What I Learned about Leadership from John Wooden

What I Learned about Leadership from John Wooden

Today, the best player in College basketball will be named to receive the John Wooden Award. It is the highest honor in the sport.

What may not be common knowledge about the selection process is that any finalist for this award must meet criteria set by Coach Wooden (1910-2010) himself for academic standing and community service.

GET WET: It’s Time to Prepare for the Jobs of 2027

By Louis Patler, Ph.,D.

Louis Patler

It’s Time to Prepare for the Jobs of 2027

Mark Cuban has been in the news a lot recently, largely because of his vocal opposition to Donald Trump. The tech billionaire, and owner of the Dallas Mavericks NBA team, has made his fortune by being in the right place at the right time doing the right things. He is one smart cookie.

So, when I came across a recent interview in which Cuban predicts the number one job ten years from now, I read it with interest. ( )

Cuban sees computer coding, the current in-demand job skill, as having a short half-life because soon computers will be programmed to write better code than humans. So, where will the hot jobs be in ten years, in 2027?

His answer may surprise you:  “a new skill will become more in-demand than it ever has been: creative thinking.”

Yes, creative thinking! That means in ten years there will be a rise in the liberal arts majors’ employability, making many parents happy that their “creative” children will at last find gainful employment! 

And I happen to agree with Cuban on this. Thinking in many forms—“creative”, “critical”, “innovative”—will be increasingly important in a world that will become more and more automated. This will necessitate exploring new skills that will lead to new jobs and careers. This can be daunting, but as I say in my new book Make Your Own Waves; The Surfer’s Rules for Innovators and Entrepreneurs” the time is now to “Get Wet.”

In business, what can you do to leave the comfort of a salaried job and a secure schedule to venture into the world of the entrepreneur? You can certainly do your due diligence about your ideas. You can network with potential collaborators. You can find supportive mentors. And you can anticipate and face your fears.

A recent McKinsey article on startups offers supportive advice:How should you tap into Silicon Valley? Not by sticking a toe in the water. Get your management team aligned and then commit.” (27) Commitment cannot be underrated. A friend of mine who is both an entrepreneur and an investor told me once that he is not fond of simulations and all things theoretical. When he recently was asked to teach a business school seminar on “Entrepreneurship” he practiced what he preached. His course offered no set syllabus. Instead, he formed three student teams, and lured them into entrepreneurial waters by giving them each $1,000 and telling them to go start a business. Being “pre-funded” forced them to THINK!

Their businesses were tracked for the whole semester as students reported weekly on their obstacles and victories. For the committed entrepreneur there is no better “training” than doing.

louis patler

            The ocean, like the marketplace, is ever-changing so you have to assess the conditions before you “get wet.” Look at trends and patterns. Then you paddle out. It’s no surprise the same ocean that inspires surfers to ride waves also inspires them to become entrepreneurs and to make a living related to what they love.

In order to reap the rewards of venturing into the marketplace, entrepreneurs have to get their fingernails dirty. For entrepreneurs, the rewards may be money or a sense of achievement; for surfers it’s the rush of adrenaline when they paddle out and face a new challenge.

  In the business world, there are people who never “get wet,” who will never be innovators or entrepreneurs, and that is fine. But the innovators and entrepreneurs of the world will be those who thrive in uncertainty, assess what there is and what is missing, and who will fill voids and create opportunities as they go

In short, they will be masters of the creative thinking that Mark Cuban is forecasting. The good news is that like coding, much of the skillset and toolset needed to be a creative thinker can be learned. My training program, Innovating for Results, ( ) may be just what you need as 2027 will be here sooner than you may think. Now is the time to “get wet” and give it a try. They determine appropriate metrics to track progress and measure success along the way.


Innovating for Results - Case Studies - Part 4


 I was recently asked to blog about some of the successful consulting and training projects I have been involved with over the last two decades. There are many, but I will start with four of my favorites representing a range of industries. Below is an overview of Project #4. 

Client # 4: Amoco (now British Petroleum)

Training Challenge:

An established giant in the oil and gas business, Amoco/BP could no longer afford to act like one. New sources of competition and alternative energy options were rapidly transforming the energy marketplace. As a result, the conservative strategies that had worked in the past had become barriers to innovation, competitiveness and growth.

Recognizing that creativity and unconventional thinking were critical to the company’s future, they set out to dramatically change its tradition-bound culture. How could employees break their habits of caution and risk aversion and become the entrepreneurial innovators the company needed?

Training Solution:

After an extensive search for a training program that would meet their needs, IFR was tested on one group of staff and line employees.

The Results:

Response to the pilot program was so strong that they promptly began using it company-wide. It has continued to get with employees in every function, so much so that when the company’s training programs were centralized and streamlined for economy, IFR survived all cuts and used on the national level.

Client Comments:

IFR has been a breath of fresh air. We’re seeing bolder ideas, new approaches to problem solving, and a higher creativity—just as we had hoped. The program will continue to play a key role in our strategy for success in the 21st century.”

* IFR is the newly released and expanded version of “Break-It! Thinking.”


