Big Little Breakthroughs With Josh Linkner Virtually Speaking Ep. 50

Josh Linkner is a well-known thought leader and author of two New York Times Bestsellers, Disciplined Dreaming and The Road to Reinvention, plus the bestsellers Hacking Innovation and his 2021 book, Big …



Josh Linkner is a well-known thought leader and author of two New York Times Bestsellers, Disciplined Dreaming and The Road to Reinvention, plus the bestsellers Hacking Innovation and his 2021 book, Big Little Breakthroughs.  He is a five-time tech entrepreneur, serving as founder and CEO of each company, driving a combined exit value of over $200 Million. One of Josh\’s ventures was as founder and CEO/Chairman of ePrize, the largest interactive promotion agency in the world. He is a founding partner of Detroit Venture Partners, which helps rebuild his hometown of Detroit, Michigan.

Josh is a weekly contributor to Inc. Magazine, Forbes, Detroit Free Press, and has been featured by many other international media.  He has received high praise from people like Magic Johnson, Seth Godin, Steve Case, and from the chairmen of companies like US Bancorp and Groupon. Josh moves audiences to action with practical and effective approaches to driving better business outcomes via creativity, innovation, reinvention, and hyper-growth leadership. Josh is also a professional jazz guitarist, so creativity comes natural to him.

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Big Little Breakthroughs With Josh Linkner

Joining us is Josh Linkner, a well-known thought leader and two-time New York Times Bestselling Author of Disciplined Dreaming, The Road to Reinvention, Hacking Innovation and his latest 2021 title, Big Little Breakthroughs. He\’s a five-time tech entrepreneur serving as a founder and CEO of each, driving a combined exit value of over $250 million. One of his well-known ventures was as Founder, CEO and Chairman of ePrize, the largest interactive promotion agency in the world. He\’s the Founding Partner of Detroit Venture Partners helping to rebuild his hometown of Detroit, Michigan. He\’s a weekly contributor to Inc. Magazine, Forbes, Detroit Free Press, and has been featured by many more international media. Josh has received high praise from people like Magic Johnson, Seth Godin, Steve Case and from the chairman of companies like US Bancorp and Groupon. He moves audiences to action with practical and effective approaches to driving better business outcomes via creativity, innovation, reinvention and hypergrowth leadership. Josh is also a professional jazz guitarist, so he was meant to create and improvise. Please join me with Josh Linkner.

Josh Linkner, thank you for joining me here on the show. How are you doing?

I\’m doing great. It\’s great to be with a fellow musician. I\’m happy to chat.

It\’s always fun talking to you. We\’re both musicians, which is cool. It brings us right into the topic of creativity, innovation, collaboration, and thinking on your feet. You\’ve been very successful in your career, not only just in the speaking world. You\’re very well-known as a multiple bestselling author and New York Times Bestselling Author. Your latest book is great, Big Little Breakthroughs, which we\’ll get into. Even before you were a speaker, tell us about your incredible success you had as an entrepreneur.

I\’m grateful for what\’s happened so far. I started my career as a jazz guitarist. I\’ve been playing for years. I put myself through college playing music. I still play in jazz clubs around the world, wherever I can. I love the art form. At age twenty, I started a tech company. That might sound weird, I\’d never taken a business class but I learned so much about business from jazz. You figure things out. You course correct. You adapt. You improvise in real time. I had a background a little bit as a tech nerd in the early \’80s. It all coalesced. In 1990, I started a tech company. Fast forward over the next 30 years, I started, built and sold five tech companies, exit value of over $200 million. We created about 10,000 jobs in the process. It\’s a good run. I had a lot of fun in the building and scaling of these companies.

