large extent human biology determines what gives reality
– the last recall by Ford was caused by concern that your back axel might fall off….

You have to listen and pay attention
everything is new
everything is disruptive in technology
AT&T normally drives that
The iPhone is the next big disruptive technology
– people have no idea what that is going to do
– the iPhone will change the way people look at communicating
– it is new

Newness affects direction
– most corporations your size are like a scarecrow that point differnet directions
– clarity of vision is the only thing that helps organizations move forward
– the ability to see the target

most companies are trying to move up instead of forward
– they are confused because they don’t understand the energy of the situation

Example: Hoberman sphere
– model lacks anything without energy
– added gravity, gravity drives it
– take the energy out of the system
– add kinetic energy
– all systems behave on energy

Newton’s 2nd law of thermodynmaics
– you are looking at energy as a metaphor for what you do
– you better, because energy is everything

When little kids build a fort
– they work all day long
– kids don’t care about lunch, they are building that fort
– they are focused, they have clarity of vision
– clarity of vision is measured by what is accomplished at the end

Engagement is SO important
– we are here to engage you in being part of this
– you can choose not to be engaged
– it is only about the OPPORUTNITY to be engaged
– buying is the lowest level of engagement
– you are participating
– difference in buyin and enrollment
– in enrollment you get to paint the picture, outline the frame
– buy-in is something you can engage in, it can also create a “vicious obedient”


When you can participate and be engaged, you have a chance to be a part of it
– that is a big piece of a successful puzzle
– we are 3 steps of most organizations because most have an inability to sustain performance

There is:
– bad
– good
– great
– freakin fantastic
– unbelievable WOW

The differences are TIMING
– take any organizations and they have problems sustaining, peaks of performance
– hard for food and beverage people to sustain

Great organizations sustain performance, because it is in the DNA of DOING
– it is about doing

IF you can’t do this, people will HANG UP

Your history is important
– how were the pyramids built
– it is still a mystery
– they are pretty sure a bunch of people hauled a bunch of rocks around (and those hauling rocks were most likely slaves)

There are more collapsted pyramids available for study than the ones who are standing
– first wrong thing was telling people how to do it
– then they got the whip out
– the problem was languages: the slaves were from 15 different cultures speaking 15 different languages
– that is how archetectural drawings started to transcend the communication and language challenges

American revolution was a guerrulla war
– the French and British were fighting in tradional ways, fighting in lines

81& of all digital music players are on iPods
87% of all digital music purchased is from iTunes
– the iPod shifted and changes the way music is done
– leads to the iPhone
– leads to sustained thinking about design is important
– Apple has a staggering level of clarity, that crosses all their business lines
– walk into Pixar, they have clarity and focus and do not vary from it

Even when they are wrong, they figure out
– there are no more loyal users than Mac users

Clarity is everything

Elite thinking creats elite behavior
– elite status is something your organization look for
– Tiger Woods does take more lessons than anyone
– lifts more weights, has a nutrition program, gets the right amount of rest
– there are big differences between I CAN and I WILL

Elite thinking creates elite behavior
– difference in the way you speak and think
– Marina ___ (tennis player) focuses on practice, 90 minutes of clarity and focus
– Jessica Berry preparing for 2008 Olympic games preparing
– Clint Eastwood is same: on the set he has never said ACTION
— he says: when you are ready
— that transferrs responsiblity to the actor
— that puts personal accountability in play
— Clint never says “cut” he says “that’s good”
— he rarely ever takes more than one take

Story from Iowa Jima movie
– Eastwood asked for 2nd and 3rd take
– in “inside the actors” studio interview, the actor said he was outside himself when he did it the 3rd time
– when Eastwood sayd, “that’s good” the actor cried
– that is peak performance

Yoda’s key line: there is no try, there is only DO or NOT DO
– you need that mentality to go to the next level
– stationary thinkers never get there

Roger Staubach quotation: “It takes a lot of unspectacular preparation to get a spectacular performance.”

ideas are always in motion
– whenever it is presented, it is alive, it never dies, or moves
– never fall on a sword when you’ve presented an idea, because it is out, it has been launched, it is going somewhere
– the value of the idea is that it is out

Characteristics of a forward thinker
– vision: example of an image that was created with similicty, elegance and power
– focus: the clarity issue, you need to know where the target is (no one on the Olympic team is aiming away from the target, that is what planng and clarity do)
— you have to know where your compass is pointing
– the need for feedback
— Tiger is always asking his coach how he is doing
– Be Bold: it is jumping out a perfectly good airplane, bold thinking driving everything

4 primary kinds of thinking
1- Thin slicing: Gladwell’s “Blink” book is all about that
— your brain goes through a rollodex of things, your gut feeling is almost always right
— example is lifeguard at Huntington Beach, looking at the water, 3 transition areas for 300 years: ankle deep water, knee deep to waist deep which is right where the waves break, and then watching swimmers
— then out of the blue they are out and sprinting, what did they see that told them someone is in trouble
— a mass surgeon does this on the battlefield too, called triage
— they both thin slice this based on their life experiences
— Teenagers abilities to thin slices very: experiences are key

