Roger L. Martin
Ditch Your Old Thinking

Commander Divine speaks with Roger L. Martin, best-selling author of A NEW WAY TO THINK: Your Guide to Superior Management Effectiveness where he urges leaders to toss out the old ways of thinking, and instead try new models in every domain of management. In the episode, Roger shares his expertise and rich experience working with the world’s most powerful CEOs and businesses to rethink how they think.

Roger L. Martin
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Show Notes

Mark Divine  0:02  

Hi, this is Mark Divine. On the show I explore what it means to be fearless through the lens of the world’s most inspirational and compassionate and courageous leaders. My guests include notable folks from all areas of life, including technology wizards, survivors of extreme adversity, Stoic philosophers, and top business leaders and thinkers such as our guest today, Roger L. Martin. Roger is the co-head of a global strategic consulting firm, Dean of the Rotman School of Management in Canada, Thinker’s 50’s number one management thinker in the world, and an advisor to top CEOs. His life’s work has been to question dominant models and understand why they fail to meet the needs of problems they were designed to address today, and to find new, more powerful mental models to think about the problems that organizations face. He’s written many Harvard Business Review articles and other books, including the bestseller Play to Win, and now a book called A New Way To Think, which we get into in this show. Roger, thanks for joining me today.

Roger Martin  0:58  

It’s my pleasure, Mark. Thank you for having me.

Mark Divine  1:01  

Yeah, it’s really nice to meet you. I’ve enjoyed thumbing through your new book, a new way to think I’ve got it right in front of me. So thank your team for sending that to me. Excellent, great stuff. I’m anxious to get into it. I’m a little bit of an aficionado around leadership and mostly personal leadership. But obviously, you know, that spills into organization leadership, because there’s such an overlap, and my company does leadership development and team building. You know, I don’t consider myself a scholar in the sense that you are, but um, I have a lot of familiarity. So I love talking about, even though my podcast tends to veer toward motivation and mental toughness. This is a passion of mine. So I’m super excited to kind of dig into it.

Roger Martin  1:40  

Well, in a manner of speaking, it is a leadership book, you have a chance to own your models. Are you going to or not? Right? I suspect that’s one message in various forms that you send in your leadership. 

Mark Divine  1:46  

100%, and how mental models can trap us or free us, you know, and how to deconstruct models that aren’t working and reconstruct them. I usually talk about that in the context of what’s working in life in general, but it’s totally irrelevant in business. So before we kind of get into some of the cool principles that you’re teaching, and have uncovered in the last few years, what were some of the models that framed how you’ve shaped your life? I saw you’re a Canadian, and then you went to Harvard undergrad and MBA, so that shaped you in certain ways. And let’s talk about the formation of Roger Martin, and then we’ll kind of get into what deconstructed that and where are you heading.

Roger Martin  2:25  

Yeah, sure. I guess I think most people are a product of their environment to a great extent. Mine, growing up, first 18 years of my life was in a very small town. When I was a small boy, it was about 50 people.

Mark Divine  2:40  

Oh, wow, you beat me. I was in upstate New York. 375.

Roger Martin  2:43  

Yeah, it’s that big now. So Wallenstein is a Metropolis. It maybe he’s even four or 500 now. Yeah, yeah, as a big time, but it was 50. And probably by the time I left, was maybe 100. And I didn’t grow up on a farm. I grew up in a little town. But my father when I was two started an entrepreneurial venture, which is manufacturing animal feed for the farmers. So I sort of ensconced in that world. And I think what shaped my models were really coming from a small town and my parents. So dad, entrepreneur, high school educated, became an entrepreneur after high school, right? But he always had a very, what if you went to MIT, you call it a system dynamics view of the world. This is connected to this is connected to this, it’s connected to this. And I would always ask him questions, right? I’d say, Dad, you are, like, super cheap. You don’t spend on anything at the feedmill, you don’t even have your own office because you say, well, there’s always somebody out, I can just sit in their office. So the 100% owner of the company thinks other people should have offices and not as not him. 