\"VSP Big Little Breakthroughs: How Small, Everyday Innovations Drive Oversized Results

I then went on to start a venture capital fund here in my hometown of Detroit. My partners and I cared deeply about our beloved soul-based hometown that has struggled so long. We started investing in tech startups. Not manufacturing tech startups here in Detroit with the notion of helping to rebuild our troubled city. We said, “Maybe we\’ll make some money. More importantly, maybe we can make a difference.” Without work and a lot of board work and support, I\’ve helped over 100 startups get off the ground. It\’s funny, I just don\’t play jazz. I used to play jazz with instruments, then I started playing jazz when building companies, different instruments. I write books but that\’s using words instead of musical notes. I view myself primarily as a jazz musician that has had a fun time playing around in business.

Tell me a little bit about what does that mean for to be playing jazz in business? When you start a company, you\’re adlibbing but listening well, collaborating, making other people sound good and look good. There\’s a lot of all of that going on. What\’s your definition of playing jazz in business? What\’s your secret to success? I know that the main word for you is innovation. You\’re somebody who loves to talk about that and how to think differently. This is a topic that you hear many people talk about. There are only a few speakers who are the best at it in the world, and you\’re one of them. I\’m curious, how do you look at all of that? It sounds like you start with thinking about it from the jazz musician point of view.

I know there are people that don\’t love listening to jazz. It\’s maybe an acquired taste, but it is a beautiful art form. It\’s the one art form where you were spontaneously composing and performing. It\’s like real time innovation. With jazz combo, you know this but maybe some readers don\’t, there are generally small groups and it\’s very collaborative. You and I didn\’t script out our session. We\’re riffing off of each other. We\’re listening, sharing, building off each other\’s ideas. That\’s what jazz is all about. With only 1% of the notes on the written page, the rest you improvise as you go. It\’s this dangerous, cool art form. Every night is different. You\’re taking responsible risks. You have to perform at your best, even though the notes are not in front of you.

When I look at the modern business world, that is exactly what we\’re doing, not just in startups but in big companies too. In the past, maybe the metaphor was that of a symphony conductor. One person, the CEO, is in the center of the stage and not even playing an instrument anymore. That whole gig was about precision, accuracy and alignment, but the world now is too turbulent. It\’s moving too fast, too much technological change, too much ambiguity. Leaders now need to play jazz. That has worked very well for me on the business front as well.

Your latest book, Big Little Breakthroughs, is about innovation. It\’s about having breakthroughs and something that a lot of people are going to be looking for as we come out of this pandemic. We look at the new world and at the future as far as what can our companies do to lead in this world, partake in this world, navigate through this new world of a lot of technologies and new ways of communicating. Is that what the book is all about?

[bctt tweet=\”We can all be everyday innovators. Little innovations add up to big wins. \” username=\”calentertainmnt\”]

The new book is Big Little Breakthroughs: How Small, Everyday Innovations Drive Oversized Results. It is about those things, but it\’s a flipped upside-down viewpoint on it. Most of us think of innovation as these giant breakthroughs like billion-dollar ideas, moonshots, but to me, that is out of reach of most of us and it\’s wildly risky. Big little breakthroughs is the opposite. It\’s cultivating small daily acts of creativity. Think of them as micro innovations. These little teeny baby innovations, baby breakthroughs are way less risky. They\’re way more accessible. We all can be everyday innovators. We don\’t have to only be for the CEO or someone wearing a lab coat. We\’re building critical skill. Those little wins add up to big wins. It\’s a very pragmatic approach helping everyday people, leaders, people across an entire organization, build and cultivate their creativity.

With the research for this book, I\’m very proud of it. I do feel it was a piece of art. I\’m no celebrity author or anything, but I\’m proud of it for a guy like me. I spent over 1,000 hours in research on this one. I did neuroscience research, academic research, business research, but I also personally interviewed hundreds of people. I interviewed CEOs, billionaires, celebrity entrepreneurs, musicians and tried to decode what are the habits, mindsets and tactics of the most innovative people. I said, “Can we break through the mythical thinking? Creativity is a lightning bolt from the heavens. Can we look at it as a manageable resource that normal business leaders could take, build, cultivate and deploy, not just for the sake of it but to drive meaningful results?”

