In the world of Innovation Paul Akers is a Star in his own right. He is an entrepreneur, author, teacher. And a lean-maniac (his own words).

After setting up a business for (wood) workshops (FastCap) he discovered the Toyota Production System (TPS) and was blown away by their lean principles. He has now written several books on Lean and he travels the world to educate & speak about Lean principles & Lean manufacturing. Paul has a podcast called The American Innovator where he shares about his Lean & travel adventures. Today Paul is using his lean principles in business and in life.

His podcast, YouTube channel and books have been watched, heard- and are read by millions. He has his very own way of building and more importantly sustaining his business. Paul is very intense about lean principles which he applies to the business world as well as his private life. It helped him to built a company with sought after tools as well as train for two Ironman runs in his fifties.

At its core, FastCap is a Lean company, determined to continuously improve everything, every day. FastCap’s products reflect the idea that everything can be improved and the best ideas come from the shop floor.

Ever wondered how an innovation culture is being built and sustained?

This episode is for innovators that want to build an innovation culture.

Find more information here:

Listen & subscribe

Give a review

If you have liked the show, give it a review on PodchaserApple Podcast or Spotify.

Join the 2pt5 mailing list

Latest episodes, posts and news delivered right to your inbox!

Stuff mentioned in the episode


Baden-Württemberg, where the podcast ist hosted


Black Forest Schwarzwald


Bob Taylor Guitars

TPS – Toyota Production System

11 Points that hinder innovation (German, PDF)


One of Paul’s videos: Creating an Innovative Culture

Who are the 2%? video

1. They are incredibly humble and give others credit.

2. They love people and put others first.

3. They get excited about the simplest improvement.

4. They give credit to others and acknowledge their achievements.

5. They acknowledge the workers for the smallest improvement.

6. Chaos drives them CRAZY!

7. They love to learn.

8. LEAN is the essence of their success.

9. They live a life of urgency not emergency. Fix it now.

10. They are willing to do the hard work. LEAN is simple, but it’s hard work.

11. They listen up to what others are saying.

12. They relentlessly challenge themselves and their people.

13. They see LEAN as finding a hidden treasure.

14. They see a rainbow when there is no rainbow. They see the possibility in every situation.

Kaizen Foam 

Open Innovation at FastCap

Share your product idea with Paul Akers at FastCap

More links

Dr. Thomas Sowell Wikipedia

Everest Basecamp 

Mount Kilimanjaro

Eat Move Sleep by Tom Rath

The American Innovator on Apple Podcasts 

Podcast resources


Listen Notes 


The American Innovator, music by Alan Feinberg, on Spotify


This transcript was automatically created, is not edited and will have faults.

[0:09] This is the 2.5 conversations connecting innovators. My name is Klaus.
Ever wonder how an innovation culture is being built and sustained over a long time.
In the world of innovation. My guest today Paul Akers is a star in his own right.
He’s an entrepreneur author teacher and a lean maniac.
His podcast YouTube channel and books have been watched heard and read by millions.
He has his very own way of building and more importantly sustaining his business.
All is very intense about lean principles which he applies to the business world as well as his private life.
It helped him to build a company that sought after products for woodworkers as well as trained for to Iron Man runs in his 50s.
Paul sat down for a conversation with me an opportunity which I enjoyed tremendously.

[1:12] Music.

[1:18] Paul Akers the American innovative welcome to the 2.5 All right.
I’m really happy to have this conversation with you.
And I know you speak some German souls or if I don’t really know the English words I will a bit.

[1:37] Chin my Deutschland is good but I love speaking it.

[1:42] But so I say How come you speak German.

[1:46] Because I went to school in Germany when I was in college in nineteen eighty.
There was an abroad program I had a professor named Dr. Reinhold plus in the United States and he was from Germany.
He got his Ph.D. in literature German literature and he operated abroad program so I studied German or participate in that.
So I went to school in Germany for one semester and I fell in love with Germany the culture and the way of thinking and I came back and named my first company.
An hour even though it’s not technically correct. European cabinets because they started building European cabinets in the 80s when nobody in America was building them.
So the Germans influenced me a lot.

[2:28] Wow. So do you have like any favorite German food place or whatever you are you’d like to look back to.

[2:37] Oh my gosh I have so many. While I love schnitzel so I love to go.

[2:43] I love to go there. I love going to Nuremberg and eat a little.
I think we call schnitzel but I don’t know what the correct name for. But I love to eat that.
And I love Nuremberg I love Heidelberg. I love Nords von Stein.
I love you take. I mean I’ve been everywhere in Germany. I spent more time in Germany almost than the United States.
So I know it backwards and forwards in every inch of it. It’s beautiful.
I love wandering just through the countryside on the freeway just wandering and meandering.

[3:12] It’s beautiful there.
I don’t know if you’re aware of that but where I’m hosting this podcast in the state of Baden voting block which is just next to Bavaria.
Can you pronounce Bonneville and back.

[3:28] Biden good. Oh great guy right. Yeah. EISENBERG And bob. Bob and bob.
Biden is one of my most beautiful cities in the world. You know you know this city. Yes. It’s like a..
Like a capital or. It’s like is it a capital or.
No it’s not a capital I no Berlin’s a capital but isn’t it a capital city state or no.

[3:48] Yeah it is actually very very close to where where I live.
And it’s close to the Black Forest. And it used to be i o some years some hundreds of years back it used to be some sort of capital status because to the like the Dukes of Bodden started out from Baden-Baden.

[4:09] All right. It’s one of the wealthiest places in Germany I know that correct.
Yes if you have something. Yeah. A king you go back to Barton Barton and there’s water that cures everything basically.

[4:19] And I’ve been in the hot springs there and the spores as beautiful. I love it.

[4:23] OK. Well thank you Paul. Having a conversation with you is a real treat.
You’re doing a lot of videos. You’re doing a lot of podcasts.
You’re doing a lot of blog posts. I have counted more than sixteen hundred videos on fast cop which didn’t create all by yourself.
There’s other authorized you have like more than 800 videos on your Web site on your YouTube channel and you have created more than 500 ish episodes of The American innovator podcast right.

[4:59] Wow that many I didn’t even know that. That’s a lot.

[5:02] Yeah. That’s a lot. So you don’t need much sleep.

[5:07] Well I do. You know I get about eight hours of sleep every night.
I’m just very intense and very deliberate about what I do every day.
I’m very organized in the way I do it.
But most importantly my practice of lean in the implementation of eliminating waste out of my life allows me to get done three four five times more than the average person.
If you hang around with me you go. How did you do all that.
And the answer is because I took time to slow down fix all the processes that I was engaged in on a daily basis so I could work in low.
And that’s why I get so much done and it appears like I’m living for lifetimes in one. But I’m really not.
I’m just using my brain OK so it’s not a Jedi trick it’s.
It’s organization. It’s continuous improvement.

[6:08] It is. And you know the funny thing about this Dr. Ragan that I was going to say was you know most people think that the key to success is being really smart you know or having advanced degrees and all that other stuff.
And it really is not. Life is so simple.
It’s unbelievable. But most people like to complicate things so I’ve my whole persona my whole,
concept in life is how do you simplify things so that everyone can access it quickly and easily.
And this is my mantra in life the way I approach it.

[6:49] OK so what what you’re saying is that there is something that you do but that’s also affecting others that’s also asking something from others also,
to support you here or to to do it the same way so you can work well together for example right.

[7:11] Right well I definitely am very deliberate to as well about the people that surround me so I don’t.
This may sound very harsh but I don’t associate with people that are not passionate about continuous improvement so nobody works for me and my company.
I don’t hang around with people my friends. Everyone is passionate about continuous improvement because if they’re not they drag me down,
and most people tolerate a lot of low level performance from the people in their sphere of influence and I don’t.
And that’s a very unusual characteristic okay.

[7:51] Is that is that helping you creating friendships.

[7:56] Everyone wants to be my friends. I have thousands of friends all over the world. I answered 300 communications every day.
I’ve already answered ones from probably 15 countries this morning.
Everybody wants to hear my breath. Everybody wants to come into my life my universe but I don’t let you in unless you’re passionate about continuous improvement.
And you said that very clear in your various videos that you put out there showing your company.
You said your welcoming people that you have to be on a certain level to understand also the improvements that you’ve made the accomplishments that you have made in fast cup.

[8:35] That’s right. Because here’s what happens. So everybody looks at what we’re doing and says Oh that would be great to be that way but we can’t do that because we’re we’re German or we’re Americans or we’re from Brazil. Our culture doesn’t support that.
And I just go get the hell out of here.
You’re full of dicks you’re full of excuses it doesn’t matter who you are where you’re from.
It’s all up here the minute you say I’m going to improve I’m going to eliminate waste and I’m going to solve the problems that I’m responsible for not to say I can’t do it because Bob and Mary or Gretchen doesn’t want to do it.
You have a sphere of influence. You need to work on your sphere of influence and forget about everyone else.
And that is a correct attitude and those are the people I’m looking for to bring in and say OK let’s work together.

[9:28] Does that help you to grow yourself.

[9:32] Oh my gosh I’m challenged nonstop. I mean every day is literally a tsunami of change for me.
I mean just today what we’ve been doing tween for 21 years we have the biggest companies in the world come here all the time. Amazon is here all the time to us baby to here Boeing’s here.
Bombardier is here. You couldn’t name Toyota is here. Everybody comes to fast cab to learn from us.
And yet today we’re going through one of the biggest transformations. Just today implementing one of the biggest changes we probably ever made in the history of our company because we’re growing nonstop.
It’s just it’s endless. What we’re learning.

[10:11] I’ve seen that you’re very open to new ideas.
You’re open to your own ideas you you could you open to external ideas you ask people for ideas you support people that have ideas.
But some people say you only learn great things by mistake.
And I was wondering when I read about you about the first fast cap was that a mistake.
Did you screw up really badly in your wood workshop so that you had to fix something very quickly.

[10:45] Oh very good boy. I never thought about it that way. Yeah I’m sure I was covering the deep back.
Yeah I was covering screw holes that screws that work put it perfectly in the melamine had cracked a little bit around the edge and it didn’t look good to the customers I had to put a cover over it that covered feedback.
I guess in reality yes that is not that is accurate. Yeah. It was.
It was I was covering a mistake or something that was not very appealing to look at because maybe my craftsmanship wasn’t at the highest level.

[11:16] So that was approximately is what’s the end of the 90s. So that’s more than 20 years ago ninety.

[11:22] Yeah. 97 97 is in basically August of 97.