So you’re terribly cheap. But you have sort of the Taj Mahal of truck washing facilities out back behind the mill. I just like I don’t get it and you wash the trucks, like multiple times a day sometimes when they’re perfectly fine. Why do they need to be washed? Anyways, let’s start with well, Roger, you know, the farmers, their animals are really sensitive if they miss a feeding, especially chickens, which was our biggest business, they’re off their growth trajectory for life, right. Their relatively short lives. And so the last thing a farmer wants to hear is a call from Wallenstein Feed and Supply Unlimited, saying, our truck broke down, we’ll be there tomorrow. If those trucks are pristine and beautiful looking coming down the Farm Lane to the barn, they’re just not going to think about that. They’re gonna say Wallenstein takes care of its trucks. Wallenstein will always deliver, and I’m sort of thinking after I graduated from Harvard Business School and went out into the world, some 30 years after I learned about signals of value, right, right. Things that aren’t actual direct value but signals to you that the value is there.


Mark Divine  5:03  

It’s a form of perception management, right? But you’ve got to be followed up with real delivery.

Roger Martin  5:07  

Or you got to deliver and he delivered. He was giving me these sort of sophisticated thoughts, just from his Well, Roger, this is the way it is. And that happened numerous times. Hey, Dad, why do we have a price list that we hand out to the farmer at the start of the sales call, and we never ever, ever deviate from the price list? Well, Roger, if a farmer thinks that prices are for negotiation, the entire sales call will be a price negotiation. If instead, they can feel confident that not another farmer on the face of the planet is going to get a better price than the one that’s printed on the list that he’s given. Our salesperson can spend the entire sales call talking about the quality of our feed and the service, and all of that, and that’s what I want them to talk about. And then I say, but dad, what if a competitor undercuts us at that farmer? Don’t you want to fight that back? Well, no, Roger, if we’ve got good cost position, they’re undercutting us at a given farmer, that’s not who we shouldn’t be winning, we should figure out who they’re overpricing and go win them. So if you see what I mean, it’s just that it was system dynamics and trying to always think in a more sophisticated way about how the world works before you make decisions.

Mark Divine  6:27  

Yeah I love that. That there must have been a lot of fun, you know, at Harvard, and afterwards to kind of look backward and be like, oh, wow, look at that. Yeah, my dad was pretty wise. And that was system dynamics. And that was pricing elasticity, and price signaling, you know, all of that stuff. 

Roger Martin  6:42  

I mean, unfortunately, it felt a little bit different. To be honest, I shouldn’t be so mean about it. But I liked Harvard College, I learned a lot there. Harvard Business School, I was like, Gee, this is not very sophisticated. I’ve heard more sophisticated thinking at my breakfast nook table that we…

Mark Divine  7:00  

Do you think the academia is just too far removed from the reality? Or they thought that their ideas were above the average business person?

Roger Martin  7:09  

I think a lot of it is reductionism. Right. So that the business education world has embraced reductionism, you know, think about finance, think about all else being equal. And that was impossible for my dad, and not in his character. I shouldn’t say, my mother was the opposite. So dad, 100% always answered my questions. Mom never would, she would help me along. Like I would say, why was Aunt Delphine mad at Fred? I don’t know. Why do you think so? Roger, I have come up with my well, maybe? Well, how would you know that? Have you thought about this? And right. And so literally, I got one who gave me these very sophisticated, complicated answers. The high school educated one. And the more educated one would always do that. Well, what do you think?


Mark Divine  8:03  

Your dad was the practical business guy taught you that? Your mom was this philosopher taught you Socratic method? And how to, how to, the art of inquiry.


Roger Martin  8:12  

Yes. So I think both of those, though, made me interested in models. I didn’t know it at the time that that’s what I was interested in. And I was interested in how you think about what you think, and wasn’t just get an answer. It was ask the question. How should I think about this? What kind of problem is this?


Mark Divine  8:35  

Right? What’s coming to me? Now, it’s interesting is this meta narrative that into you called reductionism that is, permeated and still does are all academic institutions were particularly scientific and business schools would like to think that they’re the science of management, you know, veering off into leadership, which is more of an art, so that’s cool. Yeah, but you know, I had a similar experience. I went to NYU Stern School of Business. 85 to 89. Yeah. Then I joined the Navy. So I put that to good use. But you know, that’s a whole different story. You and my friend A.G. Lafley, he was in the Navy too. 