If you would share with us a 1 or 2 of your favorite interviews that you had, what was one of the more remarkable interviews that blew your mind with somebody special?

I talked to billionaires and famous people and all that, but I\’m going to share one that no one\’s ever heard of. I love these undiscovered ones. I get in touch with this guy who lives in London. It turns out that in Central London, the single biggest environmental challenge is cigarette butt litter, which is a problem in many major cities, LA certainly included. That\’s a pesky problem that doesn\’t go away. They throw a bunch of money at it, but nothing works. Enter this guy named Trewin Restorick. Trewin is not a celebrity. He\’s not a famous guy. He doesn\’t have thirteen PhDs. He doesn\’t wear $6,000 suits. This guy wears wrinkly khaki pants and ten-year-old loafers. He\’s an everyday dude. He had this idea like, \”I care about the environment. I\’m sick and tired of seeing these cigarette butts. I\’ll tinker and see if I can come up with an idea.\” He invents something called The Ballot Bin, which goes like this.

Let\’s say you and I were having fish and chips at a pub. We walk out in the street. We\’re about to throw our cigarette butts on the ground until we see in the distance this bright yellow metal box mounted on a pole. As we get closer, the front of it is glass. At the top, it\’s asking a two-part question like, “Which is your favorite food, hamburgers or pizza?” There\’s a little receptacle under each. It\’s encouraging smokers to vote with their butts. You put your cigarette butt, like I like pizza, so I\’d put it under pizza. There\’s a divider, so it falls on top of the other cigarette butts that you can see. It\’s almost like two bar charts made out of cigarette butts. The thing is it\’s simple, it was low tech and it didn\’t require millions of dollars or government approval, but it worked. When these Ballot Bins are installed, they reduce cigarette litter by 80%. Trewin has started a company. He\’s in 27 countries around the world. He\’s rocking it out. The thing I love about that is this, Chris. If I look at Elon Musk, I say, \”Good for Elon Musk, but it\’s hard to see ourselves in that.\” Yet when I look at Trewin Restorick, I say, \”I’ve got to come up with that. You and me, we’ve got to come up with that.\” To me, that\’s what big little breakthroughs is all about. It\’s finding accessible ways that normal people, people who don\’t have to be wearing a lab coat, that can come up with amazing ideas that can truly make a difference.

I know you\’ve spoken all over the world. You\’ve spoken hundreds of times. Do you find that people are more intimidated than they\’ll let on about technology? It seems like a lot of speakers are talking about technology and all the articles are about technology, how we can embrace it and everything. Do you think that people are still resisting it, are afraid and feel like, \”That\’s for the next generation, we\’ll stick it out, doing the way we\’ve been doing things?\” Do you see everyone embracing everything in business, the way they should be that they have to?

\"VSP Big Little Breakthroughs: There are many examples in business and life where people have enjoyed remarkable success, not by doing what they\’ve always done, but by doing things differently.


Technology in general can be intimidating. Very often if people have enjoyed success along their career, they\’re resistant to change because they\’re basing their decisions on historical reference. That would be great if we lived in a vacuum, but we\’re living in a rate of change like none other in history. I don\’t know if that\’s prudent. Although by the way, I\’m intimidated by technology sometimes too. It can be very intimidating. My philosophy as a speaker, and I\’d be curious to get your perspective because you\’ve been in this business a long time, and one of the best and most respected folks in our field, I find that too often when speakers show up, they think it\’s all about them. They talk down to their audience and they use language that\’s inaccessible. The whole message is, \”Look at me. Look how smart I am.\” I think that\’s wrong. They got it backwards. A great speech is not about the speaker. It\’s about the audience. It\’s not, \”Look what I did.\” It\’s, \”Look what you can do.\”

It\’s an act of service and generosity to give a keynote. It\’s ideally one that\’s crafted specifically for the needs of that particular audience, not a ‘recite your lines’ kind of speech. It\’s connecting it. It\’s helping to uplift people in a way that\’s authentic and real. It\’s sharing things that are going to make them feel like, \”I got this. I can do this.\” As opposed to saying, \”I need to but I could never do that.\” That\’s one of my big pet peeves about our industry.

