Nathan Furr is an Assistant Professor of Strategy at INSEAD, where he teaches innovation and technology strategy. He is a recognized expert in the fields of technology strategy, digital transformation, and disruptive innovation. He is the #1 bestselling author of Nail It Then Scale It: The Entrepreneur's Guide to Creating and Managing Breakthrough Innovation, The Innovator's Method: Bringing the Lean Start-up into Your Organization, and the new book LEADING TRANSFORMATION How to Take Charge of Your Company's Future.

Podcast Highlights 

  • Who is Nathan Furr?

Nathan cares about the dreams that people have and them getting the chance to pursue those dreams. He started his career in industry and even tried his hand at a start-up where he learned a lot of lessons the hard way. This led him to ask the question of “how does breakthrough innovation really happen?” and eventually to Silicon Valley. That’s where he stumbled upon the fundamental dilemma that he’s been trying to answer with his books and work.

We live in an environment of uncertainty and change and the tools we use today were designed during the industrial revolution, they were not designed to address an environment of radical uncertainty and hyper change. Uncertainty is the main theme that runs through all of Nathan’s work.

It’s hard to see beyond the fence of your daily life what’s possible.

The driving force behind new tools and frameworks is technology. Technology has lowered the barriers and made the world more dynamic and rapidly changing than ever before.

  • Is change accelerating?

Before the industrial revolution, there was no such thing as Management, there were no courses you could take, and no business schools. During the 1700’s technology changed the nature of the industry and introduced new problems. Business schools were created to solve these new problems.

The question Management tries to solve is “how do I coordinate, how do I optimize, and how do I execute?”

There are more new companies and new inventions with more new people participating in the process than ever before and this is contributing to the environment of dynamism.

This is the golden age for hardware entrepreneurs. The framework has shifted from “how do I coordinate, optimize, and execute on the capture of value?” to one of “how do I create new value?”

  • Breakthrough Innovation

The big players are getting bigger and the smaller businesses are growing around the opportunities around mass customization. Many big companies are now looking to work with start-ups.

Software is making the world more modular and allows businesses to work with each other rather than just compete.

There are more automobile related start-ups in the last five years than almost any other category.


INSEAD was founded to be the Harvard of Europe. Once you get outside the United States, INSEAD is very well known.

Breakthrough innovation crosses borders. We’re all in this world together and we all have to figure out how to deliver efficient, effective service wherever they our customers are.

  • Staying On Top Of Change

Nathan found that innovators engage in five fundamental behaviours. The number one behaviour is associating, where they look at other areas of life and applying an idea to another area. There is a lot of innovation that gets stuck in some area that can transform the way business is done in another area.

Observe the world and keep your eyes open. Question and challenge the status quo, notice the world around you and look for problems that can be fixed, experiment and network for ideas.

Digital transformation is not about technology, it’s about the customer. If your business is not about a customer need, it doesn’t matter. Finding how to solve customer problems better is the essence of a good business.

Look for a trojan horse, a customer need that allows your business to learn by doing. Look for technology that can add value to your customers today and start small, you don’t have to master all the technologies available at the same time. Don’t be afraid of diving into the possible solutions that are out there, technology is less scary once you get into it.

Reference: LEADING TRANSFORMATION How to Take Charge of Your Company's Future, Nathan Furr

  • Nathan’s Takeaway

There are three barriers to human change, the tendency to get stuck in the status quo, stuck in our routine, and our fear. The most powerful and oldest tool we have to create change is stories. Stories have an incredible power to change the way we see the world. What is a possible future story that you can tell yourself? Write down 10 possible futures for yourself five years from now. What would you like to be doing five years from now? What would you hate to be doing? Craft a story that will help you believe what is possible. Think about the future you want to create and work backwards to figure out what concrete steps you need to take to get there. Small transformations add up to big transformations.



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