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Explore 2040’s weekly Ideas and Innovations newsletters below or via our archive … and visit our strategic and operations thought leadership reports and posts here.

2040’s Ideas + Innovations Newsletter  is a series of thought leadership articles designed to help organizations navigate the complex, evolving changes in our digital marketplace. The 2040 team has worked with brands of all sizes in a range of industries, and our insights fuel these articles with opinionated, actionable and often provocative content.

The series touches on everything from emerging industry paradigm shifts and consumer behavioral trends to new business models, leadership skills and workplace culture issues.  Our intention is to be active and interactive, raising questions and debate over what it takes for businesses to thrive in a post-pandemic world with an emphasis on transitions and transformations organizations must make to remain competitive.

We invite you to join the conversation and contribute your opinions and experiences.  2040 believes in the power and strength of community, and the more we know and share, the stronger our businesses will be in responding to the demands of our dynamic marketplaces. We look forward to featuring your participation in future articles. Sign up to keep in touch with us.

Beth Bush Stansel, Senior Partner, Strategy and Kevin Novak, CEO, 2040 Digital



Ideas and Innovations Newsletter

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What Were They Thinking?

Issue 101, March 30, 2023

Jared Diamond, author of Collapse, asked a profound question referring to the ancients in Easter Island. When they cut down the last tree on the island, what were they thinking? Seriously, what sane society would make a valuable natural resource extinct with one final hatchet job? Which in turn made their people extinct? Or how about a more complicated social problem replacing the US draft with an all-volunteer military, ultimately making war-related collateral damage and death for troops a problem principally for lower socioeconomic groups, not college grads from more affluent families for whom war is no longer personal.

But we could ask so many of the same questions., Here are just a few — in no particular order. What were they thinking?

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The Pathway to Continuous Learning

Issue 100, March 23, 2023

Editor’s Note: Welcome to the 100th Issue of 2040’s Ideas and Innovations Weekly Newsletter. We thank you for your continued readership and your feedback and comments weekly.

Everyone has a personal learning style. Independent learners buck the system and find alternative ways to learn on their own terms. Traditional learners are comfortable with the classic teacher-student relationship. And then there is everyone else in between.  Whatever preference you have, continuous learning is a requirement to be well-informed and capable in today’s dynamic society. The pace of change is enabled by continuous technological developments, and just like the necessity of machine learning iterations to stay relevant, recent research suggests that people also benefit from iterative learning throughout their lives.

Organizations seeking to change and transform need to recognize that when a workforce practices continuous learning, it enables an organization to evolve and grow, as well as to adapt. We are not yet at a point where machines can do it all for us and we can simply sit back and derive the benefits. Despite the hype of ChatGPT and the slew of similar AI tools, humans are still essential. Without individuals, an organization would be unable to perform and produce. And strengthened by promoting continuous learning throughout the workforce, an organization is better poised to be more knowledgeable and competitive.

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Does Your Organization Have Tunnel Vision?

Issue 99, March 16, 2023

You think you see a light at the end of the digital tunnel, and then you realize it is the blinding light of tunnel vision that has derailed you. In considering how to change, transform or simply adapt to changing conditions across a market or profession, organizations (including ourselves) often fall back to doing what we know best and what has worked in the past under different circumstances. Believing we already know how to handle a problem, situation or even a request from others brings comfort and a sense of personal competency. We hold onto a (possibly false) level of confidence that we know how to lead, despite the dynamics of change that define us and our organizations.

Stalled in the Past

Generally speaking, we rely on our inherent, accumulated knowledge and experience to understand organizational systems, technologies, and market conditions. In truth, however, that reliance typically comes from over-confidence in believing that things stay the same. To follow this logic then, it shouldn’t be surprising when we are stopped short in understanding how to solve new problems that don’t conform to our preconceived views.

At 2040, we work with clients to identify what prevents them from “seeing” and “knowing.” There are so many factors and variables that influence what should be considered and understood to inform an action they are about to take. There are other perspectives that can contribute to solutions. And there are more relevant ways to respond to and interact with others that result in better outcomes using collective intelligence.