For me, my strategy is pretty simple. I\’d love your perspective, Chris. I came out of a technology background. I built tech companies. In tech companies, we measure stuff. I started thinking, \”How would you measure a keynote? What would the key metrics be of a successful keynote?\” I came up with two. There are probably others but the two that I came up with are number one, after the event, after the session, is there buzz? Are people energized? Are they fired up? Are they inspired? Are they calling their spouse? Are they talking about it at the cocktail hour? That\’s a visceral thing. It is driven by entertainment, value, inspiration, great storytelling, humor and all that. If that\’s all the keynote delivers, it\’s falling flat because all you\’ve done at that point is driven entertainment value.

To me the second and perhaps even more important metric is what does it look like six months later? Are people still using the language that they learned? Have you effectuated change? Are people making different choices or decisions? Have they enjoyed some type of real results? Have they adapted their approach to their business or life? How do you optimize those two metrics? How do you be energizing and inspiring, and at the same time practical and drive meaningful results as a direct output of the speech?

You have a couple of your own catchphrases and language that you like to leave behind. Why don\’t you share with us one of those, maybe your top one that you\’ve been using a lot?

I probably think we all have our catchphrases. It\’s certainly a catchphrase but I feel like I\’m on this mission to help everyday people become everyday innovators. I suppose it\’s a catchphrase. I feel like innovation shouldn\’t be some members-only club where they stopped accepting applications. It should be for all of us. I\’m passionate about that. If there\’s a big company and they say, \”The creatives, they set up on the second floor,\” that breaks my heart a little. How come it\’s not everybody? It\’s the creatives. That\’s one little catchphrase. The other one that I\’ve said often, and I hate to say it as a catchphrase, but I\’ve observed this. Years in business, I\’ve seen that too often people overestimate the risk of trying something new, but they underestimate the risk of standing still. I think that there\’s a risk in that. We have a responsibility, even when things are going okay. Instead of that “If it isn’t broke, don\’t fix it” nonsense, that we should examine what is working and say, \”Should we optimize it, tweak it, reinvent it or rethink it?\”

You have another one that I was thinking of, which is a moment where somebody does something that is transformative and they think differently. I remember you were telling a story in one of your speeches about the guy in New York who created the tour bus and faced all the seats towards the window like a stadium seating scenario. What did you call that?

\"VSP Disciplined Dreaming: A Proven System to Drive Breakthrough Creativity

He took an opposite approach. Every tour bus in the world seats face forward. This guy faced them sideways, created a big panoramic set of glass, so everybody had an unobstructed view. What I call that is it\’s a technique. The technique is called a judo flip. The judo flip, as I see it, is basically like this. Let\’s say you\’re trying to solve a problem or seize an opportunity. First, start by taking an inventory. What have you always done in the past? What does traditional wisdom suggest? What do others in your field do? What\’s the most obvious way to solve this problem? Then you draw a line down the page and simply ask, “What\’s the polar opposite? What would it look like if you judo flip it?” When you judo flip, you\’re challenging yourself. Instead of putting your seats facing forward, let\’s go sideways. There are many examples in business and life where people have enjoyed remarkable success not by doing what you\’ve always done and trying harder, working longer hours or doing things faster, but rather by doing it different. With judo flipping, it\’s a very fun, memorable way of thinking about trying the oppositional approach instead of the obvious one.

You wrote a few other books as well. I know the book is always a favorite book, but what was the book that did the best of the other three that you think is still relevant?