Roger Martin  9:05  

There you go. Yeah. 


Mark Divine  9:08  

And anyways, I came back into business after getting off active duty to start a microbrewery Brewing Company, the fourth one here in San Diego. And there wasn’t a lick of the MBA, which was useful, except the three letters on a piece of paper, which helped me raise a million and a half bucks. And get a bank loan. No, it wasn’t a waste of time or money. But the concepts weren’t very useful.


Roger Martin  9:30  

Interesting. They too, though, it teaches you a language system. True, right? So that’s how you got the money. And then you could say your term sheet and that’s right financing and debt and equity. And if you wouldn’t have had your business education, you would have spoken a language system that they would say…


Mark Divine  9:48  

I would have spoken Navy SEAL, and that would have been intriguing to them. They would’ve wanted to have a beer with me. They probably wouldn’t have given me their money.


Roger Martin  9:55  

No, no, that is that is, that is true.


Mark Divine  9:58  

But today, and this is relating to your book, it’s very clear that science of management has missed the forest for the trees, just like economics doesn’t work anymore, and we keep trying the same things expecting different results and yet just make things worse. 


Roger Martin

Macro is a fool’s science.


Mark Divine

Yeah, it is.


Roger Martin  10:17  

Micro is something real life. Micro works where the curves cross for an individual market, where the curves cross for a company in that market, that’s all right. But then a bunch of people said, why don’t we blow this up using unbelievably heroic assumptions to the economy as a whole? And it’s a, I hate to say it, it’s just a faux science. 


Mark Divine

I do agree.


Roger Martin

If somebody said, You’ve got to either bet, a million dollars on the 10, top macro economists making some forecast, and 10 people I picked out of the New York City phonebook. Yeah, I do the New York City phone, but I’m afraid. That’s not very nice, but it’s true.


Mark Divine  11:01  

I think their batting record is probably about on par with, you know, 300, which is good in baseball, but probably not good.


Roger Martin  11:08  

I don’t think they make the Mendoza line, my friend.


Mark Divine  11:13  

Anyways, yeah. So things are, you know, there’s, it’s like the difference between complicated and complex, right. And, you know, management science, which came out of the military, worked when things weren’t complicated, and you could sort of see a cause and effect relationship, which is linearity. And where we’re at now is we’ve blown past that. 


And we’re in a very complex, where then you make the case in your book, and you were to think we actually have to throw out the old models and construct a new model that’s based upon, let’s start and look at the forest and their complexity of things. And then kind of work from there, right? So we have to flip our models, and that changes everything, changes the way you look at your customer, the way you look at strategy, culture, I think it’s fascinating. Because once you get trained, and starts to get really comfortable with certain way and certain expectations, it’s not easy to change your behavior, let alone the behavior of an entire organization.


Roger Martin  12:09  

I think that’s true. And there are little things that I would say you can help yourself by doing right? If you ever catch anybody, or yourself saying all else being equal, blah, blah, blah. A little red flag should go up in your head that says, why don’t I just spend five minutes on what the implication would be if all those other things aren’t equal? And maybe I’ll say, oh, that’s fine. But I would argue more often end up saying, oh, my God, this other thing that isn’t equal and isn’t included in my little formula is going to kill me, we’d be better off that way. And the same might say, you know, there’s that chapter on kind of old data’s from the past. So whenever we analyze the past, we are assuming that the future will be a direct extrapolation of the past. And so I just say, well, anytime you pick up an analysis, okay, here’s an analysis and it says X, you have to ask yourself the question, am I willing to assume the future will be identical to the past? And if the answer is yes, then I will make whatever decision that piece of paper and that analysis says, but if I’m sort of like hmm, wait a minute, in the world of business, in general, in my industry, in specific, it keeps changing, then I will take it with a grain of salt. So you need those little questions to try and drive you into a more productive territory.


Mark Divine  13:27  

I love that because those sayings are mental models, or props for mental models. So you can look at that saying, like all else being equal, and flip that and say, well, let’s assume that nothing is ever equal anymore, right? And everything’s flipped, right? So that takes a leg out of the stool of that old model, and then you have to, okay, so now I might check when you do that it falls over.


