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Lisa Bodell

Lisa Bodell

Globally Recognized Expert on Innovation and Leading Change

Apr 1, 2018

Lisa Bodell

In this BigSpeak Podcast episode, host Mark Sylvester interviews Lisa Bodell, Founder and CEO of futurethink, an internationally recognized innovation research and training firm. Bodell is a leader and pioneering futurist in the field of innovation—creating a unique approach to an otherwise complicated topic. Listen in to hear how Lisa facilitates corporate innovation by reducing complexity and creating space for meaningful work.

“The places that really win are the ones that start individually within their own sphere of control and then push it out to a bigger sphere of influence.”

Episode Highlights


You started by saying, you talk about complexity and killing complexity. How do you walk into a big company and get that across, because they’re all about process and complexity?

My job when I go into a company is I ask them what do they spend their day doing? When people finally sit down and think about it, 9 times out of 10 the first answers are meetings and emails and they realize, holy cow I’m spending almost all my time on this—it’s ridiculous.

So we have them start to think about what complexity they can literally kill because people really don’t think about doing less as a good thing. We have to get them into the habit of how can we locate the stuff that’s not working so you create more space for bigger thinking? And then, how do you actually get them to define what meaningful work is.

Part of this exercise is giving them permission; teaching them how to just kill stupid rules, kill stupid meetings, and then define now that you have the space where do you want to go? That is really meaningful to people because that’s what innovation is. Focusing on meaningful stuff and once you get them to define what that means, suddenly that inner Futurist comes out and they know what they want to do.

And once people are given the permission, man, they love it! I’ve yet to meet someone that’s like, no, I really don’t want to simplify, I want to keep it complex. That person doesn’t exist or they should be fired. So that’s the good news. It’s very easy to get people on board.


What tricks do you have to connect with the audience? You said earlier that stories help, but what else do you do?

I think the best thing if you’re trying to prove a point isn’t to tell them but to show them.

An example in the topic I tend to talk about which is around change and killing complexity. The issue with that is no one thinks they’re the problem; they think that everyone else creates complexity.

I will get them up and say, “Let me do a quick exercise with you,” and this is just an example to kind of show you how I interact. I get everyone to stand up and I’ll say, “Let’s do something that’s simple. I want you to pat your head, rub your stomach, and click your heels.”

Everyone stands up and after that awkwardness of trying to do it, they eventually start doing all three at once. Then I pause them and I’ll say, “How many of you were able to do it? All three at once?” And everyone proudly raises their hand, even in the back of the audience and I’ll say, “That’s too bad, that’s not what I asked you to do. I asked you to pat your head, to rub your stomach and to click your heals, but I didn’t say to do them all at once.” That’s a great example of how we create self-imposed and unnecessary complexity.

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