[11:27] Did you have at that time already that enthusiasm for that lean innovation thing for that improvement did you know about lean innovation at that time.

[11:38] Well that’s a great question and this is something that I talk about a lot when I speak all over the world and this is the point.
So you take someone like me who’s naturally curious who loves to experiment who is OCD loves organization and you would say oh oh Paul you’re naturally lean.
Well maybe but not really because people who are highly organized people who like to experiment people who are always looking for better ways to do good things they’re not necessarily lean thinkers.

[12:12] And this is the big deception that’s going on. And this is what I had to be careful with myself because I had all those attributes.
What makes a lean thinker is someone who realizes that it’s not enough just to improve and find better ways but a lean thinker understands,
that most of everything they do is wakes,
a lean thinker understands that there are eight different kinds of waste and those ways are intersecting every thing they do every day.

[12:50] So if you’re OCD and you’re always improving you don’t really understand me.
You don’t really understand the depth of what Lean is all about.
You don’t really understand that this word mood or waste. The Japanese word is mood.
You don’t really understand the little tiny word m you D.A.
Packs so much power that it could literally rock your universe.

[13:16] Most people don’t understand that they are way others ways. Oh yeah. Get rid of waste all the time. None and you don’t understand that little word moved out,
is so powerful. It’s like a new killer reaction. And the minute you understand that it’s intersecting Every Breath You Take.
And your job in life is to eliminate it.
So instead of getting one lifetime you live 10 lifetimes that elite thinker or you do the work off of 10 people at the same time you got.

[13:53] Music.

[14:00] So Lena’s really simple super simple really simple and super powerful.
It’s that little tiny word but yet at home it’s massive.
When you really capture what’s going on.

[14:17] OK but now you’re talking about it’s not at the end but after more than twenty twenty five years of a journey.
What was the like the initial thing for you to look into,
into the lean in. What was that like. There was some initial phase or spark for you.

[14:40] Yes. Here is what happened. OK. So I talked about this in my book quite a bit but here is what happened.
Essentially it takes someone like myself who I wasn’t a good student and I really struggled in college even though I got straight A’s or I was just the dumbest kid out there.
But the bottom line is everything I did in life pretty much.
I was very successful at I invested the real estate a very early age I became very wealthy at a very early age.
I had a beautiful home. You know I I knew how to put one plus one together and make something significant.
I was trained by Bob Taylor the world renowned guitar. He’s a very close friend of mine. I talk to him every night every day but I talk to him regularly.
And I’ve been surrounded by very smart people my dad was an engineer.
John dynamics f cruise missile F 111 Atlas missile project.

[15:35] I had a lot of people around me that influenced me to make me very successful.

[15:41] So you got the picture here and then I went business of the year and then I was making hundreds of thousands of dollars a year my company was very successful.

[15:48] I was like one of those guys you look at and say Damn that dude’s good,
and then the Japanese came in and looked at my operation after I’d won,
business of the year and the bank told me they would give me any amount of money I wanted because I was so good and the Japanese said you suck,
and then when I went to Lexus and I went to Toyota.

[16:17] And I saw them I go. I saw.
That’s when I read. That’s when the light went on.

[16:24] That’s a very similar story. Like Porsche had in the beginning of the 90s.
And this was probably wasn’t as hard for you to hear something like that as it was for them.

[16:38] Well I wasn’t as good as Porsche. So you know it was easier for me. It was easier for me to know.
There were there were world renowned acclaimed car manufacturers. So no it was much more difficult for them.
You know they had a lot that a lot more history than I did. But I’m sure there were similar similar difficulties that they had to overcome.

[17:00] Yes they are basically just around the corner from us here.

[17:03] Yeah. Well I drive I just say you know I everything I have is Toyota even even though I drive a Porsche I have one course and the most beautiful Porsche in the world.
A limited edition spider. You know 918.
It’s outrageous. But the only reason I have that car is because it’s a Toyota I mostly that because Toyota help Porsche rebuild and re,
that’s why I was I had never own it I’d never own any other car because Toyota is the best in the world.
Well Toyota came in you know the story with Porsche and the rest is history. Now they build extraordinary quality.

[17:43] Okay. So if you complete that sentence the Toyota Production System is.

[17:48] The greatest philosophy of how to organize people and resources in the world.
OK. How’s that. How’s that.

[18:02] It sounds good to me. That’s what it that’s what it is.
It’s it’s not the best car maker. Detroit is not the best carmaker in the world the best manufacturer in the world.
And they’re not perfect and they think they’re terrible and I work with Toyota and Lexus all the time in Japan. I mean Toyota all the time.
I work with the vice president elect says they think they suck and that’s why they’re so good.

[18:26] I think you have to have a sense that certain being humble about what about your achievements.
And there’s always room for improvement if you understand something like that. It’s you will get everywhere.
I think yeah one of the philosophy one of the principles from the president of Toyota is that the moment you think you’re good that is the beginning of the decline.

[18:49] Yes. I see what you mean. I also see a lot of parallels between like the production system or lean,
which is very much oriented on organization and manufacturing to the stuff that I do which is like focused on product creation service creation business model creation,
which has lots of overlaps with because there’s organizational parts.
You have to do continuous improvements all the time because. And listening to the customer all the time outside is no innovation possible.
Right. I feel a lot about these things and I’m using some of your videos in my workshops as examples I’ll show people but tell people to watch that,
because you have such an intensity that helps people to understand these things. Quickly.

[19:42] Well I’m in Kansas because I love it. I’m intense because it improved my life. I mean because every day today I’m going to have a better day and tomorrow.
So why wouldn’t you be happy about that what’s what system or philosophy can systematically produce that outcome. I don’t know of any.

[19:59] OK but see you are very intense. At least that’s what comes across in the videos.
Do people feel like volume next to you sometimes.

[20:09] Yeah yeah yeah yeah people yeah yeah yeah. People.
Yeah. Exactly. People get wound up when they’re around. Yeah. If that’s what you’re asking.

[20:17] OK. So you like the fast fast charger also for a lot of people.

[20:23] And I I like and I like that and I enjoy that because of people around me. People are you know people are hyped up. People are really paying attention.
And I love it when you have great ideas or when you have a cost that you want to deliver and that want to people to pick it up on it.
You have to be driven in a way. Is it Is it possible or is it necessary for such a driven this to be trained as a woodworker.
Have OCD get a degree next vacation.
Having worked as a minister and teacher is playing the guitar and stuff like that to do something like that to be such Drew so driven.

[21:04] I mean that’s a mix of skills mix of skills that will probably just because everything fascinates me.
I mean everything I look at I’m curious about.
I don’t know why. I just maybe because no one ever slap my hand.
You know when I was trying to figure something out and if people ever do try to slap my hand I slap back because I think it’s very important for people to experiment.
So this is the culture that I’ve created vast job is everybody is running experiments all the time and nobody gets their hands slapped.
OK. Very important so we don’t. I understood that my father and my mother allowed me to run an experiment I’m very lucky.
And so I allow my people to run the experiment and anybody that kind of tamps that down or dismisses that idea.

[22:03] They’re not going to be on my good side for very long. They certainly won’t they certainly won’t last very long around me if that makes any sense.

[22:12] Yes I understand. I’ve written a short list of eleven points that hinder innovation and that what I did is I simply,
use all these examples all these sentences that you know we have never done that before. That will never work and stuff like that.

[22:28] Right right right right right. You want to know the biggest thing.
I’ll tell you the biggest thing Dr. Reichman that it limits innovation more than anything else is just one thing.
If you were to get rid of this one thing everything would go crazy.
Ego ego. Yes.
I’ll explain. So when one were innovating here at Fast camp,
and we come up with an idea and let’s say one of my associates my engineer or whoever it is comes up with an idea as the very first thing that will come out of my mouth is that’s a great idea. I didn’t think of that.
Your ideas better than my if the leader always feels like they have to be the smartest when they have to come up with the idea you will kill innovation so bad.
But we have fostered this culture where everyone’s always giving credit to the other person.
And it’s just explosive.

[23:23] I’ve seen the video that you created. Who are the 2 percent.
And right. And it has. I will link that in the show notes.
I like that listed. It is so perfect.

[23:34] Music.

[23:42] But still if you are if you have if you want to do something if you have to convince something you have to be convincing yourself.
You have to have some sort of ego so that is possibly some sort of balance between summer.

[23:58] Well I’m a very competent person.

[24:00] I’m very very competent but I think I understand I literally understand the physics,
of what happens both chemically emotionally psychologically and physically when a human being hears the words.
That’s a good idea.

[24:28] And I will take my ego or my need to be the one and push it aside so they can see and experience,
that that element wife,
you even take these things to such a level that you use these concepts and and discreet use that for private life lean the lean lifestyle let’s put it that way.

[24:57] You’ve written books about it. Yeah.
I’m gonna transform leaned into let’s say the private life right.

[25:06] Well let’s let’s let’s go back a little bit. So lean is not a lean. It’s like the simplest concept in the world.
We wanted his back outlets much back out 5000 years.

[25:15] OK lean is not something that’s new necessarily.
It is really what I call historical principles of greatness. These are this is the wisdom of the age.
And it really is can be summarized with one simple concept,
mankind was made very very special and unique.
We have this massive computer up here and this ability to solve problems and be created which is very unique.
There aren’t any other species like us and I would I believe personally that we were designed and made,
this special way and our purpose was to solve problems and improve and and understand and reason,
and all lean is is a focus on maximizing our purpose our real design,
so all Leon is doing is creating a culture or an environment where the very essence of why we were created is,
utilized and supported.

[26:31] That’s all it is. It’s such a simple concept.

[26:35] So everybody is an innovator.

[26:39] Everyone is an innovator. Everyone. Oh my gosh everyone.
We have special needs people that work here. We have blind people we have people who are quadriplegic. We have people that have.

[26:53] Every last one of them are just incredible OK. Yes yes. Every one of them.

[27:01] And if you break this down this continuous lean process and if you transfer that also to a continuous innovation thing is what I understand from you is you.
You do that in very very small steps. So to second line culture.
But two seconds every day is one of the most important things for you to fix what bugs you.

[27:26] That’s right. We’re just developing a habit. We’re just just like you get up in the morning and you walk into the bathroom and you grab your toothbrush toothpaste and you brush your teeth because that makes sense to do that.
Right. But that’s a habit or you get up in the morning and you make coffee every morning. It’s a habit.
All we want to do is create a small habit. It’s like making coffee as a small habit or brushing your teeth.
Small habit the habit of looking at something and say How can I make that better.
That didn’t work very well that bugs me.