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Case Study: Sidestepping Accountabilities

Issue 98, March 9, 2023

At 2040 we work closely with our clients to bridge theory to practice.  Strategy is great, but if you don’t know how to apply the great ideas, it becomes a hard stop to any forward progress.  We can get mired down by details, overthinking – and worst of all, not keeping out of our own way.  So, back by popular demand, we bring you another case study that you may be able to relate to. It’s a common story about building a brand, a workplace culture, a pathway to profitability – and leadership blinds spots.  Enjoy the read and see how you would solve the problems! For more real-life case studies and a playbook for managing an organization in today’s highly volatile digital marketplace, check out our book, The Truth About Transformation.

The Back Story

A young software technology company went public through a SPAC and overnight was infused with many millions of shareholder dollars.  The CEO, Gabriel, co-founded his company 12 years ago and has been running the show alongside his original partners. As a public company, he now reports to a board of directors with direct fiduciary responsibility under regulatory oversight. Gabriel fired the chief revenue officer for criticizing the executive team in front of employees, among other reasons. Unhappy, the ex-sales director wrote a vengeful letter to the independent board members outlining a series of activities that he deemed negligent on the part of the CEO and executive management. The board had no choice but to open an internal investigation and retained a prestigious law firm (think, Mueller Investigation) to conduct it. Seven months and over $1.2 million in legal fees later, the executive management team was completely exonerated. The board, however, identified a hostile work culture that needed some immediate remediation, requiring that the CEO get some leadership coaching. It also put in place additional board oversight and “guardrail” mechanisms to ensure that executive management brings about genuine workplace cultural change.

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Breaking the Bond of Trust

Issue 97, March 2, 2023

One of the unexpected outcomes of the pandemic was the development of a new level of trust between leaders and their corporate level workforce. With entire skilled workers at organizations forced out of the office and working remotely, the workforce and management had to implicitly trust one another to meet deadlines, goals, and quarterly expectations. During this time a shift to measuring performance by outcomes, not time or face-to-face contact emerged. This change shed the layers of an industrial age mentality for a predominantly white-collar workforce.

For a command-and-control leader, this was a moment of crisis infused with insecurity, suspicion, and defensiveness based on a lack of clarity or established baseline in how to lead this new model. The acceleration of non-stop, on-screen meetings was an attempt to keep control … or at a minimum, a way to keep tabs on employees. But using the same on-site leadership skills with a remote workforce quickly failed. Some super controlling organizations moved to measure screen time, keystrokes, and other computer-based metrics to monitor their newly remote workers. It was a time when everyone had to rethink work and reinvent how and where to get work done.

Connecting the Dots

During the pandemic at 2040 we counseled our clients on the necessity to release the past in order to adapt and change in a highly dynamic, tech infused world where many individuals reassessed and realigned what was truly important to them (and their mental health).

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Can You Hear Me … Now?

Issue 96, February 23, 2023

The challenge of communicating with colleagues has become increasingly difficult. With the proliferation of tech experts and Next Gens in the workforce, we may need a translator to ensure we all understand each other.

Here’s a real-life example. A content team is struggling to understand how to load a certification testing module into a new software platform. The project lead from the platform is a developer who thinks with a literal, sequential mindset.  The content team leader, although logical, is more of freeform thinker, making associations and finding patterns in conversations intuitively.  Which is to say, the mindset is horizontal, holistic, and nonlinear. The two leads are currently at an impasse; neither individual understands the other, which makes conversations awkward, at cross purposes, and impedes forward progress.

The inability or lack of desire to listen and hear others can be a deal breaker.  Understanding how to actively listen, ingest what is being said, and how to fundamentally recognize that although we seemingly are similar individuals, we have very different and diverse ways and means by which we communicate. Those differences and the diversity represented by individual personalities, life experiences, values, generational life stages and regional or cultural nuances can make communications a test. Few individuals share the same life experiences and values as others outside of their immediate families (and even then, siblings are more like their parents than each other). And to further complicate the process, our individual minds are programmed to communicate literally, conceptually, in freeform, directly, complexly and even dismissively.  Finding the right match of speaker to listener is yet another hurdle.