My first book was called Disciplined Dreaming: A Proven System to Drive Breakthrough Creativity. It established this five-step process. If you\’re trying to tackle a problem, what do you do? It starts by examining the problem. There\’s a way to carefully understand the parameters and what\’s going on. Then you go hunting for ingredients and this hunter-gatherer mode. It\’s a very deliberate process to help people unlock creativity. That was the one that did the best. That was a New York Times Bestseller. It\’s printed in sixteen languages. It\’s still doing pretty well.

Is that what you were doing in your tech companies? Is that probably based on your own experience of what worked for you or was it also based on research with a lot of other people\’s input?

It was both. Different people write different ways. I have respect for everybody. All I can do is share my own. I\’ve written every word of every book I\’ve written. I don\’t have a writing partner or anything. I have some help with research but I do a lot of my own research as well. Every interview, I do myself, that kind of thing. For Disciplined Dreaming and my other books, there certainly are some personal references, but it\’s not a biography on me. I\’m an okay guy but I\’m not an interesting subject compared to the people that I study. I traveled the world and research, learning stories of others and try to weave it all together in a meaningful way to make a point. I\’m not the protagonist in most of my books. I appear as a supporting character from time to time.

[bctt tweet=\”Innovation shouldn’t be a members-only club that stopped accepting applications. It should be for all of us. \” username=\”calentertainmnt\”]

In business, going back even further, what was the moment where you\’ve hit that home run? What was the process that got you there? What was that?

Businesses are to a degree like books and kids. It\’s hard to choose your favorite and all that. I\’ve had a lot of failures. I\’ve screwed so many things up. I wouldn\’t have enough time to tell you all the bad decisions I\’ve made, but I\’ve had some successes. A company that I built that was the largest was called ePrize. We were half ad agency and half software company. We designed, built and ran digital promotions for large brand advertisers like Coca-Cola, Procter & Gamble, Nike and Microsoft. I grew the company about $100 million in revenue before we sold it. We work with 74 of the top 100 brands. We had offices not only in Detroit but Chicago, LA, San Francisco, Dallas, New York, London. It was a sizeable business.

A lot of what we did is with my philosophy back to jazz. We played a lot of jazz. When I started that business in 1999, most people were focused on internet advertising. That was all the rage. I could have done that too. I would have been the 700th internet advertising company, but I took a step back and said, \”Promotion is a large category of the marketing mix but it was largely dormant online. It was like this old school, good old boy world. If everyone else is doing internet advertising, how about instead become the first internet promotion company?” Right out of the gate, I took this oppositional judo flip approach and decided to pursue it in a different manner.

That was our philosophy all along. We had a lot of struggles and setbacks. When the stock market crashed in 2000, when the dot-com bubble burst and we were going after, all of a sudden we\’re like, \”We better go after a big company that can afford to pay their bills.\” That was a difficult pivot. Economic crisis of 2008 was a difficult pivot. We stayed hungry. We had a lot of grit and hustle. Detroit hustle is a harder kind of love, but we applied creativity at every step of the way. I\’m very grateful. I\’ll tell you, the biggest successes and a personal one is the impact that I\’ve had in other people\’s lives. I\’ve had some financial wins and I\’m very proud of that, I\’m grateful and all. One time a woman came in my office like, \”You probably don\’t even know who I am. I got a job here a couple of years ago. I\’m a software engineer. I want to come and say thank you.\” I\’m like, \”Why are you thanking me?\” She\’s like, \”I closed on a house. My husband and I are the first homeowners in either of our extended families.\” She started going on that it helped break a cycle of poverty and all this stuff. By the way, it\’s her success, not mine. I was the one grateful to her but knowing that you played a small hand in that, it\’s so intrinsically rewarding.

