The Uncommonly

Anticipate, Adapt, Listen

By Amy Radin

The week’s big NYC headline was Amazon’s decision to establish a Queens headquarters.

What a difference a decade makes. During my days as a Long Island City-based Citibanker, friends saw being based there as a form of exile, even though the views were (and still are) are far superior to those of anyone working in Manhattan, especially at dusk.

It’s great to see my hometown expanding tech employment, and diversifying beyond financial services. Hopefully (but at best uncertain) those celebrating this win will also anticipate and navigate near and future unintended consequences.

  • On the topic of some of the massive societal casualties of technology’s march forward, here are two excellent reads to add to your holiday reading file:An interview with futurist philosopher and author Yuval Noah Harari, presenting the increasingly plausible scenario that our innovations are seeding a “useless class” as a function of the increasing capabilities of data and machine that are already displacing real, live people. Silicon Valley embraces Harari as a rock star, not only seeming to shrug off the implications of his message, but even to celebrate the world they are creating.
  • Healthcare thought leader Atul Gawande’s latest article, Why Doctors Hate Their Computers, on how the advances in adoption of electronic medical records are changing the practice of medicine – and not all for the better. Next time you visit your doctor, take note of how much time they are looking you in the eye, versus inputting into their device, forced to stand with their back back to you.

Are there answers to avoiding, or mitigating, these deep consequences? The innovators and startup founders sharing stories in The Change Maker’s Playbook would start by counseling you to:

  • Commit head and heart to pursuing users, employees, investors, and community needs – not just for today’s opportunities, but with a view to long-term possibilities as well. We will never imagine every potential outcome, but that is not an excuse to look down in stead of over the horizon.
  • Build momentum to anticipate and adapt, recognizing surprises will always occur, and even the most amazing innovation cannot stand still in the face of powerful trends, unpredictability, ambiguity and change. It’s much easier to pick up speed if you are already in motion, than to try to accelerate from a standing start.

I’d like to share some universally relevant advice

Next time you are out meeting with a client, or even just exploring a nascent idea with one of your future users, try doing just 20 per cent of the talking and let the people you want to serve take 80 per cent of the talk time to tell you what their problem really is. And, listen with your eyes, not just your ears.

Data, technology, design, analytics and marketing skills – these are all enablers. The effects of innovation are created when we listen for, internalize, and serve the real needs of real people, and anticipate and adapt to what may be next.

If you have not yet purchased a copy of The Change Maker’s Playbook you can download the Introduction and Chapter One at, including an overview of the Seek, Seed, Scale Framework, and advice on how to listen for innovation clues. Of course, I hope you will purchase a copy at Amazon or your favorite online bookseller, and recommend this e-newsletter or the book to fellow change makers. The audio edition launches November 27.

With warm wishes for a joyful Thanksgiving, and prayers for all who are in danger or in distress, whether walking across continents in search of a better life for their families, or fleeing for their lives from the California wildfires.

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About Amy Radin

Amy Radin is an adviser, speaker and author, working with executives and senior leaders to deliver growth through meaningful innovation. She offers an uncommonly pragmatic and disciplined approach that begins with pinpointing high-potential unmet market needs, and from there provides a proven framework for “what to do next” and how to lead through the inevitable, daily challenges any organization will face in pursuit of innovation.
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Amy is a leader who is demanding and relentless in the pursuit of the great.

In The Change Maker’s Playbook she shares her philosophy and methods to transform ‘out-there’ ideas into new real world business models that can change businesses’ growth trajectories and how brands engage with their customers.

Kahina Van Dyke
Global Head, Digital Channels & Client Data Analytics; Standard Chartered Bank Board Member, Progressive Insurance