Episode 14: Jennifer Garvey-Berger on Simple Habits for Complex Times [The Amiel Show]

What do you get when one of the world’s experts in adult development, an aspiring novelist, writes a practical guide for organizations on leading through complexity?

Simple Habits for Complex Timesthe new book by Jennifer Garvey-Berger (co-authored with Keith Johnston). What I love about it: not only does it entice the reader to see organizational life through a powerful new lens, it’s a great read!

The book is built around two stories, both with leaders in over their heads in complexity yet willing to stretch their minds and habits to rise to the challenge.

After the great response (nearly 2,000 downloads) to my earlier interview with Jennifer, I just had to interview her about the new book. Fortunately, she was game.


In Episode 14 of The Amiel Show, Jennifer and I discuss (times are approximate):
  • 5:00 How complex systems differ from simple and complicated systems
  • 10:00 Our hunger for cause-and-effect
  • 12:40 The “rich picture of now” brainstorm—and the importance of not being aspirational
  • 17:00 The purpose of safe-to-fail experiments
  • 23:00 Why pilot experiments piss people off
  • 27:30 How job surveys don’t just measure a system. They shape it
  • 33:00 How people create phantom rules that everybody hates
  • 38:00 How complexity principles work at every stage of adult development
  • 40:00 Looking for the attractors that contribute to compliance-based behaviors
  • 44:30 What we miss by assuming we are emotion-less Vulcans rather than human beings
  • 48:30 “We hire the smartest people” and other well-meaning habits that can block learning
  • 53:00 Creating more complex ways to think about performance at work

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Episode 13: David Allen on the Updated (2015) Version of Getting Things Done [The Amiel Show]

Being one of the first to interview the world’s top productivity guru about his new book


It used to be that you were either productive or relaxed–but not both, at least at the same time. Sure, the world’s wisdom traditions have taught for centuries how to move forward in life with quiet minds. But modern organizations were slow to the game.

At least until David Allen entered the scene.


Allen’s 2002 book Getting Things Done not only proclaimed “stress-free productivity” to be possible. It showed people how to do it. The positive results of following the system brought many grown men (and women) to tears. And it led TIME magazine to declare the book “the defining self-help business book of its time.”

On March 17, a week from today, an updated version of the book comes out. (I pre-ordered my copy on Amazon). In Episode 13 of The Amiel Show, David Allen and I discuss what’s new in this version, what’s timeless, and why power naps and someday/maybe lists make life better. We explore (times are approximate):

Episode 12: Joe Greenstein on Flixster & Mindful Leadership, Pt 2 [The Amiel Show]

Here is part 2 of my conversation with Joe Greenstein, co-founder of Flixster, about his story of inner growth and business leadership. For part 1, click here.

In this conversation, Joe and I discuss:

  • The three most common thoughts in his mind that he’s learned to take less seriously
  • How he introduced everyone at Flixster to feedback conversations
  • How to use feedback to create a more enjoyable, effective, and real work environment
  • The big illusion in life that there is only one reality
  • InnerSpace, his new nonprofit venture serving start-up founders
  • What Joe is personally practicing today to grow as a person

I really enjoyed this conversation and hope you will, too!



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Episode 11: Joe Greenstein on Flixster & Mindful Leadership, Pt 1 [The Amiel Show]

Behind every technology story is a business story, and behind every business story is a tale of human beings.

Take, for example, Flixster, one of my favorite iPhone apps. I use it all the time to see what movies are playing in Portland and what the critics think about them. It’s a solid and user-friendly app. That’s one reason why it’s the most popular movie review and showtime app for the iPhone, iPad, and Android. (It owns Rotten Tomatoes).

But that’s not the only reason.


Flixster also has been a testing ground for creating feedback-rich cultures–places where people build constructive relationships and sustained results by talking candidly and respectfully about their experiences and emotions.

This is unusual!

Equally unusual are startup CEOs willing to talk openly about their own path of personal growth–not just what they’ve accomplished, but what makes them tick, how they’ve screwed up, and what they’ve learned about themselves as human beings.

That’s why I am delighted to share this interview with Joe Greenstein, co-founder of Flixster. It’s so rich I’ve divided it into two parts. Here is part 1.

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Episode 10: Jeannie Coyle on Lou Gerstner, AmEx, and Developing Leaders through Experience [The Amiel Show]

What happens when CEOs of large organizations make leadership development a central part of their business strategy? What becomes possible when they personally spearhead this pivotal work rather than delegating it to HR or ignoring it entirely?

In episode 10 of The Amiel Show, talent strategist Jeannie Coyle and I talk about her experience at American Express in the early 1980s, helping Lou Gerstner (who later “saved IBM”) build a powerful pipeline for developing leaders internally. We discuss:

  • The unusual approach that Americal Express took of developing leaders through focused experiences rather than training and complex tools
  • Jeannie’s big risk that paid off: giving Gerstner a one-page summary of high potential leaders instead of the customary big binders
  • How Gerstner created a new culture involving honest, transparent conversations that had never happened before
  • How Gerstner took personal responsibility for developing leaders at the company
  • What it was like to be a woman in leadership at American Express in the early 1980s


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Episode 9: Tim Fort On Leadership And Integrity [The Amiel Show]

The most I laughed in graduate school was in a class on Business Ethics.

Does that surprise you?

It sure blew my mind. After all, ethics has a reputation for being part tranquilizer, part antagonist. If it doesn’t put you to sleep with simple axioms, it rankles you through coerced thinking.


Not in our classroom that term at the University of Michigan. It was more like that famous shot of adrenaline to the heart in Pulp Fiction? Every hour we spent together was filled with rancorous debate, frank stories, and unexpected laughter. This wasn’t just because we had a great teacher and a bunch of characters in the room. What made our conversations so engrossing–and fun–is that we had a safe space to rigorously and respectfully air our differences–not only with each other, but within ourselves. To challenge each other’s assumptions, bring undiscussable topics into the light of day, and wrestle with the complexity that underlies every single business situation–if you know where to look.

Two decades later, I invited the teacher of that class, Tim Fort, now at the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University, to join me for a conversation.

Tim Fort cropped

In Episode 9 of The Amiel Show, Tim Fort and I discuss:

  • Why it’s important and difficult to know which virtue to use in which situation
  • What we can learn about trust and business ethics from Star Wars and football marching bands
  • How integrity is neither simple nor idealistic but a practical confrontation with a complex world
  • How organizations can make it easier for people to speak candidly about difficult issues
  • What leaders can do to deliberately practice high integrity behavior on the job
  • What Tim is personally practicing to develop as a human being

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