[27:56] And then stopping and doing something about it that’s all too second mean suggesting,
OK I sometimes talk to two directors CEOs and they say oh no I have to invest time people don’t do that work.
If they do something better if they make that if they think about improvements.
That’s called a big contract victory right.

[28:23] Well well well that’s true.
You do have to invest time and money and do it all before but then then this is the other distinct feature or characteristic of a lean thinker vs.
An average person a lean thinker is long term,
they think long term they understand that there’s an investment up front but in the long term things are going to be way way better and they have a totally comfortable with spending money now knowing that they’ll be a perpetual,
or a return in perpetuity over and over and over again.
Nay nay nay. Wholly understand that math equation a lot of people are short term quarterly earnings.
You know all the other stuff and got to look good for the board and all that I could care less buying stuff.

[29:15] Oh yeah I see what you mean.
And especially if the argument is it’s two seconds a day I’m going to improve something that will over time be an hour save an hour for example.
But the investment is also very very small but in the end after a year or several years there will be huge huge savings nature’s right.
So give me what happened to me yesterday. So for the last four weeks we’ve been going through a transformation here at Fast cap and I have spent what eight hours a day for four weeks.
My time is very valuable you know trying to solve some problems.
And yesterday on the shop floor at 5 o’clock in the afternoon I was watching someone do something and I and also I had an epiphany. You know we don’t need to be doing that.
And then we ran a tests and indeed the test proved out what I was saying. So I spent four weeks of my time eight hours a day trying to solve a problem.
And yesterday we had the solution the problem and the problem will increase productivity by three hundred percent for 10 people a day.

[30:31] That’s substantial.

[30:33] That’s that’s staggering.

[30:36] Now this is not from a neophyte company this is from a company that again everybody comes to watch and learn from.
This is from a company has been doing lean the Toyota production system for 20 years.
This is from a guy who works in Japan who lead study missions who works with the top leaders in Japan Toyota Lexus.
You would think I would have had it figured out by now. Right.

[30:58] Well nobody’s perfect but that’s how radical that’s how radical of a transformation that can occur on a regular basis with everyone in perpetuity.
Yes I’m very lonely. You really stepped shot at staggering now.

[31:17] I can’t wait till the interview is over with. Even though I’m totally enjoying the interview with you because I’m a run out there we’re going to start implementing you know what I mean.
I’m so excited I can’t stand it.

[31:27] Yeah especially if you know that it’s going to help and it’s going to be a bit a lot of fun also doing it and seeing the results.
Yeah I see what you mean so let’s hurry up.

[31:39] No no no no no no. You know what I’m saying. I’m just saying yes that’s what’s on my mind. I can’t wait to go out there. Try it. It’s going to be incredible.

[31:46] OK. And but that that is sort of something that you have built on and over time you start collecting people around you that feel the same or something similar that do something similar that react similar if they are not the same.
I suppose nobody can be driving force up that’s cost us as much as you are.
You sort of in invite these people into you into your company as visitors as potential,
potential people that work for you that participate in the company and you even take people on on large tours you even have video is taking people on your tour of the company.
I’ve checked you had more than six hundred thousand YouTube views for your production to us.

[32:33] Oh yeah it’s crazy. It’s crazy. He has millions and millions of people have watched our videos.
It’s it’s incredible. And everything shot with the iPhone.
We have no film crew. We have no video production. Everything is just go by my boat instantly. Boom boom boom.
It’s unprecedented what we’re doing because it’s so simple.

[32:53] I’m using these examples. Also you’re not only a lean maniac you’re also a video maniac.
And I think it’s so important to document these things and to quickly quickly sort of transfer these ideas and and stuff like that via video and the iPhone is very very simple to use.
I use it myself all the time for everything. I’m preparing an online course right now with my iPhone.
I have a very lean setup for the for the podcast and stuff like that so I know that is important.
Oftentimes people don’t understand that even when I’m showing them your example it’s crazy because it’s so simple.
The simplicity and here frightening them.

[33:35] But but here’s the key in my mind.

[33:41] We should not spend very much time trying to convince those people we should put the message out there and find the people that get it and spend all of our time working with them,
otherwise we spend so much time and energy trying to persuade people.
And I made this mistake. I never do that. I just Look I’m. Oh you don’t get that. Get out of here.
When you when you when you wake up when you figure it out. Come on back. I’m happy to help you but I’m not going to. You can’t beat someone who’s not hungry.

[34:13] Yes I understand and you’re very vulnerable and open about that in the video and I think that’s great because you attract these people that are on that level that to understand the accomplishment right.

[34:25] Absolutely. And the beautiful thing is I had thousands of those people around the world. I mean I can’t keep up with the number of people contacting me all day long.
So it’s not like I don’t have people that want to learn. There’s so many people so I focus all my time and energy so I’m not wasted on the people that want to learn and not the people that want to tell me all the reason why they can do it.

[34:41] OK. Ben you’re a teacher you had a also a trained teacher but you’re also an entrepreneur.
Now you’re showing everybody the way your company works.
So you’re not afraid of competition you’re not afraid of losing somebody stealing these ideas.

[35:00] No I’m not. I’m not at all because first of all there are a couple things people that would steal the idea don’t have the right.

[35:14] Ingredients to compete with me. Right.
Because my whole philosophy is to get everybody’s participation.
People who steal other people’s ideas are about themselves. They’re not about everyone working as a team.
So I’m not threatened by them. Number one. And then the second point is the people who see me and see what I’m doing.
They have a certain level of moral turpitude and character.
And those people tend to be attracted here so they’re not out to be nefarious towards me. Does that make any sense.

[35:57] It doesn’t seem to fully understand what you’re saying. But it’s not that often that people are so subtle so open about their ideas about the way they do things and about their solutions,
because again in my eye I approach life very philosophically.

[36:17] I’m not.

[36:19] I really thought deeply about what’s going on in life and how the universe works.
And I understand that you could you could perpetrate all the evil in the world but good prevails.
And it is way more powerful than evil.
And so I choose to be on the side and doing the right thing and helping other human beings and helping them improve their life.
And so far in my life and fifty nine years old that’s worked out pretty damn good.

[36:52] Did that flying help you with that with that thoughts with these thoughts.

[36:59] Well wine wine had such a huge impact on me in many many ways.
Number one again I told you I wasn’t a very good student and it really is the very intellectual pursuit.
Flying is very difficult. The kind of wine I was used as instrument rated flying at twenty nine thousand feet.
Fly I flew to Germany I’ve flown all over the world are flown to Rome crossing our land three times.
So the answer is fine develop my my my intellectual acumen developed my ability to be very precise and not screw up my client.
Also allowed me to see the world and there are a lot of people in the world.
I mean it looks like there’s a lot of people in the world but the world is wide open. I mean I can’t even tell you.
It’s just so wide open people say we’re overpopulated. I’m glad you’re not a pilot because there’s nobody. The place is empty.
I mean it’s just vast empty empty everywhere.
You know not to mention the oceans. I mean but it make makes you really realize how small you are and how insignificant we are. That’s my perspective.

[38:11] I’m enclosing that sort of capsule of high above the ground.
I remember in my private pilot’s lessons flying from 12 to Maui and there was just water everywhere around us.
It was credible and there was just a little boat somewhere underneath me which I circled around and it was it was just a vast openness and which was very eye opening to me.

[38:40] Also I think you know I was very you know exact you know exactly what I’m talking about. And I’ve just flown across the United States and just open there’s no one. And I’m just like.
It’s incredible incredible.

[38:52] I drove across the United States many many years ago and it was just cornfields for a long stretch of this trip.

[39:02] I know I know. I mean certainly there are pockets of density of people and I’m not that I. Not at all but it’s it’s wide open.

[39:11] OK so you recommend learning how to fly or at least using the Microsoft flight simulator for having some ideas about flying.

[39:20] I think keep yours if you take aviation seriously.
I think it’s one of the most wonderful things you could ever do in your life.
It puts you in a whole different state of mind you know because you’re a pilot and you would probably agree with what I just said right.
You’re not the same person after you’ve learned how to fly a plane. It’s a different world.

[39:39] It gives you also a different sense of confidence about yourself I think.

[39:42] Absolutely. So but you need to take him seriously. I would never tell you when to dabble in it.
It’s a very serious thing. It’s very safe when you do it properly and that’s why I sold my plane to Why don’t fly anymore because I was flying two times a week incinerated in a very very adverse conditions you know lots of icing lots of bad weather.
And as soon as I started flying once every two weeks once every three weeks it became so dangerous.
And even now he’s very experienced with thousands of hours and you know flown in the most difficult situations 500 airports I mean that I knew oh I’m going to kill myself. So I sold the planes.
So it’s a flying it’s also about repetition of certain things you have you on it all you have to be very current.
We call it as a pilot you have to be current you have to you have to be very fluid because I’m fortune in my case my plane is gone almost three miles an hour the second you make a mistake it only takes two or three seconds for everything to pile up on you and it’s over with.
So you have to know what to do when to do it. You have to be very fluid and not like oh what would I do there.

[40:48] It’s too late. OK. I’m very much with you. I had some of these similar experiences also.
I didn’t fly that much and after I saw that it takes so much experience and keeping up with new regulations and technology and stuff like that I quit because I didn’t have the time to do it anymore.

[41:09] Do you see that’s all you that’s really the measure of your intelligence because most people aren’t smart enough to realize you know this is really dangerous right.
Most of it was of the ego you know because even people said to me Paul how can you quit. Why.
Everyone knows you as a pilot. You know you’re renowned for that. And I said I don’t care. I want to kill myself.

[41:31] Yes I see what you mean. It’s also an ego thing.

[41:34] Music.

[41:42] But I have such deep respect for the amount of diligence it takes to go on and get a matches and a page there.
It’s a big deal so I and I learned also just so you know from my German culture my German training that the Germans with junior teachers they have a deep respect for teachers.

[41:58] So I I I learned that deep respect for the professor the teacher and I learned that from Germany.
And so I always want to be respectful of that because I think it’s a big it is a big deal. Whether you say it is and it’s a very big deal.

[42:15] Yes. And but you also uses yourself you get a lot of respect for being a teacher coming,
through a very intense school of your manufacturing your company your dry Earl Germany also which makes it even more credible.
I think yeah I think I think experience is the most important thing.
Ultimately I think what you can marry good knowledge and experience together you have the magical alchemy that’s very important have good good underpinnings and understanding of the way systems work but then habit.
Married with real world experience and I think that’s why I’m so passionate because I’m not talking goes theories right now.
I’m out on the shop floor doing this every day and it’s the most incredible experience to be able to do what I do.