2- critical thinkers solve problems

3- Strategic thinkers apply

4- Creative thinking
— like Einstein’s saying about imagination and knowledge
— don’t appear to follow the rules, can appear crazy,can also be visionary

You will generally only be good at ONE TYPE of these thinking types

In the show “House MD,” they put all these thinking types in one person
– peak performers are CONNECTED
– they for

slinky is another energy toy
– is one of the 7 original inductees in the toy hall of fame (with hula hoop, lincoln logs, etc)
– peak performers are never looking for balance

a balanced life has never existed (a slinky in a position of equilibrium, headed toward entropy)
– of perfectly balanced system always lacks energy

Look at Lance Armstrong’s training schedule
Maya Angelou
YoYou Ma
Dr Margaret Allen, famous as first person in history to find another planet
– we know all about stars
– you are actually looking into the distant past
– we could never find another planet outside our little solar system
– we got so frustrated

She found a wobble in a space image, turned out to be

Peak performers are out of whack, looking for out of balance
– newton’s 3rd law: en

They think differently, they behave differently, they speak differently

The key element
– the driver of performance: deliberate practice, goal setting, immediate feedback
– Roger Feder’s record was 93-3 last year
– big on technique

Pavorati is a great example as he approaches his singing
Wayne Gretsky
– every record he set in the NHL may never be broken, famous line about going to where the puck is going to be

– Walt was really different
– he was a very driven person, one of the ultimate visionaries
– practiced Bumblebee management (wandering around to teams, offering suggestions and ideas)
– got to be the first person on every ride
– partnering
– Google is a great one to keep your eyes on, they don’t even make anything
— I wrote an article for SW magazine last year about how staggering
— Google makes RELEVANCE
— when you search on google, their goal is to provide you with RELEVANCE

how does Google get better
– they add small things
– they hire 200 people per week
– they buy YouTube for 1.35 billion, and YouTube had no business plan and no value
– Why? 1 million hits per day, of that million that ma, 750,000 are unique viewers every single day

#1 call center in America: LL Bean
– go to that call center and study their best practices
– they spend a lot of time on who are we, what do we represent, what is the interaction like
– they get improvement through focus and clarity

Who is Nike losing marketshare to?
– Adidas
– count how many golf players are with Adidas and Nike

Ad for Nike with chip in the shoe that goes to the iPod

Apple is another great company doing that
GE is another one “imagination is in their tagline”

At&T will be in this group
– do you think you get the cover of Forbes if you’re not thought of like that

22,000 requests for the iPhone 4 hours after Jobs’ keynote

Rebel Thinking
– Ghandi: everyone wants a revolution to be violent
– had a meeting with people who were ready to fight those with guns with sticks, and convinced them to not do anything as a NATION
– it is about scaleability
– it is about ideas that tranfer into a revolutionary level

Audry Hepburn
– one of the revolutionary people on the UN UNICEF fund
– thought about taking food to places they had never taken it before
– revolutionary thinking

– knew was real
– the Aritstotilian model had been around for 1500 years
– he was arrested for the rest of his life for how he thought

Amelia Earhart had to learn to fly as a male because women weren’t allowed
– she changed the way instruments are laid out in the cockpit
– the best get better by thinking

Read “Children’s Letters to Albert” from Albert Einstein
– in 8th grade Einstein was considered a mathematical midget

Steve Jobs

Martin Luther King Jr.

Dream metaphor, 7 minutes long on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial
– here is what it is, and what I think it can be

Orville and Wilbur Wright
– fixed wing flight
– Davinci had fixed wing flight, CONTROLLED was the difference
– do you think the Wright brothers ever thought of the shuttle lanuching?

Orville was a bicyle maker, Wilbur was a printer
– they put skids on it instead of wheels

When you only have a hammer, every problem looks like a nail
– one of the most powerful things you will ever hear


Your thinking today cannot be your thinking tomorrow
– you have to change the best thinking to better thinking
– change that thinking

Great organizational law: Organizations don’t DO, they BEHAVE. People DO.
– organizations don’t learn. People learn.

If you want to be on the list when people rattle off TOP COMPANIES
– don’t think you’ll have an easy journey
– you can do it
– here are 50 different examples of how those things can be done

Now let’s talk about Leonardi Da Vinci
– if you list the great minds, name for me the great minds in history
– you will have some that will
– Socrates, Plato, Aristotle
— just know of Socrates through the writings of his students (Plato was his star student)
— Aristotle was Plato’s star model

Aristotle’s model of the universe hung around for 1500 years
– Newton, Einstein

There are minds out there right now that you don’t know of whose thinking is so radically different, that in 10 years you’ll say their names
– Da Vinci’s ideas were so revolutionary they

Not a global neighborhood, it is a global village

Last thought: if you believe in what you are doing, things can happen
– if you don’t believe organiations can accomplish great things, change the ways they think and behave, accomplish miraculous things

Then go talk to Neil Armstrong

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2 Responses to Forward Thinking

  1. Amanda says:

    I totally agree with you. You gave a lot of great view points. Thanks.

  2. Alex says:

    Great article. I made notes from your notes (well taken btw) 🙂

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