Roger Martin  13:45  

It falls over.


Mark Divine  13:49  

I’m in my doctoral program, finishing something I started back in 2000, in leadership, then I was recalled to go to a war in Iraq. No small thing. 


Roger Martin  13:58  

Oh, my goodness. You survived. Good for you, my friend. 


Mark Divine  14:01  

Yeah, I did. And when I was over there, I decided that I wanted to teach leaders in a real setting, meaning like, yeah, real visceral, you know, do this, do that and growth, as opposed to like an academic setting, so I didn’t finish. And that kind of stuck… would make as Mark Divine, one of my mental models is I’m not a quitter. Divines aren’t quitters? Right. So here I am at 58 back in my doctoral program, but my global leadership has been changed. My professor said that we’ve left behind the information age, and we’re now in the age, conceptual age. We also talked about the exponential age, which is more about the speed of technological adaptation and change. But what he was referring to is that the most important skill for leaders or for organizations is creation. Creating something new, creating new concepts, new ideas, new ways of behavior, new cultural models, out of something that really didn’t exist. Or evolving them. 


Roger Martin  14:54  

I would agree and you know, Aristotle, the greatest scientist of all time, he said, there’s two parts of the world, there’s a part of the world where things cannot be other than they are. But if I have a pen in my hand, and I let go of it, it’s going to fall, like it did last week, like next week, 100 years from now in Fort Lauderdale, in San Diego, it’ll fall. And he said, in that part of the world, the job of human beings is to understand the cause of the effect we see. So you can kind of optimize to that. 


Mark Divine

And that’s the scientific process. 


Roger Martin

That’s the scientific method, right? That’s what he created. But he said, there’s another part of the world where things can be other than they are like smartphones, this part of the world in 1999, there were exactly zero of these, right? Last time I checked, there were 4.4 billion of them. That’s the part of the world where things can be other than they are. And there he said something quite different. He said, don’t use my scientific method, A.  B, your job as a human in that part of the world is to be the cause of the effect you want to see. And the technique you need to use rather than analyzing a sample of data is to imagine possibilities, and choose the one for which the most compelling argument can be made.


Mark Divine  16:05  

I love that Steve Jobs is like screaming at us right now. Like yes, I said, that.


Roger Martin  16:09  

Think of what he did. Think of what he did his entire career at one time after the next he imagined a possibility. And then he compellingly argued to both himself and everybody else for it and became, you know, probably the most important CEO of his era. But the interesting thing is, most people would have considered him a way out there kind of wacko guy. Aristotle would have characterized him as being incredibly rigorous. Right? But the form of rigor in that part of the world is different. And it involves imagination. So I agree. And unfortunately, business school education is not helping people develop that capability. They’re helping them figure out how to analyze everything to death, but not imagining things.


Mark Divine  16:56  

They always… I’m just going to ask. So what’s the answer to that? How do we train future leaders to be creative and insightful?


Roger Martin  17:03  

One place is design school. Right, I actually was at a dinner table with Joe Gebbia, who I’d never met before the co-founder of Airbnb, RISD, graduate. Rhode Island School of Design, as an undergrad, got a master’s, and it was an undergrad in design. And I just said, Joe, what would you say, if anything, was important that you learned at RISD that helped you grow Airbnb? And he was so fast and clear on the answer. He said, well, you know, for the entire time I was there, all they did is over and over asked us to imagine new possibilities. I came out of that with practice in imagining possibilities. That education, you’re constantly trying to create new things for four years, instead of you’re trying to analyze what exists.


Mark Divine  17:53  

Makes me want to go back to school, design school, right. That’s amazing. I agree with that.


Roger Martin  17:58  

The problem is, it’s tiny. It’s hard to figure out exactly how many design degrees are given out a year. But I think it’s something in the 15 to 20 thousands.


Mark Divine  18:06  

There’s an opportunity for business schools to reinvent themselves.


Roger Martin  18:10  

Yes, it is. But you know, how many business degrees are given a year? Like half a million? Yeah, because there’s 180,000 MBAs, but there are way more undergrads.