[43:06] And it took me a while to figure out what is so special about the things that your company does what it manufacturers,
and when you when you look at it very closely you find out that it is important that there is a measuring tape that has similar in LA some several things to,
be adjusted or to put it on the on the wood or whatever so.
So everything that you do or your company does is about nifty features and great times saving tool right.

[43:36] You got it. Exactly.

[43:38] Exactly. We’re just solving the things that bug us. That’s all we’re doing.
You know you put your tape measure on your side and you have to struggle with that split second to get the belt clip the clip.
So we put a thumb. We put a thumb release on there saying just press that it opens up every time.
Nobody is nobody did it but we did it.

[43:56] I don’t know what Wildes was thinking but I think there’s also a special way of how you create that.
OK. The first things you you created yourself the fast cap as a as a major idea and you’re still expanding on that as far as I can see.
Right. But then you started to ask your your people for ideas they came up with ideas but you also put out of web page and you say if you have a great idea that would fit with fast cup submit this get it.
Give me an idea of it. I will. Well from progressing the idea together.

[44:32] Yeah oh all day long. I mean and betters all day long. That’s all I do. I mean it’s just interfacing with these people all the time with their great ideas.
I mean we have a I have a on what ZAP.
I have something called a beta tester channel and I have all these woodworkers from all over North America who are who have become friends of mine.
And they’re also experts in their industry. And every time an Inventor Sends me a new idea I give it to the beta testers and I asked them what they think about it,
and so I’m just total connectivity with my customers in the real world.

[45:09] And I think that’s very very important. So you are connected to creators you are connected with potential customers and they are open to you and help you with their advice.

[45:19] Yeah. So another big thing here Clowes that’s so important is that is the way people access me.
So if you go on my website my phone number is right there.
I mean my cell phone number and no I mean we’re a big company we were 40 countries we do tens of millions of dollars with a business.
Nobody would. No president would ever put their cell phone on the website. I mean it’s just insane.
But yet I know I do it because I understand the principle and that is I want to be in touch with the real world.
I don’t want anyone filtering anything from me ever.
So everyone can get a hold of me so simply nobody ever struggles to get a hold. Did you struggle to get a hold of me.
No it’s easy peasy. It was pretty easy wasn’t it.
Yes and I answered right away. No assistant came.
Well or much drinkers will talk to you on this shirt I got calls. What’s up.

[46:13] Yeah and you react right away. It starts a conversation starting right away and it’s very easy to start to get into that conversation.
And if it leads somewhere that’s good. If it doesn’t lead anywhere.

[46:24] No no no that’s the end. So of course let’s go back. Let’s try. Let’s digress just a bit with that.
So the people that want to rip me off. Do you think they have. You think they’re doing this.
You think the people who want to steal my ideas are are that fluid and that open to new ideas from all these people.

[46:45] Oh it’s they their system is ripping stuff ups off so they know where to check for new ideas where some like certain patents and stuff like that and then ripping right patents. That’s their system.
Your system is different. The whole system is being open being open to this and starting a patent and process bringing that on the market right away and not wait for six months and stuff like that which I think is very important.

[47:12] It’s just difficult to compete with someone that is that agile.
I mean I’m not saying you can’t but our agility the speed the fluidity in which we move is pretty daunting.
Yes and then if anybody ever did rip me off would you people have we just we just out innovate them so much that their products become irrelevant literally we put people out of business people have ripped us off,
and then we just innovated so quickly they just quit Yeah.
That’s the best thing I think to do. Then see what you do in this situation also that you create several win win situations.
It’s for your company is for you it’s for the inventor it’s for the people working at the company for the partners for all these vendors that are connected to you and for the customers in the end that know how where to go for the good stuff.

[48:04] Right. So it’s a it’s a it’s a network. It’s a win win win win win whatever situation that was created.
And I have a theory about Westinghouse and Westinghouse sort of performing over Edison using actually the same thing that you do here.

[48:23] OK. I didn’t know that. Go ahead tell me your story.

[48:25] OK. If you’re talking about innovation and innovators and stuff like that we always talk about Edison we use Edison as an example he has 14 hundred patents in his name and stuff like that.
And we hardly ever talk about Westinghouse. His company developed AC and I think EDISON DEVELOPED DC right.
So that was a test test. Tesla was Tesla’s Westinghouse right.

[48:51] Tesla was working with Westinghouse and lots of other people were working with Westinghouse so Westinghouse himself had like 500 patents or something like that on his name.
But his whole network had at least 14 hundred network patents in their name.
And so what he did he was sort of helping the others to do something that he could do himself basically. But he would let them have the glory. Let them have part of the action and stuff like.

[49:21] I need to study that cause I didn’t know that. And that’s powerful because that’s exactly what my model is. He goes all the way with what the political will stop you. Let’s go. One more thing I could say the reason why I do that is because my target is to have a good life to be happy.
I’m happy when other people succeed and everything is just about me and me getting all the glory. It’s not really happiness.
Does that make sense. So great. Let somebody else get the credit. I don’t care.

[49:51] OK. And since he made sure that you have people around you that sort of tick the same way as you.
They sort of understand this message and they pick up on their opportunities on the way to do something.
The possibilities to do something themselves in this context.

[50:08] Yeah. And ultimately the target is to make the world a better place.
Who doesn’t want the world to be more peaceful more happy more people give it a lot more people collaborate in solving more problems so people can live a longer and more healthy and more prosperous life. That’s ultimately the target here.

[50:24] And by spreading a philosophy that enables that and fosters that is very very satisfying.

[50:33] OK. Well the cynics would say something very very different but it’s sometimes very hard to fight these cynics or these cynical comments.

[50:43] For now I ignore I ignore. They’ve always they’ve been they’ve been. I’m a student of history.
Those cynics have been around forever and they always lose.
Ultimately though they win if they win short term but they don’t win.

[50:57] Okay. I mean you just kind of look at the world today. I mean would you would you not take the world today over the world 200 years ago. Come on.
I mean we live in the most epic time. People say oh my gosh we have all these problems I’m gone.
You have no frickin clue what problems are you need to read history.
I mean you were lucky you lived at 30 years old just 80 years ago. Yes.
And today we had the most advanced medicine in the world. They could do remote operations people are living longer.
I mean we have capitalism and the free markets are spreading worldwide.
What is the wall came down. I didn’t come out. I mean it’s just like look at me and I’m I go to Vietnam you know in the 60s and 70s we were battling and killing each other over there.
You go there now. It’s the most incredible example of the free market that I’ve ever seen in my life.

[51:50] You know I mean Nancy credible was going on everywhere this channel has been almost everywhere.
There’s lots of opportunities opportunity for opportunity everywhere every everywhere.
Yeah. OK I’m with you.

[52:05] So the cynics are there that they don’t understand history they’re on a student history of a student describe it.

[52:11] It’s hard to go anywhere in the world. Certainly there’s bad things going on.
But there’s a very important phrase and this is the where this is really one of the driving things in my life compared to what I learned this from Dr.
Thomas Sole professor from the Hoover Institute at Stanford.
He’s a he’s an economist and he’s brilliant. And I read his books all the time and the big concepts compared to what. So.
So you talk about all this stuff. But compared to what.

[52:44] Compared to 80 years ago compared to 30 years ago where 40 years ago we’re living in paradise.
This is unbelievable what’s happened. The advancement of man.
You want to make it sound like we’re a bunch of what we’re we’re destroying everything.
You have no clue about history and what has transpired.

[53:02] OK so compared to what I always think that like dead trees and dinosaurs have really propelled this this,
this development and this good lifestyle that we’re having right now,
we need to sort of find new ways to decarbonise and still keep the lifestyle.

[53:27] Sure sure. We will and we will be it because if people are free to think about and solve problems we have innovated ourselves through just about everything that’s been thrown at out so far.
We’ll work it out. I don’t get all stressed out about it we’re gonna figure it out but everyone wants to wring wring their hands and we have all the.
And like just give it just give it five years. You won’t believe what will happen.

[53:54] OK so but actually to say something like that you have to be really really crazy about the possibilities of big ideas of knowing that big ideas can change things and end or that people,
really working on something can change can change things. So we’re back to the crazy I think.

[54:13] Yeah. But again big winner winner big ideas. So in reality clubs big ideas are just the the accumulation of small improvements.
So every day you are Musk wakes up and he makes all his thousands of engineers are making all these little improvements and then all of a sudden he announces we’ve got a new way to make solar panels. We’ve got a new way to launch someone to the moon.
We’ve got a new way to land a rocket back on Earth that isn’t just a big idea.
That’s accumulation or the aggregation of marginal gains every day.
Everyone working together to fix all these little things and all said boom we’ve got it.
But there is no such thing as a big idea in my mind. It’s really the aggregation of marginal gains.

[55:00] Is that did that help you to train for stuff like your two time iron man runs to lose weight.
I get a lot of hits and stuff like that. Absolutely.

[55:12] Luli Oh my gosh. That’s exactly how I did it. You know when I looked at how most people train for an ironman I thought I don’t have the time to do that.
But if I get up every morning and I do 50 pushups or 100 Barbies and I don’t go to bed until I’ve done that I’m going to be in a whole nother level of fitness.
Then if I worry about whether or not I ran five miles by 20 miles and swam one mile I wouldn’t worry about that.
I just focused on doing a minimal amount.
And then if I could work on extra things beyond that I did it but and then it was the aggregation of all the all those small little all push ups and herpes and everything I do.
I’ve been to Ironman and I’m old guy that used to be fat and overweight.

[56:04] He’s.

[56:05] Just such a video maniac that you post the videos of you being bit chubby and being ripped out.

[56:14] Yeah I know big guy but I want people to see what can happen. I mean my transformation has been nothing but I mean it’s unbelievable.
I can’t I well I can’t believe it now because the reality of my transformation was so simple healthwise. Here’s how simple it was.
Stop eating sugar sugars in everything. It’s in salad dressing. It’s an everything you put in your mouth.
It’s got a package around it read the ingredients on the back.
There’s sugar in it. So get rid of the sugars. That was the one thing and then started eating real fruits and vegetables every day and that’s it.
That’s all you. But you look at what most people eat it’s all crap.

[56:50] Right. They’re not eating real food. As soon as you start eating real food and get the sugar out of your diet you get thin and ripped. It’s that simple.

[56:57] It’s that simple. What made it that simple. What made you understand that.
Was there something special in your life that said open like a heart attack or something that changes now.