Innovating for Results - Case Studies- Part 3


I was recently asked to blog about some of the successful consulting and training projects I have been involved with over the last two decades. There are many, but I will start with four of my favorites representing a range of industries. Below is an overview of Project #3.

Client # 3: The Gap

 Training Challenge:

 At a time when fashion retailing was in a widespread slump, The Gap was thriving. In spite of a general decline in sales, earnings were steadily rising and The Gap was the envy of the industry.

But the company’s leadership wasn’t satisfied. Certain the picture wouldn’t remain rosy if the company stood still, they embarked on an aggressive strategy of organizational reinvention and growth which called for virtually doubling the company’s size in just three years.

With such an ambitious goal, doing business as usual was out of the question. Everyone in the organization would have to start thinking and working in completely new and more creative ways.  How could they achieve this radically changed mindset in short order, throughout the company?

Training Solution:

The company decided to initiate the push for innovative thinking by making IFR the focus of their Regional Managers’ Meeting. At this meeting, the Gap’s top 400 managers went through and intensive and enjoyable one-day IFR workshop, followed by activities designed to reinforce their learning and help them apply the new language and skills to the specific challenges they faced at work.

The Results:

Managers immediately began using IFR terms, skills and tools in their daily work. In fact, the impact at the managerial level was so striking that The Gap promptly launched plans to extend the program to its 1700 stores worldwide. Convinced IFR would dramatically help boost the ability to reach their three-year goal, the company made the program a key tool in their push for growth.

For example, one of the outcomes of the IFR workshop was taking a fresh look at the layout of Gap stores. As a result of the workshop several changes in shelving strategies, product placement and sales counters were implemented in all stores.

Client Comment:

 “This has been one of the most impactful and positive programs we’ve ever run. Management immediately saw the performance payoff if we spread IFR through the organization quickly enough.”


* IFR is the newly released and expanded version of “Break-It! Thinking.”

Innovating for Results - Case Studies - Part 1


I was recently asked to blog about some of the successful consulting and training projects I have been involved with over the last two decades. There are many, but I will start with four of my favorites representing a range of industries. Below is an overview of Project #1. 

Client # 1: Bank of America

Client Needs

Client Need:

Faced with increasing customer expectations, advances in technology, and mergers within their industry, the President of their retail division set out to define what it means to be a bank in the 21st century. He wanted customers walking into B of A branch offices to feel like they had stepped into a Nordstrom’s department store rather than a typical large bank. Everyone at B of A would need to become customer service and sales focused, in that order.

B of A wanted its branch managers to think and operate with a true entrepreneurial mindset. The goal was to get everyone in the bank, from managers to tellers, acting like independent business owners instead of bureaucrats in a financial institution. To help branch managers understand this transformation, B of A adopted a “franchise management” training initiative. “The branches are to think of themselves as ‘franchise stores’ with certain corporate parameters, policy and budgetary constraints, but also with an imperative to make risk-taking, innovative decisions within the latitude granted them.” 

Training Challenge:

This fundamental transformation in thinking and behaving would take more than simply training managers in the “tactics” of franchise management if it were to be successful. After all, these were financial analysts, and MBA’s, not sales and customer service people. Most branch managers had worked for years and had an established mental model. Resistance to a new paradigm would be high. B of A would need help to achieve this paradigm shift with their managers.  

Training Solution: 

B of A selected Innovating for Results  (IFR) for a three-day franchise management training program designed to help managers understand why radical change was needed and to gain the necessary thinking skills to embrace it.  

The first step was to bring regional and district managers together and introduce them to this new vision for the branches. Anticipating the natural resistance to change, IFR was introduced at this level before going to the local branches. Next, a pilot program was done for 180 branch managers in Arizona. Given the late October (I.e. Halloween) timeframe, and after discussions with senior executives planning the event, manager-attendees were asked to come to the pilot dressed outrageously. Imagine a room full of managers dressed in scuba diving gear, pajamas, hunting garb, and more! IFR immediately set a tone that change was fun and positive. 

Managers meeting

After the pilot, customized adjustments were made to IFR to maximize the impact for B of A managers and employees and to fully integrate IFR with broader Franchise Management Training. In addition, in-house B of A trainers learned to facilitate IFR training.

With the customized IFR and in-house trainers in place, 3,000 branch managers were trained in less than three months. 

The Results:

The conventional banker mindset was rapidly replaced with an entrepreneurial one, facilitated by IFR training. 

New ideas are given more life and are not “firehosed”, allowing for greater innovation and efficiency. 

Long-standing barriers created by archaic policies and procedures were reviewed and in many cases removed or modified to better serve the customer.

Operations managers faced similar issues were trained in sales management, and elements of IFR were added to their two-day sales management course.

Customer Service Managers requested that a one-day IFR training be developed to focus on helping employees to be more innovative at problem solving.

Client Comment:

IFR has been a tremendous catalyst in helping our people find a new way to think about our future. It has given us the foundation we need to transform our organization from it’s conventional, conservative past to a more innovative entrepreneurial future.”

* IFR is the newly released and expanded version of “Break-It! Thinking.”