Mark Divine  18:21  

And these are all individuals learning to think through the old models. What do you think the future of work is? What does it look like? And I submit that that future is on us pretty damn quickly, if not already.


Roger Martin  18:33  

Well, one of the things I think that’s going to characterize it is that we’re going to recognize that most business work is project based.


Mark Divine  18:43  

I know, I saw that I’m really interested in how you, would you organize for that?


Roger Martin  18:47  

Yeah. Well, I mean, there’s big companies that are organized that way. I mean, Accenture, Deloitte, they’re $50 billion dollar companies organized by project.


Mark Divine  18:55  

Now that you say that… the SEAL teams, we were organized that way, mission focus was being project focused, you know, our rank really was secondary. That was a job, but it was more of a title than that.


Roger Martin  19:05  

Yes, but it also sort of specified what position you could take in a project. So there would be a leader who would say, oh, when we have this project called go rescue those Americans who are being held captive over there, you’d say, well, who could lead that person? Now let’s create a team, they’ll go train for it, then they’ll go do it, then it’s over. It’s done. And never happens again, as opposed to if you’re in an old fashioned factory, you’d be on the third station on the assembly line, doing the same thing over and over every day, every week, every month, every year. 


So we imported into these knowledge based jobs, which SEALs is, it’s a knowledge based workers, real time problem solvers, planners, all that kind of stuff. We just ported over from that world, this sort of flat job notion, when it just isn’t. I love what the elite military engrains in people I think and but you can tell me like, you know, you’re the expert, you lived it. But there isn’t this rigid distinction between strategy and execution. Because SEAL teams, I think, correct me if I’m wrong, know that all sorts of stuff is going to happen when you head out on your mission, and you are going to have to figure stuff out in real time or die. And so there isn’t this sort of like, well, we do all the clever stuff here, when we set the mission of your team, and you’re just executing. 


Mark Divine  20:32  

You’re absolutely right. And there’s a few nuances, which are really fun. I won’t go deep into this. Planners are the executors. Right. And so they recognize that no plan survives contact with reality, or the enemy in our case. And so we just create a good enough plan that gets us out the door so we can learn on the fly. And that becomes the OODA loop, which became popular in business circles as well. John Boyd. Yeah. So you see what’s happening, you’re orient you change, you’d learn from it, you’d make another decision and you fail your way toward victory.


Roger Martin  20:59  

Yes. But seriously, what would have you sad as a SEAL team member if your SEAL Team Leader just said, well, I’ve got the plan, and you boys are just executing now.


Mark Divine  21:12  

I would have laughed at him. Well, you have some great fun stories like the SEALs are for a very long time, somewhat unique in this regard. And also the tier one units, but a lot of the units that came out of the army, which was much more centralized, they didn’t have this built into their culture. Great example is that I had one, a friend told me that they were on a pretty important op, and the Rangers had one job, provide protective flanking security and the reactionary force in the SEALs were going to get the bad guy. 


And so the Ranger leader and the SEAL commander, in this case, the SEAL commander wasn’t on the floor, because he wanted to give his second the experience. And so, SEAL commander is just there quietly watching his team. And he looks over the SEAL leader. He goes, why aren’t you leading? The SEAL said I am leading.


Roger Martin  21:56  

Yes, yeah. Oh, cha ching.


Mark Divine  22:00  

That’s kind of speaks to what we’re talking about. 


Roger Martin

Yes. Yeah. 


Markk Divine

Control versus allow the guys closest to the action to figure it out?. Because they’ve got the best information. And I think you make this point in your book about… trying to support every level of whatever the bureaucracy is, because you’re always gonna have that, no matter how flat an organization is there to support the level below it? And the closer you can get everyone to supporting the guy on the ground, or the woman on the ground who’s dealing with a customer? Then the more execution excellence you’re gonna have.


Roger Martin  22:29  

Absolutely. And if they can’t, right, get rid of them. If a layer is not clearly helping the people at the coalface, or you, the guys on the ground on the mission, then get rid of them. Because all they’re doing is slowing you down, adding costs, inflexibility. It can’t just be neutral. It’s got to be positive. And who is the decision maker on whether it’s helpful or not? I would say it’s the SEAL team on the ground. 