[57:07] Well what. Well the story is very simple I can tell it in 60 seconds. I had just an Everest base camp in Mt. Kilimanjaro.
I worked for a year and a half to get in shape to train to do both those mountains.
It was very difficult. And I thought Wow I’m pretty I’m pretty but now I’m pretty I’m in pretty good shape.
I didn’t want to lose that that that physical prowess that I just accomplished and so I happen to happenstance read a book called Eat Sleep move by Tom Ross.
I think it was Tom Roth wrote it and basically he said what I just said you.
He said there’s sugar in everything. Stop eating the sugar and start eating real foods.
So to recover from Mount Everest base camp I went to Thailand for a week because it was so you read my book you know I had to.
There’s a big disaster at Everest when I was there. Fifty people died in avalanches and stuff.
And I got flown out in a helicopter from Everest base camp. So I flew out.
I was out early like five or six days early. I want to recover I was cold. I went to Thailand.
I read this book on the plane when I got landed in Thailand. I woke up in the morning went to the breakfast bar and I only put fruits and vegetables on my plate and an egg. But I didn’t do any sugar no bread not all of the crap that everybody else.
And in one week I’d lost like 45 pounds.
And I go I’ve never lost four pounds that fast in my whole life.

[58:25] And I thought maybe there’s something to that. So I just kept sticking with not opening packages and eating real fruits and vegetables fish things like that. And I just kept losing weight.
And I go oh my gosh this is like brain dead simple. I just kept doing it. The rest is history.

[58:42] Now you have even more energy to be driven and follow more of what is driving you and Mom What’s your passion.

[58:51] Two or three acts more. Because when you when you’re physically fit and you’re not overweight.
Oh my gosh it’s it’s insane what you can do.

[59:03] Not to men not to mention just the way people look at you.
I mean when I walk into a room and people see me as old as I am and then I’m fit and my tone they go how do you do that.
Nobody looks like that 59 years old. Well you know it’s really simple.

[59:19] You stand in for this for this passion for this driven.
It’s for you. Is there something where you say I don’t want to do this anymore is there a certain place where you say you want to stop.

[59:31] Not for me. My my my target is just to train up more people around me who carry on the vision and so succession is is is really,
powerful so I see all these people helping other people living a life that’s full and meaningful.
That that’s that’s my end game right there. It’s not for me to sit back and I’ll guide you at all. No. I love being pushed.
My target is that my target is the ski when I’m 100.

[1:00:02] You were talking about succession and what you’re also saying is that you sort of trance you built a culture of lean,
which could be trends which is a culture of innovation in your company and in that work and people around you you’re picking up off things from others. You’re you’re giving back to others.
You’re supporting them so you sort of you have shaped this culture right.
Is that always the the job of the boss to shape the culture of innovation in a company.

[1:00:36] You know the number one goal for the leader of a company is it’s not the CEO it’s the chief culture officer.

[1:00:45] The culture is everything. And that is something that the top leader must nurture and protect jealously.
Is there other people that are as crazy as you around and fast cap that that will sort of,
carry you may maybe not as crazy as me when I’m in the facility but close when I’m out of the facility.

[1:01:13] That’s the honest answer. I mean there are people very very passionate here.
There’s no question about it but when I’m in the facility I’m kind of the leader. So you know that that.
That kind of takes over but they’re all crazy and they’re all doing it just like me.
But as crazy no maybe not as crazy when I’m here but when I’m not here.
Yes they become the leaders and they become the crazy ones.

[1:01:43] You are crazy.

[1:01:43] What went wrong in your childhood.

[1:01:51] No don’t worry about it.

[1:01:53] No it’s a great question what went wrong in my childhood. I think if there’s one thing I wish would have been different.

[1:02:04] I see you have to remember my pet my mother is very poor right.
My dad was raised in a farm in Colorado. Farmer lost the bar.
My mom was 1 9 9 sisters immigrants from from Greece lived very poor couple bedrooms nine girls.
You know it is difficult life right.
And so what they provided for me is a solid middle class foundation to improve upon.
I mean to go to the next level. So I don’t fault them for that.
But if I said if they did one thing differently I wish they would have spent more time nurturing me educating me refining me exposing me to,
two more things to be more deliberate about the way they developed me.

[1:02:56] For what. For where they came from. Compared to what. Remember. Compared to what they had.
They did a spectacular job obviously.

[1:03:05] I I would I would have loved to have gone to a military school I would have loved to have been gone to a refinement school.
I would have I would have loved to to have been coached to go to Harvard.
You know I would have loved to to be involved in politics at an early age to be exposed to political people. So I could understand that world.

[1:03:29] But they did with the means they had a very good job.

[1:03:36] Does that make sense. Yes it does. Paul we are.

[1:03:41] You have. You have given so much of your time for this conversation. I am very thankful for this. I’m very grateful for this possibility.
I owe it to you to sum up Otto to end this conversation. I have some some questions.
It is like from your own products. Do you have a like a favorite tool a favorite product that you prefer over all the others.

[1:04:08] I’m just thinking I use them all every day. What. What is my favorite. Oh yeah. Yeah absolutely.
Yeah. I had to think about it because I have 800 products so I had to think about Which one’s my favorite example.
Without a doubt Clydesdale came into the baths.
It’s so huge. It’s the biggest selling product we have and it’s something that I interface with every day and I interact. I mean everywhere I go it’s in front of me everywhere I go it makes my life easier it’s in my car.
It’s in the drawers in my office it’s and I don’t have an office but at my desk like stand up that it’s on my scooter. I have it on my scooter for all my tools. Yeah. Kaizen.

[1:04:47] It really grew on me. It took me a while watching some of your videos to understand the case and foam.
But I think it’s very very very good idea.
And in the end I think it would be even better if it didn’t read too much foam. But you had smaller cabinets so that way it would be even more lean right.
But you have to start somewhere you probably have drawers and you start with the case and foam and at some point of time when you recreate the facilities you start including small items.

[1:05:21] I think the beautiful thing about Kazan and it actually is a reduction product because yes in order to put everything in the foam you have to lay everything out that you have and you find that you have six nights to four screwdrivers and three pairs of pliers and you really are a what.
So you sort all that stuff out of it and now you just have one of everything you need. So it really is a great elimination towards great reduction too.

[1:05:43] I think that’s perfect. So the elimination and reduction is a very good tool for you as in your life.
Do you have like another favorite innovation tool.

[1:05:57] Well anything to do with the fast cap. The original product is really really cool because we used fast cap.
It’s this vinyl material with this really amazing adhesive for everything from making labels to covering screw holes to putting striping on flooring.
For I mean we use it for everything.
It’s just it’s everywhere OK.
And to get to something like that I have to think that you probably like the morning meeting a lot to transform things to to communicate and,
and have a great innovation tool that doesn’t take much time but is really really really important.

[1:06:44] Yeah the morning meetings. It’s the it’s the cornerstone of who we are. It’s how we create it.
It’s how we sustain is very important.
It’s how we sustain this culture. Most people don’t understand the importance of sustaining something.
So anytime you start anything in life it is a absolute total waste of time.
If you’re not capable of sustaining that so we started leaving and we were not able to sustain it.
It was in and how we did the morning meeting that we put in place the habit that would help us sustain what we were trying to do.

[1:07:30] Paul that is a perfect ending.
Thank you very much. Thank you very much for your time. Thank you very much for taking the time for this conversation.

[1:07:42] Good luck with the next project you’re working on right now. And I know you can’t get wet hit back. Yes.

[1:07:49] Perfect. Great. Thank you very much.

[1:07:53] My pleasure. Clausen was a pleasure. I love how wide ranging that subject was and how long it was because we really got to talk about a lot of different things. So is it my pleasure completely.

[1:08:04] Music.

[1:08:11] That was my conversation with Paul Akers.
He’s putting out there a lot of videos and books. I posted links in the show notes.
Subscribe to the podcast for automatic updates and your favorite app. And please leave a review at Potts Chase or dot com slash the 2.5 you’ll help others to discover the show.
Also check out listen notes dot com podcast resource. I have just discovered.

[1:08:44] Thank you to music producer emacs for creating the music for the show.
My name is Klaus the 2.5 conversations connecting innovators is being hosted in Baden-Württemberg in Germany thank you very much Paul Akers for the time and dedication.
Run the experiment, you never know what’s going to happen.

Music by

Immex – Soundcloud & conversation


Run the experiment, you never know what’s going to happen.

Paul Akers
Previous ArticleNext Article

This post has 1 Comment


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


Designer/ideas man/brand expert/teacher Marty Neumeier – about his no BS approach to ideas, the purpose and limits of business books for innovation, achieving minimalism in creating and learning from The Grateful Dead

In this episode my guest is Marty Neumeier a Designer/ideas man/brand expert and teacher. We are talking about

  • that you don’t have to be a genius to be an innovator
  • about the importance of dreaming as an innovator as well as making and continous learning
  • about the importance of a vision for making to get to results
  • about focusing and leaving out the bs in business books
  • and about learning from The Grateful Dead.
Marty Neumeier in conversation with The 2pt5

Marty Neumeier is an ideas man and a teacher in the best sense of the word.

He has written several books about branding, creativity and innovation which became classics in their field. Marty is full of energy and ideas, and the conviction and hope that his ideas truely add value for the readers or his course participants (he just added Masterclasses to his line of focused business books).

Marty Neumeier’s Books

Marty is no fan of business BS. He cuts straight to the point without oversimplifying things. “I have just tried to make it simple” is one of the hardest thing to do, dodging the irrelevant to focus on the important.

THE BRAND GAP (2003) and ZAG (2006) come to mind instantly. The phrase “A brand isn’t what you say it is—it’s what they say it is.” is common knowledge now. In his third book, THE DESIGNFUL COMPANY, he addressed how business leaders can build a culture of nonstop innovation. One of his secrets: “If you wanna innovate, you gotta design.”


In his live Masterclasses, he is bringing his teaching to a next level: the classes are for professionals that put in an effort and want to evolve their knowledge, networks and careers. Find more information and enroll for classes here.

find Marty Neumeier on

read Marty Neumeier’s books

at Amazon

watch and listen to Marty Neumeier

  • on the “How Brands Are Built” podcast
  • Innovation Workshop Video

music by Immex – thank you!

The 2pt5 mailing list


(This transcript was created automatically and still includes some typos and errors.)