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ChatGPT: Shapeshifting Our World

Issue 95, February 16, 2023

If you’ve been paying even a nanosecond of attention to the tech news headlines, you might think the universe shifted on November 30, 2022, when OpenAI introduced its natural language, generative program that produces text and images in response to user prompts, ChatGPT. Yes, we know that everyone under the tech corridors’ suns have weighed in on its disruption.  And guess what, we’re going to as well, and as you will discover, for a different reason.

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What are the Consequences of Unbounded Optimism?

Issue 94, February 9, 2023

All societies live by stated or perceived mantras. In the United States we reach for the stars, believe the sky is the limit, and if we build it, they will come. These sentiments permeate our culture, inspire our children, and guide our business leaders.

We love entrepreneurialism; we reward it, admire it, and aspire to it.  The entrepreneurial spirit and manifest destiny represent the American can-do ingenuity and genius of overcoming adversity and risk. Agility and being nimble are standards of excellence.

Optimism on the Edge

But not so fast. Blind embrace of optimism can result in a misperception of true reality. Unbounded optimism can infuse organizational actions and decisions and make them out of step with current or emerging market conditions and customer needs.

We’ve seen the tech unicorns breakthrough with impressive solutions and influence.  And we’ve also watched 90% of all startups fail. We’ve also witnessed organizations build expansive workforces, revise forecasts, and commit to goals with shareholders based on optimism that is out of context with the realities of the market and society.

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How Do You and Your Organization Master the Art of Storytelling?

Issue 93, February 2, 2023

Origin Stories

Storytelling and narrative have become the buzzwords of modern marketing.  You’ve heard it before: What’s your organization’s brand story? Make your organization come alive through narrative. Help customers relate emotionally to your business by telling a story. And possibly the most ominous: Tell your story, or else your stakeholders will write it for you.

Storytelling has been around as long as humans; the 50,000-year-old cave paintings and petroglyphs tell stories and validate “I was here.” What those stories mean is still a matter of debate. We recently visited the Museum of Modern Art in New York and saw an exhibition on Guillermo del Toro’s making of Pinocchio, nominated for one of this year’s Oscars as a best-animated feature film.  Aside from the fascinating models and videos of stop-action technology, there was a storyboard about the arc of Pinocchio’s life that caught our attention. When we studied the production notes, we realized that we are looking at the blueprint of the story of an organization’s life, from birth to old age, and life after death when it transitions to another level.

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Too Big to Manage? When Less Is More

Issue 92, January 26, 2023

“We’re too big to fail.” Try that one out on Elon Musk or Mark Zuckerberg.  If there were ever two visionaries with an overabundance of hubris, they’re the ones. Although the concept of “too big to fail” technically refers to an organization that is so important to a financial system that a government would not allow it to go bankrupt due to the seriousness of the economic repercussions (Wiki), one could argue that what we are experiencing in the tech sector right now can also refer to the egos and perceptions of self-importance of tech leaders. Economist Alan Greenspan, has said of overlarge organizations, “If they’re too big to fail, they’re too big.” And if the tech sector is faltering, chances are it is because it has become too big to manage, is spending most of its time and effort focused internally to manage the complexity it has created, has too big an imprint on the global economy and is vulnerable to implosion from the inside out.

And that leads us to the topic of this week’s newsletter, when less is more.

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The Future Isn’t Going to Look Like You Think

Issue 91, January 19, 2023

Organizations founded on exponential growth are in for a wake-up call. In reverse-trend thinking, some experts believe that good enough is just good enough. Entrepreneurs believe that there are no limits to growth. What do we believe? It requires a deeper look at what is going on in our global population shifts to really understand future growth…or constriction. We wrote about this in our book, The Truth About Transformation, detailing the facts about the future population shift, re-sizing of markets, the demise of data point over generalizations, and the revelations of transformation hidden in plain sight.

Surprise, Surprise

Your market and workforce are going to look very different in the future. Demographic factors and variables must be considered in context of your own organization, whom your organization serves, and whom your organization employs. Stresses and tensions to find the right individuals with the right skills in a constantly evolving competitive environment are made even more complex by shifting and changing cultural attitudes and demographic shifts.