There\’s another company I invested in, a guy comes and visits me. His name is Greg Schwartz, a sweet, humble, sincere, kind, smart guy. He shares his idea and frankly, it wasn\’t all that great but I was like, \”I love you. Would you be open-minded? Could you come back and maybe we\’ll do some white boarding sessions? Let\’s figure this out together.\” He was like, \”Absolutely.\” No ego at all, he comes back in. We ended up investing in his company. It gets going, and like many things, it\’s not a straight line. It struggled a bit. It didn\’t turn out the way we had hoped but the little creative pivoting. He then renamed it and we\’ve pivoted it. Long story short, that company is called StockX. It\’s the global leader in marketplace for things like shoes, collectibles and things. The company raised capital. I\’m not an investor anymore, but it raised capital at a $3.8 billion valuation. We invested in that company when it was worth $3 million. I\’m not taking credit by the way. That\’s Greg and his amazing, humble leadership style and that company\’s success, but knowing that you played a small role in something like that, that\’s more intrinsically rewarding for me than any particular winning an award for my whatever. That\’s the juice for me.

As we get through this change of the world that we\’re going through and things are starting to get back to normal, although it\’s a different world, it\’s a different normal for sure for all of us, what areas do you think are the most interesting and are you the most excited about in business where people can take advantage of their own creativity, innovation and apply that?

\"VSP Big Little Breakthroughs: Now is the perfect time to double down on creating organizations that foster creative abilities, not for the sake of it but to drive meaningful results.


Creative problem solving and inventive thinking are these super powerful underutilized assets. They can be directed in a lot of different ways. We know about directing them to come up with a new product idea, but we can direct those to come up with better safety precautions in a factory, or to improve throughput in a production facility. We can apply creativity in a lot of ways to drive meaningful results and growth, especially as the world is changing coming out of COVID. I look at it like this. If you\’re in your backyard there in LA, you learn that there was an oil well, you own the rights to it, there\’s $1 billion of oil sitting there, you\’ll probably wouldn\’t be like, \”No, thanks. I don\’t have enough time.\” You\’d be like, \”I\’m going to tap that asset for sure.\”

I believe that many companies have something similar. It\’s not an oil well but it\’s the creative reservoir of their team that is underutilized. It\’s sitting there waiting to be tapped. If we can do that, it\’s a win for the organization because it can drive progress, and it\’s win for those people because it\’s intrinsically rewarding activity of expressing creativity to solve problems. I\’m excited about that. When you look at that, many of the advantages of the past have become commoditized, outsourced and automated. The one field that can\’t be is creativity, the way we solve client needs, the way we grow our team, the way we win. That\’s what I\’m excited about is that in this new era of business, it\’s the perfect time to double down on as leaders, creating organizations that foster and support creative abilities, not for the sake of it, not to draw on the walls with purple fence but to drive meaningful results.

Don\’t you think that some of the people out there that are working hard at their jobs are less creative than others and all the people you interviewed are super creative geniuses and they\’ve always had that knack or had that ability? Is it something that you can teach, learn or inspire?

I don\’t believe that at all, and nor does the research. The research is pretty clear that all human beings are built to be creative. That\’s our natural state. We are hard wired to be creative. That can look different ways. I play jazz guitar. I can draw a stick figure if I tried. My creativity is good in some areas and it\’s not in others. Just because someone doesn\’t know how to paint on a canvas doesn\’t mean they can\’t be creative. If you\’re running a dental practice, you can be creative. If you\’re on the customer service team, be creative. If you\’re in finance, you should be creative for sure. It doesn\’t mean you should be illegal, of course not, but you should be able to interpret the data differently and formulate reports so that people can make better decisions. There\’s room for creativity in every role in every company.

As human beings, we are built this way. I always like to say that creativity is your like weight, not your height. I\’m a pretty short guy and try as I may, I\’m not going to grow a foot by next month, but with my weight, I can control based on my nutrition, exercise and all that. Creativity is exactly like that. Every one of us, me included, can build more creative muscle. You can build creative skill and capacity, which in turn I believe is the highest leverage activity we can do because it drives the biggest outcomes that we seek.