This is the 2.5 conversations connecting innovators Episode 2. My name is Klaus. In this episode my guest is Marty Neumeier a designer, ideas man, brand expert and teacher. We will be talking about that you don’t have to be a genius to be an innovator about the importance of dreaming as an innovator as well as making and continuous learning about the importance of a vision for making to gets two results about focusing and leaving out the B.S. in business books and about learning from the Grateful Dead. Marty Neumeier is an ideas man and a teacher in the best sense of the word. He has written several books about branding creativity and innovation. The Brand Gap, ZAG and the Designful Company among his books that became classics. He is full of energy and ideas and the conviction and hope that his ideas truly add value for the readers or his course participants. He just added master classes to his line of focused business books. Let’s start the conversation.

Marty. Thank you very much for taking your time talking with me on The 2pt5 podcast. I’m very honored and I’m a big fan for a long time now. Welcome!

Marty Neumeier
My pleasure Klaus.

Marty are you aware of the Neumaier station in the Antarctic near the South Pole.

Marty Neumeier
I am not. Maybe I should be looked at up. Is it spelled the same.

No actually it’s not spelled the same. But Neumeier is is a German name actually. And and it’s the name of this the Antarctic station situated on some iceberg in the south. And experts have some sort of iceberg.

Marty Neumeier
Might my ancestors came over to turn to the US in probably 1880 something like that. My great great great grandfather and grandmother. I think they got married and then came here came to the US. And that’s kind of all we know because it’s like we don’t know about are past. It’s all been sort of erased by immigration.

I like that you have kept your name new Maya which is kind of the German spelling. But kept the English pronunciation.

Marty Neumeier
Yeah we just give up trying to correct people right. If they want to call you knew my or you just nod and go. Yes.

Yeah. It’s the same with with my name. Oh I was so happy when Star Trek introduced Commander Riker. His name is sort of spelt differently a bit but now I can say it’s like in Star Trek, since Reichert is just impossible to pronounce.
When everyone’s zigs. What do you do?

Marty Neumeier
You zag! Obviously.

You zag. Why obviously? Is it about breaking rules all the time?

Marty Neumeier
I know not all the time but where it counts. You have you know you have to be different. So you know we are. We all have a tendency to follow the leader. That’s how we learn. But you can’t be a leader by following the leader. Eventually you have to break away and ask people to follow you. So the most successful companies are the ones that have followers that have imitators so imitators don’t do well in the marketplace though they always make their profit margins are less and so forth. So you want to be number one in your in your niche or your your marketplace your space and you can’t do that by copying number one OK.

Basically what you could do is copying number one and reduce the price which is actually not a nice position to be in I think.

Marty Neumeier
Yeah branding isn’t about lower prices unless unless that’s your whole idea. That could be a strong brand but usually it’s about getting more people to buy more stuff. Higher prices for more years.

Yes. Have some consistency in the the way you deliver a product that you build trust with with your customers and that people can know what to expect when when when they buy something from you. But that’s sort of sometimes in the wave for for innovators because if you do something really new people don’t know about this. They don’t know what to expect because it’s something that was not around before.

Marty Neumeier
Yeah it’s difficult if you have something completely new you have to teach people what it is and why it’s of some value to them and that’s difficult. So it’s usually better to to relate it to something they already understand.

I understand that teaching is really an important thing for you. You’re not a university teacher you’re not a teacher at school and stuff like that. But you write business books you picked up the business book as a medium for teaching and you have a very different approach to business books. I think your books are very different. There’s always not a lot of pages. There’s always a worksheet there might be a video and they are always shopped to a point or to the point that they want to make. There is no B.S. involved at least from my point of view. How come you don’t like B.S.?

Marty Neumeier
Well you know it’s it just took time consuming for people. Why not just get to the point. That’s the whole idea of of being a communicator. Right. Is to get to the point quickly and make it stick. And that’s a skill that I’ve honed by being a graphic designer for many years early in my career and then a copywriter and the whole idea of being a copywriter is you grab somebody with a headline with some sort of promise and you buy it.

Marty Neumeier
After about 100 word you you’ve got them to buy something or at least be open to buying something. And I don’t see why a business book should be any different. I don’t I don’t think more is better business but whether it’s why just throw you know hundred thousand words at people with you know you know ten thousand ideas when they can’t remember more than four or five in any way. So I just think stick to a couple of good ideas make sure people remember them and can unpack them over time.

Marty Neumeier
In other words every time they think back about a principle they find a way to apply it. So so simplicity doesn’t mean simple mindedness it means compression. That’s why I look at it you take a big idea and you compress it down to something small enough for people to get their heads around. And but all the information is still in there. And so that that thing that they remember reminds them of all the other things they need to know rather than treat all information as equal. You know because in a business book some things are more important than others other things so you need to make sure people understand the hierarchy of importance.

But everybody else or many other authors are taking a different drought. And so what do you do basically is you’re not taking the safe route that everybody else is doing.

Marty Neumeier
Yeah that’s right I’m differentiating OK. Takes guts. Yeah. Well yes it does but it’s almost the other way is almost guaranteed to be to be a failure. So by just doing what other people are doing you have no reason to be in the world. We need you. So that me that’s that’s dangerous. It’s much safer to strike out at least Bill you know be a little bit different and try to try to find an audience a constituency for what you’re doing than it is to just be a pale imitation of somebody else or copy someone else and make a few superficial changes to what they’re saying to me that’s that’s a waste of time. And and you know it’s dangerous to your career because you spent all that time doing something that nobody is going to care about.

Well there’s still a lot of books that aren’t. Let’s put it that way famous but probably also end up on the couch table have a being read for just a few pages or the first chapter. And and you know you could you could argue you’re just plain lazy because you don’t write a lot. Sorry. But I’m also quoting or paraphrasing you I’ve just tried to make it simple. And but from my experience it is much harder to make something simple and to come up with something minimal than to sort of elaborate yeah yeah.

Marty Neumeier
That’s where the work is is continually polishing it to you get it to the simplest possible expression. That’s true and useful right. I mean something could be true and not useful. So you want it to be both. And you know I arrive at these I call them conceptual toys they’re just little ideas that you can play with that are fun and don’t demand too much. You know cognitive work to understand and you know I spend every morning in the shower just trying to figure out how can I explain this to somebody you know whatever point I’m thinking of what’s the best way to explain this. And so I put a lot of work into it. Hours just for one sentence sometimes but those sentences are all pieced together into one integrated whole. And so that that make it even a little bit harder so everything I hope that everything I say in all my books makes sense with everything else I’ve said in books that I don’t count myself.

So have you encountered that situation that you contradicted yourself in a later book.

Marty Neumeier
Yeah early on. Yeah not so much anymore because I’m aware of it now but the thing is once you read a book it’s there forever. Yeah. Yeah.

Has in my from my PhD research I spent a lot of time in the libraries looking at really really really old books like a three 400 year old books and that’s quite scary. If you think about that that things can be around for such a long time.

But even then let’s wonder if there will be like an e-book reader far into a hundred years that will be capable of reading today’s books but still I have the problem with this book that I’ve got from you it was the first book that I got and it’s the innovators innovation toolkit sorry and it’s a combination of video and and a book and I am running into the problem that I don’t have a DVD player anymore. That’s why me so I can still read but the stuff on the electronic stuff on the on the silver silver disk is just not accessible anymore.

But I’ve seen that you have you’re also offering this video as a download on the web which is why I don’t even think it’s available as a product other than a download. Yes you know that that whole technology is gone so.

You can see that you contradict yourself sometimes in later books which sort of is a thing that is connected to learning also so well for you.

As a person as a designer as a human being is it very important to have be such a lifelong learner.

Marty Neumeier
Well of course it is. That’s been that’s the advantage of living long. You have more time to learn things and get better at things and be more yourself. All those kinds of things. It’s a gift if you can. You know the longer you live the more chance you have. Although I don’t think I’d want to live forever. Big fan of a nano life’s lifespan but some people do you know there are people that really want to live forever and would if they could they could take a pill and live forever they do it.

Marty Neumeier
They’re all in Silicon Valley.

So I understand that that might be a nice possibility. There’s also vampires that live forever and I understand. It doesn’t really appeal to me to lead such a life away from everybody else.

Marty Neumeier
I’m not really that person either.

Me too. I like the mornings. But actually to be able to see these things and to to you have to be sort of knowledgeable of a lot of things you have to have made a lot of experiments. You have to have. I have talked to a lot of people. And then there’s this big phrase and I don’t remember from whom this is. That’s the more you know the more you wonder about what you know. It’s that sort of a problem for you always.

Marty Neumeier
Yeah it’s true the more you know the more you question everything including yourself. I’m threatening to write a book someday called Confessions of a brand man. As a sort of tribute to David David Ogilvy who wrote Confessions of an advertising man back in the 60s when you read his book The Confessions aren’t really confessions. They’re basically stories of how great idea. But I haven’t those stories like that. I have no stories of greatness about me. But I think it might be interesting to see what a struggle it is to to learn this kind of thing and be successful in a an area like branding which is fairly abstract branding or communication or strategy. These are all fairly abstract disciplines with a lot of failure and the only reason I can write about this at all is because I’ve failed so many times. I don’t think there was any other way. I used up all the ways of failing. So I’ve tried them all and I’m the kind of person that always does the wrong thing first.

OK so you hit you. You hit your knees a lot and it hurts a lot and left your marks on the legs. That sounds like you. You don’t think you’re a genius yourself.

Marty Neumeier
I do not. Well let me take that back. I think everybody’s a genius at something almost everybody or at least they have the opportunity to be a genius at something but probably not everything. I really believe that people should in the course of their lives specialize in something fairly early to master it and get a feeling for what you know what that’s like to master something and then spread out from there as opposed to learning everything a little bit and then find the thing that you don’t know anything really very deeply. I think that experience of going deep into a subject is really important. It’s also important to know enough about the world that you can bring other ideas into your specialty. And from there you can leap over to another specialty and add that on. You can go laterally but that’s what I’d like to see people learn. I think it works better but that’s maybe that’s just me.

Does that mean that you focus on the strengths you have or focus on the weaknesses and build on that?

