Finding Your Business’ Soul

August 11, 2009
see new now book

Editor’s note: This is John Reinan’s weekly marketing column for To see the original, go to

The one constant in today’s marketing world is change. It’s a cliché, I know, but I can’t think of a way to say it more strongly and plainly.

That’s why I was so happy to meet Jim Ericson, who’s been encouraging innovative thinking for more than two decades as founder and CEO of The Masters Forum, an education series focused on forward thinking for business.

Ericson has an impressive record as a talent-spotter, bringing thinkers like Stephen Covey, Clayton Christensen and Malcolm Gladwell to the Twin Cities long before they attained the heights they later reached.

Now Ericson has written a book with co-author Gerald de Jaager. “See New Now: New Lenses for Leadership and Life” is an accessible, thought-provoking collection of stories about business and living, designed to stimulate conversation about thinking differently.

The use of stories and conversation is no accident. Ericson believes that great business thinking requires a healthy dose of emotional input.

Jim Ericson

Jim Ericson

“The language of business is dead,” Ericson said. “It’s so dry. Stories are what move people.

“I think we create knowledge in conversation with others,” he continued. “It’s noodling things together that I think has tremendous power.”

As an example, Ericson points to WOLF (Women’s Leadership Forum), created by former Best Buy executive Julie Gilbert to empower female employees and change the company’s culture.

“WOLF was a creation of her spirit, not her mind,” Ericson said. “It was created by someone on a hero’s journey. Human resources would have shot this down.”

And lest one think that such creations are all about touchy-feely and kumbaya, Ericson points out that Best Buy CEO Brad Anderson has credited WOLF with increasing the company’s market share among women by two percentage points – a gain that translates into about $3.6 billion in revenue.

It all comes down to understanding our fellow denizens of the business world as authentic human beings, Ericson said.

“The more angles you get to know somebody from during authentic conversation, the more basis you have to trust – or not trust – that person,” he said. “To me, the immune systems in an organization are the trust systems you’ve developed. When the virus hits, they’ll help your organization survive.”

Ericson is an animated and enthusiastic conversationalist himself. My notes from our talk reflect his references to Schindler’s List, swine flu, theologian Martin Buber, “Puff the Magic Dragon,” Steve Jobs, Brett Hull and the origin of the hymn “Amazing Grace” – among others.

You can check out “See New Now” at and connect with Ericson at his blog, “Conversation Kindling.” Hope to see you there.