Mark Divine  23:01  

It’s got to be on the ground. It sounds simple, but it’s the exact opposite of how most big organizations were either evolved or were designed. Think of like the worst examples, of course, are the bureaucratic organizations of government. You know, which everything is designed for information to flow uphill. And almost to the extent where if they’re busy creating a report or something, and you’re the customer like, hello, chirp chirp, too bad, right?


Roger Martin  23:25  

Yeah, too bad for you.


Mark Divine  23:30  

You know, you can wait till we’ve got it done. How do we take an organization or society, I guess, a better word that have been built for process to transform them to be built for projects and to be radically focused on the customer instead of the organization’s hierarchical informational needs?


Roger Martin  23:44  

Well, then this will come as a shocker to you, of course, is leadership. But it does play a big role. But what my view on it is, you can get there with baby steps, you do not have to transform in a day and make grand pronouncements about how we’re going to change everything. You got to start walking in the right direction. And in doing so build momentum. I had this experience of being a business school Dean for 15 years, and I went into a business school that the previous Dean had to be fired because there’s a big scandal that rocked the school and created factions. And it was, had a deficit. And it was called the School of Mismanagement in the newspapers rather than the management man. And I wanted to make it a globally consequential business school, which lots of people laughed at me and said, just make it a decent Southern Ontario business goal and we’ll be happy but I said, No, no, we want to be that. But I had an explicit plan, which is I want there to be a total transformation of the school from secondary to globally consequential where people are working together happily and being enormously productive. But each year, I want to make sure we don’t change so much that along the way, anybody starts jumping out of buildings and you know, going screaming, have hair on fire saying you’re changing everything and I don’t know what to do. That was my explicit plan. And we did it. And all the external validation that you know, at the end of it, I was named Global Business School Dean of the Year, and I was considered transformational, but it was principled, directioned baby steps.


Mark Divine  25:22  

Yeah, micro goals, we’ll be saying this in the SEALs. 


Roger Martin

Oh, that’s what you call it. 


Mark Divine

Micro goals, yeah. Kind of micro goals. But you got to know where you’re gonna go. Right. You have to know you’re eating an elephant.


Roger Martin  25:32  

Yeah, yeah. So I didn’t declare, oh, there’s going to be this massive culture change and everything you do is going to change and the like, I just encouraged more of the behavior I liked, tried to discourage the behavior that was counterproductive. By the end of the time, there had been a, quite a change in the senior management team. But there was never sort of NATO long nights where I had to sack everybody and like, and lots of people who would have never imagined that they would want to be in a business school run by me, ended up being my best colleagues. If you create massive confrontation about change up front, good luck to you. That’s one of the things I think often leaders attempt to win big, complicated, conceptual battles. Right, right.


Mark Divine  26:24  

Well, not everyone has the capacity to see that kind of way. That’s why they’re not leaders or they’re not in your role, you know?


Roger Martin



Mark Divine

They have to learn through experience. Yeah. You said something around in this conversation that made me think that one of the reasons that they could fail, or do you know, our challenge with change efforts is they try to start with the structure without realizing that culture eats structure for lunch, which is a deviation of culture eats strategy for lunch, as opposed to you said, focusing on behaviors, which ultimately defines culture, right? 


Roger Martin  26:56  

Yes, I have come to the conclusion that if you believe a structural change, you know, we’re gonna have these people report to those people, instead of those people, you are going to be sorely disappointed. It’s just not going to work.


Mark Divine  27:11  

You’re going to get the same behavior with just a different structure. Or you’re going to get chaos.


Roger Martin  27:16  

Yes, now, yes, or both. So really focusing on how people work together and interact. And the most powerful tool a leader has in his or her toolkit is their own behavior. So everybody watches. A brand new CEO of a company I’m working with. And I just said, just start doing things that you think are consistent with the culture and don’t do them alone. So they’re in fashion retailing, he wanted to go and see life in the stores. Historically, that would have been announced in advance, all the stores would have been prepped. So the CEO would have had a visit where everything was absolutely perfect, it’s going to be completely unannounced, only the pilot knows what city we’re going to. 