Marty Neumeier
I think you want to neutralize your weakness does while you build on your strengths. And eventually maybe some of those weaknesses turn around or they become strengths but I think you know the problem we all have is we have to compete in the world. We have to find a place to stand that where we can do something better or in a new way to liberate ourselves from everybody else. Otherwise we’re not very valuable. We’re just you know interchangeable parts in a in a business world. So we want to have something we can say like this is the thing I do better than anybody else and I want to be paid for that right. I will be paid more than someone else. So if you don’t have that it’s just more of a struggle. And so that’s what I wrote a book called meta skills that talks about that many skills are skills that lets you learn other skills like if you’re a good learner that helps you learn about other things you know that’s that’s gotten similar to meta cognition. It’s knowing what you need to know or feeling what you need to feel. These sorts of things five of them I think are important in a world where innovation is crucial. And the book was really a watershed for me because I learned a lot from the research I did. It’s unlike my other books it’s you know it’s big it’s three hundred and fifty pages 30 pages of notes you know tiny type where all this stuff came from. So I really started to think about how how much we need to change education to be in tune with the world that requires more problem solving more creativity more human interaction and because because the old way of learning and the old schooling system just doesn’t work doesn’t work as well. Much like it’s built on a factory model where everybody learns the same thing and they come out at the end with the same time they stop in time. The end at the same time they learn the same things. Everything they learn is already known you know. So how do you teach people to learn things that aren’t.

No I I think it’s really interesting that you coming from the US say something that everybody in for example Germany which I have a better grasp on on what is going on is also saying and and from what I understand you say is something that it starts with feeling. It goes on with scene and there’s dreaming making which sort of is the opposite of dreaming. And then again learning and I was quite fascinated by these seemingly different things are contradictory things in this list.

Marty Neumeier
Yes they are there. I think they’re complementary. So so feeling and seeing our complementary feeling is about intuition and emotion and that sort of thing and then seeing is more about systems understanding systems. So it’s more logical those two things need to be together they’re sort of opposites but they need each other. And then making and what’s the other one. Dreaming dreaming dreaming is kind of wishing or thinking to yourself wouldn’t it be cool if what if what if and you can work yourself to death and never achieving anything. You know I mean you have to make stuff. So yes dreaming is no good without making it. And if you don’t know how to make money so you need you need those skills design skills making skills but making without having a vision is not going to get you anywhere either. And then learning is really a possible farm of the five things learning is just kind of accelerates all the other for that kind of learning and talking about there is really more formal learning either by reading or going to school or taking classes going to workshops or formal things. And some people are good at that and somebody bored so it’s but it’s good to be good at those things feed off of each other. They all relate to each other and make each other better.

For teaching or for learning this several mediums to do that. And you talk a lot about all you have written a lot of books and you talk about books and books are a great way an accepted way for several hundred years to learn something new and also get into some bring the reader in some sort of transformation to do his or her job better for example to learn something about something that this person has never been exposed to before some new point of view or a new skill. But a book also has boundaries. Now we have video we have courses courses that were around for thousands of years but we have online courses for example and stuff like that. So what is not teachable via a book or what is best teachable by a book.

Marty Neumeier
Well that’s a good point. I think what’s teachable by a book is we’re writing so you can learn to be a writer from reading books. You don’t even need to take a class. Although I still think having a class and having a mentor would help anybody. Yes. And having peers who could review each other’s works all that’s really important. They all have their advantages. I think people overvalue what video can teach as opposed to books. I think books just pack a lot more inside but you need to be able to unpack it. You need to be a good reader a critical reader. You need to be willing to take those ideas and try them out. So people who don’t have that sort of they’re not self-propelled into doing that might do better if they’re in a group where there’s some peer pressure to do the work right. So that would be school. Yes classes. But I think they’re all you know everybody has their own way of learning and I think I think they should gravitate towards those things that work for them. But I certainly wouldn’t rule out reading. I’m not counting books on the on the endangered species list. Oddly enough I mean I think they’re just they’re under appreciated in the US because we have so much technology we’re doing so many cool new things that people are distracted from from books. And that’s one of the reasons I prefer Europe. People read that bookstores here. It’s great it makes me feel great. So I’m actually thinking of maybe moving my publishing activities to Europe where there’s there’s more effort going into the production of books and there’s more readers making the centre by centre of gravity. So I’m looking into that on this trip. Among other things and I probably will do video courses someday if I should live long enough. But right now I’m focusing on live masterclasses. Yes. For people who are really serious.

So what do you started to do is offering these live master classes and what I understand is is that one of the first ones or second year now is is happening in Europe in this October.

Marty Neumeier
Yes. Well we. We did the first one in London and that was in March and that was a big success. So we decided to do more cities with the same class. It’s the level one class. There’s gonna be five levels. Level one is the basic you know branding one or one. It’s a great class in a lot of people that’s all they need is that first level and they’ll be transformed their whole idea of branding will be transformed. So we’re bringing it back to London and also Hamburg and Glasgow Bordeaux is now closed. But those five. And then we’ll be coming back again in probably April. I think something like that with the second course and so you can take two if you want. If you’re very ambitious you could take one then two things might be too much for people to do that.

But it would be for the genius amongst us.

Marty Neumeier
It’s one of the on geniuses only for that. Yeah. So yeah the second the second masterclass will be focused on strategy. It’s a brand strategy goes deeply into that. There’ll be a very fascinating classic and I’m loving these classes because the people who come are very very motivated. They’re pros already they’re already in the field working in the field or at least the graduates of a of a program in marketing or strategy business something like that. And and they just bring a lot of energy to it and it’s for some of them. Some of them it’s the first time they’ve worked collaboratively with other people in other disciplines. So you know we break into teams and we take a fictitious. We can we create a project for each team and then they take it in two days they take it from beginning to end and a prototype that brand. And what’s really kind of surprised me is how much people bonded over the first one. I mean it’s a little business to start it up after people met in this class. They started working together and collaborating either sort of unofficially or even creating new business to business relationships with each others and other people got better jobs after this really better jobs. Thumbs up thumbs up. The idea though is that if you take all five at one end you graduate from all five levels in the program you are able to take on the role of CBI chief brand officer in a large company which is a new role that’s just emerging. And it’s a very it’s a role of high responsibility and high compensation higher than anyone ever thought. I mean it’s it’s almost up there with CEO status so that’s not for everybody. We’re not going to have a lot of graduates but we’ve already got people from the very first class taking those kinds of roles just from the first class. Amazing. So I can’t explain why I think they were already very talented before they took the class but I think it just gave them probably a better understanding of where they fit and what their value is. Other people reported that they just landed huge clients that they never thought they could handle and now they have a really better understanding of how to structure the work. So I’m really encouraged just to keep doing this and I hope that some of some pros from Germany come to the Hamburg class it’s October 29 and 30.

I will provide a link in the podcast show notes and the episode’s description.

Marty Neumeier
You can go to to see what it’s about.

Yes. So that way you you introduced another way to interact with the brand education let’s put it that way it’s not a good word. I’m just lacking some words. Another way also to interact with you because in the book it’s just it’s there’s the personal voice on the pages but you will be attending these classes you will be hosting the classes. Yes. No it’s the it’s the most fun thing I do is interact with everybody and.

Marty Neumeier
Just get in the playpen with them you know and you know we can learn to gather and I have my partner Andy Starr who helps you help set them up and runs the business part of it. And he also is a great teacher and helps the teams. He goes around it helps the teams compete with each other. Okay. It’s really fun and very learning the full learning that we’re learning from.

It’s a good word. You referred to that brand office on that new role that is sort of upcoming. Does that have anything to do with the popularity of design thinking.

Marty Neumeier
It would definitely include design thinking because branding is depends on the design design thinking which means design thinking is essentially thinking with your hands you know. So you you imagine something that wasn’t there before you you prototype it you see if it works you make changes to it you prototype it again you test it in the marketplace. That’s the process for creating anything new so. So I would say the Chief Brand Officer is the most important person in an in teaching the company how to do this at every level. I mean I think design thinking isn’t just for designers it’s just a way of approaching a problem where you don’t know the answer in advance know there’s no formula for finding out the answer you have to the test. You have to try other things you have to imagine a solution. And if you haven’t been taught how to do that. That’s pretty scary. So I would think that chief brand officer would be running classes or making sure that people understood the process of design thinking because it applies to anything in the business really it’s how honest a salesperson persuades a nice client and a good client to come along with with the program you know with to buy something from the company. It could be how strategists think how all that all the the elements of branding are put together. New processes in the company how do we work together. That’s all design thinking can explicate that too.

And it introduces the idea of creativity that people can be creative even if they themselves don’t really think of themselves as being creative.

Marty Neumeier
Now we’re all creative here. We don’t think so often and often we’re not consciously creative but we don’t we don’t understand the process of creativity and so I think that’s something everyone could could learn from. I think they’d be really surprised at how key they are if they’re doing it deliberately and they’re actually you know there ways to to get at that. And you know I’ve taught workshops on that too. And I can say that almost everybody surprises themselves when they know how to do it.

So you don’t need to be a genius to be an innovator?

Marty Neumeier
No you don’t. I do believe in genius but I believe that everyone’s. Everyone has the ability to be a genius in something if they can find it and develop it. And what happens is a lot of people don’t realize they have that potential or are afraid to to explore it because maybe it doesn’t exist already. Maybe there is no category for that kind of genius that they would fit into. They have to create it. And so now we’re all learning how to express ourselves in the best possible way and make the most of our lives. And I think there’s a lot to learn from design thinking processes about that and the fact in fact there’s at Stanford that they’re running classes on using design thinking to to to envision your career and to to to to guide you along your career.

I think it would be a great help for young people. Sounds strange but I’m 50 to have such a course done by you because you come to the point. Straight to the point you would you could help a lot of young people with doing such a course.

Marty Neumeier
Yeah I hope I am going to do and cause I’m writing books about it and giving workshops where I’m where I have a sponsor but I don’t have a way right now of running design thinking workshops on their own but it’s it’s folded into my brand workshop. So it’s part of those. OK. We’ll hit the wall. We’ll hit that pretty hard in the level three. I think it hasn’t been designed yet. So we’ll see.

OK great. Maybe there’s a small spin off far especially aimed at the young people trying to find that certain thing in their lives.

Marty Neumeier
Well I hope it’ll just be taught in that university should be it should be.

It should be taught at school.

Marty Neumeier
Yeah. School period or trade school. Know it’s not it’s not just a white collar skill. I mean everyone should learn how to do this.

So you’re a believer in some sort of method tool kit that helps us to to sort of develop creativity develop some sort of idea methodology to to see a vision to sort of create create things to create things and it doesn’t matter if you’re a doctor or a lawyer you know you don’t think of lawyers creating anything but I think that can be very creative and often are creativity and problem solving therefore they are almost siblings.

Marty Neumeier
You know they use the same skill set you know Sherlock Holmes you think of him as really logical but he was inventing solutions to problems that he could imagine a solution and then he wasn’t just reading the tea leaves and then tracking back to the to the original of the of the problem to the murderer and stuff.

