Nathan Furr

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Renowned Expert on Managing in Times of Disruption and Uncertainty; Recognized Authority on Technology Strategy, Digital Transformation and Disruptive Innovation; Co-Author, “Innovation Capital” (2019), “Leading Transformation” (2018) and “Innovator’s Method” (2014); Associate Professor, INSEAD

Biography

How do leaders successfully grow an organization in times of disruption and uncertainty?

As a recognized expert in the fields of technology strategy, digital transformation and disruptive innovation, INSEAD Professor Nathan Furr helps organizations reposition for growth during periods of uncertainty and disruption. In the process, he shares customized tools that help leaders rethink and “invent” a future when faced with unexpected or anticipated changes in the marketplace.

“Digital transformation is really about unveiling new opportunities,” says Furr, who focuses on moving organizations away from “I can’t do that” thinking toward a culture of “we can’t afford to miss that!”

Furr has helped companies like Google, Microsoft and Johnson & Johnson shed outdated corporate cultures and habits in order to make dramatic transformational leaps.

Dealing with uncertainty in some form is a central theme in Furr’s research, keynotes and the books he’s co-authored, including “The Innovator’s Method,” “Leading Transformation” and “Innovation Capital.” In “Leading Transformation,” Furr outlines the frameworks and tools he uses – such as strategic narratives, artifact trails and future KPIs – to help organizations invent the future. In “The Innovators Method,” he explains how companies can develop innovative leadership, low-cost experimentation processes and an agile culture in order to create new growth opportunities. And in “Innovation Capital,” he shows leaders how they can encourage and win support for innovation by creating an environment that fuels experimental thinking.

Furr’s most recent research focuses on unearthing what he calls the uncertainty capability – the ability to successfully navigate the unknown and turn uncertainty into possibility. Is this a learned trait? And if so, how does it develop? Part of Furr’s ongoing work involves personally interviewing leading innovators, scientists and CEOs who have this innate capacity so he can better understand what it takes to not only survive but thrive during times of uncertainty. He then designs tools and frameworks that help others develop that same capacity.

As a digital strategist and transformative thinker with insights, tools and frameworks that drive innovation during changing times, Furr is uniquely qualified to guide organizations to the other side of disruption, where they can successfully build business in new ways.

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Nathan Furr is a professor at INSEAD, where he leads the school’s technology strategy, digital transformation and innovation courses. He is also the founder or advisor to numerous corporations and startups in the health care, clean technology, professional services, internet, retail and financial services industries. He has worked closely with large organizations, including Citi, ING, Philips, Solvay, Telenor, Kimberley Clark, Pernod Ricard, Deloitte and many others, to help them transform their innovation efforts.

Furr’s research has been published in Harvard Business Review, Sloan Management Review, Forbes and Inc., and in academic journals such as Strategic Management Journal and Organization Science. He earned his doctorate from the Stanford Technology Ventures Program at Stanford University.

Nathan Furr is available for paid speaking engagements – including virtual and in-person keynote speeches, panel discussions, interactive workshops and advisory/consulting services – through the exclusive representation of Stern Speakers, a division of Stern Strategy Group®.

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Inc. logo

Nathan Furr's Inc. Articles

Looking to Boost Innovation? Partner with a Startup

May 27, 2020

Don't Let Uncertainty Paralyze You

April 15, 2020

You're Not Powerless in the Face of Uncertainty

March 27, 2020

Lessons from Tesla’s Approach to Innovation

February 12, 2020

Leading Like Jeff Bezos Or Elon Musk: Lessons From Their Contrasting Styles

September 3, 2019

How We Rank America’s 100 Most Innovative Leaders

September 3, 2019

Who Are the Most Creative and Successful Business Minds of Today?