Consider the implications of the most significant demographic changes underway across the globe. Immigration, migration, changes in family structures, the changing role of women in the workforce, increasing mobility, declining birth rates, growing diversity, and generational shifts are just a few of the factors to watch and understand. Each of these megatrends relates to your current and future workforce and customer base, and should guide you in determining where your organization may be heading.

According to Darrell Bricker and John Ibbitson, authors of Empty Planet, the global population will peak around the middle of this century and then begin to decline especially in what we consider to be the most affluent places on the planet. According to the authors, Japan, Korea, Spain, Italy and much of Europe are facing long-term reproduction rates that won’t be able to sustain their current population levels.

The Future by the Numbers>

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Do You Have It? Anger? Rage?

Issue 90, January 12, 2023

A group of white men wearing T-shirts, Patagonia fleece vests or zip-front sweaters, Allbirds sneakers, and faded jeans are sitting around a conference table. It is 7:30 in the morning. They are collegial, familiar with one another, and engaged in friendly banter. The senior team turns their attention to their leader who has just walked into the room; he looks exactly like they do. Two women follow him, dressed in the female version of the unofficial company uniform. They are the comms and HR executives. The meeting starts; the agenda is to review recent diversity and inclusion initiatives and try to figure out why so many of their employees are quitting. The leader admits he has no idea why a third of his younger workforce is either losing pace or outright abandoning him. He is convinced he is a role model for a balls-to-the-walls work ethic, logging in longer hours and more weekends than anyone else to deliver on the organization’s short-term goals.

The executive team comes to attention, each with a Starbucks cup placed to the right of their mobiles, which they watch attentively not to miss any texts, emails, or breaking news. The meeting begins.

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Forging Your Pathway into 2023

Issue, 89, January 5, 2023

Two of the most important qualities we need (personally and professionally) to make good decisions are perspective and context. In order to move forward, both give relevance to how the past informs the present and can be predictive of how to plan for the future. If we take three tenses, we can reflect on what we have learned and how those insights can guide us today and tomorrow. Having said that, we are not talking about using the past as a static standard, but rather part of the flow that shapes our lives. As we contemplate the year ahead, we look forward to bringing you new insights based on our perspective in context of the ever-evolving, disruptive marketplaces we operate in.


Here at 2040 we want to take this opportunity to thank all of our readers who have shared their appreciation and support when they found a newsletter highly connected to a challenge they were experiencing or simply as a reminder to consider a problem or situation differently with a new perspective. In that context, your feedback inspires us as we move forward.

As we look back across 52 issues of our 2022 newsletters, we learned from your feedback how a few key issues are shared among many of our readers.

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Taking Stock: Our Predictions and Considerations for 2023

Issue 88, December 29, 2022

One could argue that January 1 is an arbitrary date to evaluate the past 12 months. We routinely like to look back to the past calendar year, determine what went well and reflect on what we wanted to change. We view January 1 as a fresh start to tackle our procrastination, fix things that are broken, generally refresh, and forge a committed pathway forward. We all know that for many, these reflections, decisions, and goals are soon forgotten or made less important than they were in the moments leading up to January 1. And that results in an endless loop of déjà vu, which stalls progress.

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The Truth about Transformation

Book Preview Excerpt

Organizations, whether private companies, non-profits, charities or governments seek to transform to take advantage of new opportunities, including technological advances. Often, technology is the major driver of change that results in transformation. As a result, the organization often fails to achieve its objective and goal to truly transform. You see, technology remains an enabler, not a silver bullet. True transformative change requires understanding of the human factors at play, human conscious and subconscious behaviors, how humans inter-relate and how society itself and all of its members are changing.

Our workforces are changing, the expertise we need is becoming harder to acquire and roles are shifting. In addition, before and because of Covid in 2020, the world around us is becoming very different, a new reality is taking hold, one that will fundamentally change who we are, how we work and yes, how we seek to ensure organizations transform for today and for the future.

The Truth about Transformation, a new book by Kevin Novak, is now available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Apple Books. Enjoy a short preview.ard and upward from the 2040 Team

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