Yeah. And I see what you mean. Is there an exercise we could name in the Sherlock home exercise. No but it’s an exercise that you. Like a simple thing that you recommend to people to do something like that to be individuals to be innovative but one that I like and it’s it’s not mine.

Marty Neumeier
I mean it has existed for years is where you you you try to fight. You look at a subject area. Let’s say you’re trying to invent something new with a brand or a company or product. You you you you make a list of everything that’s known about that. Like what are the assumptions about that subject area. And then you reverse those and you see what happens when you reverse it. Usually you come up with the world’s worst idea because there’s a reason why that successful thing is the way it is. But that’s successful industry but in reversing it. You’ve you look at it from a different perspective and you can say OK so that’s horrible. But what would we have to change about that reversed idea to make that a winner. So you’re starting from a different place a very wrong place. I said I do everything wrong at first. I think it’s helped me quite a bit in some ways. So you know let’s say that you want to reinvent banking retail banking. That’s a subject everybody knows a lot about because we all use a bank right. So you make a list of all the things that banks are like. What’s it like to go to the bank. What does the bank look like. What is it what the bankers do. Well see when you go to the bank it’s usually in a retail space and it might have some columns in the front and maybe some teller windows where you go to the and you know you wait in line you go up and you do your transaction. It’s got a safe in the back. It’s usually very solemn because it’s serious business it’s money. Yes. And you don’t you don’t you don’t you know take your lunch in there and eat it you know you wear shoes. It’s not relaxed not relaxed and that’s fine. But what if you just said well what’s the opposite of that. Well it’s it’s it’s not in a retail space it’s you could eat. You can go with barefoot. You can bring food you can bring your dog. There’s no teller windows maybe there’s no motels. So you go. Well that’s that would be the weirdest bank ever. But then you think well OK maybe maybe it’s it’s not in a normal know it’s not in the high rent district in town it’s in like where all the art galleries are and it’s got a concrete floor and it’s all painted white and there’s no people come up to you. They have a laptop or a tablet and they ask you how they can help and you sit down you have some coffee and conversation look the whole conversation. Then you can come there and sit there with you or your cat. Oh yes. Are you snake right. Well chair for the snake. And so that sounds pretty crazy. On the other hand one of my readers a group of people who read my book Zach did exactly that in Prague. And it spread to the rest of Czechoslovakia Czech Republic. It’s called Air bank and you go in and everything’s green and white plastic and fun. And you know it’s. And you can here’s a sign in the window that says you know take off your shoes bring your food. Know that’s OK. If you sign up for an account. You don’t get 30 pages of contract to sign you get one simple page that you can understand. You know they just did everything. They just fixed all the problems and reversed everything and it’s hugely successful OK.

And they’re probably still learning and improving stuff and reacting on things that are good or bad and he’s building on that. Yes they are. Continuous learning is very difficult for him to do in companies and be innovative all the time. You might start us out innovative but then you get you get sort of frozen in time. Is there like a go to exercise that you recommend. And I think No I’m asking for a lot for companies to sort of keep on learning.

Marty Neumeier
I really think that there should be every company should have its own training program. That’s that’s aligned with their own brand. They should develop their own it shouldn’t be something you can learn at a university because anyone can get that from you they should have their own special branded training. Yes. So whatever it whatever it is that’s important to success of that company if it’s continuous learning then they should teach to continuous learning. They should know the matter skill of learning would be great. And then you can put in some processes that make that we feel for people. Let me. One of the things that I did that I thought was really is pretty successful was for Hewlett Packard HP back 15 years ago. Their company was a mess because they had acquired another company and the two cultures didn’t really fit together very well. And they had a culture of everyone for himself. Like every division every region could make up its own rules and use its own brand elements and so it was just a mess. It didn’t look like a single company at all. And they they find something that works and they just keep repeating that for endlessly until it didn’t work. And then they find out that gee that product is no longer needed in the world. We’ve got to start over. So there’s no need for that really. You just have to have continuous innovation. So we work together with HP and they had adopted the slogan of invent invent but it’s for customers it was for them. Okay. Right. We need to invent let’s be invented let’s design stuff and let’s keep doing so because the company was so democratic in a way and diffused all over the world. It was really impossible to force anyone to do anything in a certain way. They just resisted it. That’s just wasn’t in the culture of the company. So we tried something else we created a competition an annual competition around the HP brand which included products and brand communications and processes and partnerships and just about everything the company did was part of the brand effort and we would send out a call for entries and people would fill out a form and send in examples of something they had done that they think pushed the company forward and made a big deal out of judging it at three different levels including outside famous people from the outside coming in and judging the final the final winners. And then we made a big event out of it three days someplace in the world where people would be flown in or the finalists would be flown in and they’d be treated to great talks by important people at a big banquet. And just like you know the Academy Awards you get a beautiful trophy if they were were among the winners and it just inspired everybody to do the right thing without and without forcing it to do it they wanted to do it. They wanted to be seen in the company. They wanted visibility. And that just kept building on itself. And then we had kind of internal magazine online learning where we would take the winners and write an article about the team and how they did it. But the fetishes of their solution where were the takeaways were so if you want to try it here’s what you should learn from this. And then we took those and made those case studies in a training program and we flew around the world to different regions and taught people how to be more creative and innovative. And that that worked. And I think we ran it for five years until they finally knew enough about it that they could take it over internally. So you know I don’t know if that’s a good solution for everybody but for them it was it was it was perfect was just what they needed.

Given their size and their culture to establish such a like an internal university established curriculum established questions answers establish media people that are running such a show and that could be from outside people at least for a while until things start to run smoothly and then it has to be done by people from the company themselves. I think because I think the better acceptance.

Marty Neumeier
And that’s that would be in my view the one of the roles of the CBO chief brand officer to make sure that that is operating perfectly.

Okay great. Marty I’m I’m really fascinated by our conversation. I have a last question. And I think it shows a lot about you. You named a navigation point a section of your Web site. Steal my idea. Yes steal this idea steal this idea right. And what on earth did you think to name this section. That way it’s just very different from everything else on the web.

Marty Neumeier
You know it was just a feeling I had now that you know I think about it. I do know where that came from. I heard a story maybe 20 years ago about a rock and roll group that you may know called the Grateful Dead and The Grateful Dead had a very fanatic group of fans. So you know their audience was they just loved the Grateful Dead and they show up for every concert. The same people would show up every time and whenever the Grateful Dead had new songs there’d be people in the audience with high end tape recorders you know taping these songs and then selling them to each other or making them available online. And the Grateful Dead were going oh wait a minute they’re they’re ruining our business right there. They’re taking these recordings which are not very good live from somebody sitting in an audience and they’re getting them out before we can even put them on vinyl. And stealing our sales and so they’re trying to figure out what to do about that. And one of the people not anybody in the group but somebody like a man the manager or something similar. So we’re just thinking about this wrong. These are our fans without without our fans we have nothing if if they want to you know steal some music and give it to each other is that does that theft or is that advertising that I see that. I’m just. I know people are going to steal stuff out of my books. Why don’t I just ask them to do it and make it easy and given it the actual slide you know given the actual work and they could put it in their slideshows or use it any way they want. I don’t even care if they use my name with it they just want those ideas out there. There’s that. There’s more where those came from so I just keep coming up with new problems to solve and why not give them away. I mean it’s not like there is a limited number of these ideas.

There’s just many many ideas and the good thing about ideas is once they are good for something at least for a certain point in time they become something like a general thing of life that it’s accepted to the and the society accepts these ideas. SS Now own and integrates that into the development of the society in that way. And the simple idea of a person a single person can become very very powerful if it sort of resonates with lots of other people at this point of time organic and people don’t even know where it came from so much the better.

Marty Neumeier
It just seems true. And I get it sometimes I get people online and social media saying oh the brand gap. Well that old thing. Yeah. You know or that and others say oh yeah I read that book. You know everybody knows all that stuff. Yes.

Yeah. You have read the books we have talked about it for a long time. We have discussed these things and yeah it’s common knowledge.

Marty Neumeier
They were new at the times. It reminds me of a time my wife and I when we were in London and we went to see Romeo and Juliet and on the way out there were an American couple in front of us. We heard them talking and the man says “Well what did you think of the play?” She says “Oh I loved it. It’s just that you know there were so many cliches I’m not very myself with Shakespeare but I think the principle holds.” It’s like after a while you know when things become common knowledge they sound like cliches.

So Shakespeare wasn’t such a big author? He just stuck together lots of cliches 🙂

Great. Thank you Marty. I think we should leave it at that and thank you very much for taking the time of talking to me and and adding something to the library of the 2pt5. I think that was very very helpful and it was a great pleasure to talk to you.

Marty Neumeier
Likewise. Thank you so much.

Thank you very much. Thank you for listening to my conversation with Marty Nemeier.


Cole Raven, Podchaser Co-founder about discovering and sharing new podcasts, tools for remote teams, the value of Reddit for business and about serendipity in innovation

Cole Raven is the Co-founder of Podchaser. The platform helps to discover and share new podcasts. It is also a great tool for podcast creators to connect. The company is run remotely by a group of people that partly meet on Reddit.

Cole Raven Podchaser

I have reached Cole Raven, the co-founder of Podchaser, while he was traveling to Hawaii. Incidently a place I have very fond memories of, since I learned flying and received my private pilot’s licence on Oahu.

We talked about the value of platforms for discovery and community building. About remote teams, long time friendships and new friends found on Reddit. About serendipity in innovation and startup.

We also talked about remote companies, worldwide hiring, tools like Slack and Basecamp, building communities. About building a podcast platform, sharing data & credits, a growing central database for podcasts. And about fundraising in the podcasting world and new features coming along.

Enjoy the conversation!

Find out more about Podchaser on their website, follow them on Facebook and Twitter.

Follow Cole on Podchaser

Links to mentions in the episode

Gimlet Media produce great narrative podcasts in New York City

Audio dramas on Podchaser

Zoom helps to do remote work

Basecamp Project Tool and company

Rework – Basecamp’s podcast

Slack the chat tool mentioned

Join the Podchaser Slack channel and help to develop the platform

Podcast Movement

iHeart Media Podcasts

Westwood One with Cumulus Media

PlayerFM podcast app


NPR National Public Radio

The Business Insider article featuring Podchaser

The Reddit conversation about podcasting

The personal Podchaser feed


Join The 2pt5 mailing list

Give a review

If you have liked the show, give it a review on PodchaserApple Podcast or Spotify.


In preparation

Music by

Immex – Soundcloud & conversation