And I said, invite anybody who wants to come along to come along, and a bunch took them up on it, then he could walk the stores and say, here’s what’s problematic, here’s stuff is being done really well. And it enabled them to see how his mind worked, and what he thought needed to happen for the brands to do better. That’s going to have a huge knock on effect, every one of those seven or eight people, it’s going to go back to their people with messages and what we need to focus on and how we’ve got to operate and the like. So…


Mark Divine  28:39  

And that was just one action, you know, yeah, could be five or seven of those things kind of going on. So I mean, absolutely. Again, back to my SEAL experience, which taught me more about leadership than business school and whatnot, the planning is done by the entire team. And again, this is also different than, you know, the more hierarchical Army, where the planning is done by the officers, and then they kind of hand the plan to the team. But the most junior person has as much input as anyone else. Because the best ideas, the best idea, doesn’t matter where it comes from. And then the other thing that’s cool about this is, SEALs also understand the power of imagery. Because imagine if you had 14 or 16 guys heading out on a mission, they all had a different image in their head of what the mission parameters were, what victory looked like, could get a very different outcome. So we use a lot of video and pictures and imagery, and we allow that massive fluidity on the ground for how to execute. It works, because everyone’s still got a very clear vision of what the outcome is supposed to look like. 


Well, when most people think of the military, they think of military industrial complex type management systems. And then they hear about special ops. And they’re like, oh, yeah, they work fast. And they work well as teams. And those are all true. But the question is, why? Why do they have that execution, agility, and why do they deal well with uncertainty and complexity is because they train themselves to be very agile with their planning and their execution, and their cohesiveness as a unit is that once we get in the field all ranks come off, you know, it’s like, okay, everyone is the same, because it’s the mission first, the teammates second, and then you third. List the priorities, you get the results. And they look pretty when they’re delivered. But it’s a sausage making process to get there. And it’s just that way in business, as you know, customer sees a beautiful product at the end, man. But there’s times where you’re like this, is it, capital S show, you know what I mean? How would you define strategic planning for this conceptual age of exponential growth?


Roger Martin  30:38  

I would say, the model has to be, you do need to make bold choices. But you do need to watch what happens and tweak and adjust. And the only way you’re going to do that is to be more explicit with yourself and your team about what we believe will happen. Because of what we believe is true, we’ve made the set of choices. So let’s go do those choices, manifest those choices in our action, but then not be so foolish as to say, regardless of what happens, we’re just gonna keep charging ahead. It’s to say, if something that would have had to be true, turns out not to be true, we don’t just plow through. We say, what way would we adjust for that? So you need boldness, you need to be explicit about what you believe is behind your choices, then watch, and adjust, and adjust and adjust. The thing I object to, by far and away the most, are the people who say it’s a VUCA world. So just chill. Don’t make any choices until things become clear.


Mark Divine  31:47  

No, that’s exactly the opposite. In my opinion. We have a saying, doubt is eliminated through action. Yes, yeah. It’s got to be the best informed action that has the smallest arc to success in the moment or in this time period, right? Yep, that you can take. So you can get immediate feedback and activate that looping. 


Roger Martin  32:04  



Mark Divine  32:29  

And then the corollary to that is lead by example, which you addressed. And recognize that it’s all about the people. Culture is going to drive success, not the structure, or the strategy. 


Roger Martin

You got it. 


Mark Divine

Awesome. This has been a delightful conversation. Roger, thank you so much for your time, I really appreciate it. I learned a ton and it was fun talking about my SEAL philosophy and strategies. And if I can help you out there, I’m all you know, I’m all game.


Roger Martin  32:54  

That’s great. That’s great. I mean, I may well take you up on that. The synergies were just greater than I might have even imagined, even though I had a positive view of it. Thank you for taking the time. I always appreciate when folks take the time to read my book, and then have a conversation about it. So I’m the most thankful one in this conversation. This is fun. Thank you.


Mark Divine  33:13  

The New Way To Think is the book is on the market. Wherever you buy books, and is there a social media or online or what?


Roger Martin  33:20  

Sure so Twitter @RogerLMartin, I write a Medium column every Monday, you can find me there, or my website is www.RogerLMartin.com. If you don’t put the “L” in, it’ll go to a really nice man, a real estate agent in Houston, who spends half his life forwarding emails to me so www.RogerLMartin.com. 