How does somebody start? Are there steps? Do you have a 1, 2, 3 plan? Have you heard anything that\’s been working for people who come back to you later and say, \”I wasn\’t using my creative juices, I wasn\’t doing it, then I\’m super creative because I changed this, I pivoted this way?\”

One of the greatest gifts that I get every day and one of the main reasons I do this is I hear that all the time. There\’s almost not a day that goes by that I\’m not getting a call, a text, an email like, \”Josh, I can\’t believe it. We had this board meeting. We crushed it. We solved the problem. We would have never done it otherwise.\” I\’m not trying to take credit but I know firsthand, that even the grumpiest people with their arms folded can become more creative and in turn drive real results. How do you do it? In the book, I cover how to do it. First of all, there are eight core mindsets of innovators that I\’ve discovered across interviews and studying creativity. Most of them are cultural intuitive. They\’re the opposite of what we\’ve been taught. There are mindsets and habits. I study in the book the habits of famous people like Lady Gaga, Lin-Manuel Miranda, the artist, Banksy.

[bctt tweet=\”People overestimate the risk of trying something new and underestimate the risk of standing still. \” username=\”calentertainmnt\”]

Did you get to meet with Banksy?

I did not get to meet with Banksy, although I covered some of his approaches. With many other people, I was able to research without having a face-to-face with them. I also then cover tactics. One of the things that we can do is you can upgrade our mindsets and our habits, but even our tactics. I\’ll give you an example if you\’d like, Chris. There\’s a very simple tactical shift that we can make that will boost creativity. You could do it now. Most often when we\’re looking for ideas, we brainstorm but brainstorming is an awful technique. It\’s out of date. It was invented in 1958. It basically yields mediocre ideas. The reason is because fear creeps into the room. It turns out that fear, not natural talent, is the single biggest blocker of creative output. If you\’re in a meeting, instead of sharing your cool, crazy idea, you hold it back because you don\’t want to get laughed at or look foolish. If we change our techniques, we can very quickly elevate our creativity.

In the book, I covered thirteen techniques but one of my favorites is called Role Storming. Role Storming is brainstorming but in character. Your brainstorming is if you are somebody else, you bear no responsibility. You\’re liberated. You can say anything you want, no fear of retribution. As a quick example, I did this with a group of executives one time at Sony Japan. I met this guy who was the stiffest human being I\’ve ever met. Black suit, white shirt, his tie is strangling him. We got this guy role storming as Yoda. I\’ve never seen personal transformation like this. This dude\’s jacket is off, his tie is undone, he\’s leaping around the room and the whiteboards were filled with ideas. The thing is I didn\’t teach him to be creative. He had that all along as does everybody, as do we all, but he was in a role that forbid it. We put him in a new role and the magic happened. The technique is simple. Everybody in the room takes out an actual, real-world problem. It\’s not like a goofy thing. Take on an actual challenge that you have. Each person chooses a character. You could be a movie star, a supermodel, a villain, a hero, a literary figure, a six-year-old, an alien from 100 years in the future. You have to stay in character pretending that you are that person solving the problem. I\’m telling you, the results are breathtaking.

I\’m going to have to try that sometime but I\’m going to stick to celebrities or actors. I don\’t know about the drummers. Plus, you have to know the character really well. You have to know the mannerisms, the accent and the personality a little bit. The more you know, the better, because that could have done something. That guy must have been a fan of Star Wars because he nailed it with Yoda.

He was. It could be anyone that you admire. It could be someone you hate. I\’ve seen great roles from sessions where people are playing the villain. They come up with these evil maniacal ideas. They\’re not going to do something bad, but there\’s a kernel in there that they wouldn\’t have ordinarily landed on. I\’ve seen people like Kim Kardashian, Hemingway, Oprah, President Obama and President Trump. You name it, I\’ve seen people do it. It\’s the coolest thing ever because people who would ordinarily are somewhat subdued. They come to life and these ideas start to flow.

As we get towards the end of our discussion, and I look towards the future with you, I\’m wondering if you\’re bullish on the future, you\’re bullish on creativity and if you think that there\’s an opportunity here for people maybe better than ever in anybody\’s lives to be creative, to be innovative and to be totally trying to change the way they\’re looking at themselves and the way they\’re looking at the companies that they run or that they work for. Is this a pivotal moment? Why is that?

\"VSP Big Little Breakthroughs: When patterns are broken, new worlds emerge. We can\’t simply rely on the models of the past and expect the same results.


I am bullish, and not just out of feigned optimism. I\’m an avid reader. I\’m studying stuff all the time. I\’m optimistic because yes, we are living in turbulent times but turbulent times create new opportunity. In fact, I feel like the entire world with COVID has hit a giant reset button, and people\’s patterns are broken. The way we sell, the way we lead, the way we shop, the way we laugh, the way we love. There\’s an old saying that when patterns are broken, new worlds emerge. Certainly, it\’s taught us that we can\’t simply rely on the models of the past and expect the same results, but at the same time, it\’s opening up wild, cool, new opportunities for us individually, organizationally, even in our communities that didn\’t exist in the past. We\’ve democratized many of the things that kept people down. We all have access to information. Bandwidth is cheap. It\’s cheap to start companies. There are many wonderful things going on in our world despite the challenges, which are real to be clear. The combination of challenge and turbulence unlocks opportunity. I do believe this is the era of creativity.

In other words, maybe in the past, we had to learn other skills and that\’s what got us ahead in business and such. It\’s exactly the opposite. In fact, the World Economic Forum released their future of jobs report. They interviewed hundreds of leaders around the world. What is the most important job skill needed in the future of work? They identified that 4 of the top 5 tied to human creativity, things like originality, initiative and creative problem solving. The hard skills of the past have become commoditized and these softer skills are the things that lead us forward. I\’ve seen it firsthand that each of us can develop the skills. We can dust off the cobwebs and go after it. I\’m optimistic but in a confident, realistic manner, not just in a pie in the sky manner.

People can find that out, get inspired by that, get some tools and some ideas out of the new book. When did the book come out, Big Little Breakthroughs?

It came on April 20th, 2021. It was 04/20 for anyone who likes that date. I was hoping that it would be a smoking success.

Good luck to you with that book. I\’m sure it\’s going to continue to rise and spread around the world like your other ones have. Thank you so much, Josh, for coming on with me. This has been an interesting conversation. You\’re an awesome guy with a lot of great ideas and incredibly talented speaker who I\’ve always enjoyed watching and selling. I look forward to talking to you again soon with lots of new positivity, outlooks and breakthroughs.

[bctt tweet=\”Creativity is like your weight, not your height. You can control it. \” username=\”calentertainmnt\”]

Thank you so much. Thanks for your leadership. It\’s a pleasure to hang out with you. I can\’t wait to not only work together more, but also get to play some music together. Thanks again. It\’s an honor to be with you.

Have a good one. I will talk to you soon.



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About Josh Linkner

\"VSPJosh Linkner is a Creative Troublemaker. He passionately believes that all human beings have incredible creative capacity, and he\’s on a mission to unlock inventive thinking and creative problem solving to help leaders, individuals, and communities soar.

Josh has been the founder and CEO of five tech companies, which sold for a combined value of over $200 million and is the author of four books including the New York Times Bestsellers, Disciplined Dreaming and The Road to Reinvention. He has invested in and/or mentored over 100 startups and is the Founding Partner of Detroit Venture Partners.

Today, Josh serves as Chairman and co-founder of Platypus Labs, an innovation research, training, and consulting firm. He has twice been named the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year and is the recipient of the United States Presidential Champion of Change Award.

Josh is also a passionate Detroiter, the father of four, is a professional-level jazz guitarist, and has a slightly odd obsession for greasy pizza.


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