Mark Divine

All right. Thanks again, sir.


Roger Martin

You are most welcome. You take care.


Mark Divine  33:48  

What an interesting guy, Roger L. Martin, author of A New Way To Think, Harvard MBA and undergraduate, adviser to top CEOs and what an incredible business thinker. A lot of similarities that we uncovered thinking about how elite Navy SEALs get shit done and how the most effective business leaders are reorganizing for projects instead of process, throwing out the old Strategic Plan models and creating more flexible and pliable plans and focusing on the people instead of structure. All things that the SEALs do really well. This is a great episode. If you’re a business leader, you’re not going to want to miss it. And if you’re a student or an entrepreneur and interested in how to organize for operational excellence, then you’re not going to want to miss this. Shownotes are up in Mark Divine.com, video is at our YouTube channel, MarkDivine.com/youtube and you can reach me on my social media MarkDivine at Twitter and @realMark Divine, Facebook and Instagram. And you can find me on my LinkedIn channel. 


Special shout out to my amazing team, Jason Sanderson, Geoff Haskell helped bring the show to you every week with incredible guests, like Roger, and also if you haven’t reviewed the show, it’s helpful to rate and review it so please do so wherever you listen to this show. And our newsletter comes out every Tuesday and then Divine Inspiration has the synopsis of the week’s podcast, my blog, a book I’m reading, and other interesting things or habits that I think you’d find valuable. So if you’re not on the distro list and you’d like to be on that, then go to Mark Divine.com and subscribe. 


Thanks for being part of the solution to a world that is changing fast as volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous. We have to be the change you want to see in the world, which is a more positive and compassionate future at scale. So it’s important that you are part of the process to be the change in yourself first and then you will pay that forward as a leader. Hooyah to you. Thanks for doing that. And thanks for having the courage to think differently. This time, pick up Rogers book, A New Way To Think, and learn how to think differently. Hooyah, bye now.


Mark Divine  0:05  

Coming up on the Mark Divine Show,

Tony Nader  0:07  

Consciousness is all there is and everything else is the waves of the ocean. So that is one unbounded ocean of consciousness, which means unlimited. And then all the different waves, some big, some small, some complex, some very, very tiny, some huge and complex and sophisticated that can actually be aware of the ocean, like a human being. And that is really consciousness.

Mark Divine  0:38  

This is Mark Divine. And this is the Mark Divine Show. Super stoked to be able to explore what it means to be fearless and conscious by speaking with some of the world’s most inspirational, compassionate, resilient leaders, thinkers, philosophers, and folks from all walks of life. In each episode, I get to speak to a remarkable individual and help them distill their information to actual insights to help you create a more compassionate, courageous life and be the change we want to see in the world at scale. 

I’m super excited today to be talking to someone I’ve known about for several years. Dr. Tony Nader, a Dr. Nader is an MD, PhD, a head of the Transcendental Meditation movement or organization, MIT and Harvard trained doctor and neuroscientist and the author of an extraordinary book called The One Unbounded Ocean of Consciousness. Dr. Nader is an incredible human being. He’s extremely knowledgeable, and very articulate, and we’re going to have one heck of a conversation. Dr. Neeraj, thank you so much for joining me today. 

Dr. Nader, it’s really nice to meet you.

Mark Divine  0:02  

Hi, this is Mark Divine. On the show I explore what it means to be fearless through the lens of the world’s most inspirational and compassionate and courageous leaders. My guests include notable folks from all areas of life, including technology wizards, survivors of extreme adversity, Stoic philosophers, and top business leaders and thinkers such as our guest today, Roger L. Martin. Roger is the co-head of a global strategic consulting firm, Dean of the Rotman School of Management in Canada, Thinker’s 50’s number one management thinker in the world, and an advisor to top CEOs. His life’s work has been to question dominant models and understand why they fail to meet the needs of problems they were designed to address today, and to find new, more powerful mental models to think about the problems that organizations face. He’s written many Harvard Business Review articles and other books, including the bestseller Play to Win, and now a book called A New Way To Think, which we get into in this show. Roger, thanks for joining me today.


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