September 2019

Don't Put a Digital Expert in Charge of Your Digital Transformation

August 5, 2019

Digital Doesn't Have to be Disruptive

July-August 2019

Why Elon Musk's Outlandish Stunts Work

June 23, 2019

How Entrepreneurs Invest in Innovation Capital

June 13, 2019

When Employees Are Using Software That IT Hasn’t Approved

June 11, 2019

Why You Need Innovation Capital — And How to Get It

June 11, 2019

Neuroscience is Going to Change How Businesses Understand Their Customers

February 8, 2019

When Your Moon Shots Don’t Take Off

January/February 2019

If Your Innovation Effort Isn’t Working, Look at Who’s on the Team

November 9, 2018

Innovation Capital: The Secret Ingredient Behind the World's Most Innovative Leaders

September 4, 2018

Building the Right Ecosystem for Innovation

May 15, 2018

If Snap’s Strategy Is Building New Products, It Won’t Live Up to Its IPO Price

February 17, 2017

Managing Multiparty Innovation

November 2016

Transitioning Your Company from Product to Platform

April 7, 2016

Products to Platforms: Making the Leap

April 2016

Hybrid Business Models Look Ugly, but They Work

March 30, 2016

The Prius Approach

November 2015

Decoding Tesla's Secret Formula

August 19, 2015

Choose the Right Innovation Method at the Right Time

December 31, 2014

Leading Your Team into the Unknown

December 2014

Washington Post logo

New Problems? Maybe It's Time for a New Type of Manager

September 26, 2014

The Industries Plagued by the Most Uncertainty

September 11, 2014

Inc. logo

How to Actually Implement "Lean" Methods at Your Company

August 20, 2014

The New Entrepreneur - Nathan Furr's Forbes Column

Biography

How do leaders successfully grow an organization in times of disruption and uncertainty?

As a recognized expert in the fields of technology strategy, digital transformation and disruptive innovation, INSEAD Professor Nathan Furr helps organizations reposition for growth during periods of uncertainty and disruption. In the process, he shares customized tools that help leaders rethink and “invent” a future when faced with unexpected or anticipated changes in the marketplace.

“Digital transformation is really about unveiling new opportunities,” says Furr, who focuses on moving organizations away from “I can’t do that” thinking toward a culture of “we can’t afford to miss that!”

Furr has helped companies like Google, Microsoft and Johnson & Johnson shed outdated corporate cultures and habits in order to make dramatic transformational leaps.

Dealing with uncertainty in some form is a central theme in Furr’s research, keynotes and the books he’s co-authored, including “The Innovator’s Method,” “Leading Transformation” and “Innovation Capital.” In “Leading Transformation,” Furr outlines the frameworks and tools he uses – such as strategic narratives, artifact trails and future KPIs – to help organizations invent the future. In “The Innovators Method,” he explains how companies can develop innovative leadership, low-cost experimentation processes and an agile culture in order to create new growth opportunities. And in “Innovation Capital,” he shows leaders how they can encourage and win support for innovation by creating an environment that fuels experimental thinking.

Furr’s most recent research focuses on unearthing what he calls the uncertainty capability – the ability to successfully navigate the unknown and turn uncertainty into possibility. Is this a learned trait? And if so, how does it develop? Part of Furr’s ongoing work involves personally interviewing leading innovators, scientists and CEOs who have this innate capacity so he can better understand what it takes to not only survive but thrive during times of uncertainty. He then designs tools and frameworks that help others develop that same capacity.

As a digital strategist and transformative thinker with insights, tools and frameworks that drive innovation during changing times, Furr is uniquely qualified to guide organizations to the other side of disruption, where they can successfully build business in new ways.

###

Nathan Furr is a professor at INSEAD, where he leads the school’s technology strategy, digital transformation and innovation courses. He is also the founder or advisor to numerous corporations and startups in the health care, clean technology, professional services, internet, retail and financial services industries. He has worked closely with large organizations, including Citi, ING, Philips, Solvay, Telenor, Kimberley Clark, Pernod Ricard, Deloitte and many others, to help them transform their innovation efforts.

Furr’s research has been published in Harvard Business Review, Sloan Management Review, Forbes and Inc., and in academic journals such as Strategic Management Journal and Organization Science. He earned his doctorate from the Stanford Technology Ventures Program at Stanford University.

Nathan Furr is available for paid speaking engagements – including virtual and in-person keynote speeches, panel discussions, interactive workshops and advisory/consulting services – through the exclusive representation of Stern Speakers, a division of Stern Strategy Group®.

Speech Topics

How to Develop Uncertainty Capability

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, the world was becoming more dynamic, leaving leaders and their organizations struggling with uncertainty in their industries and in their lives. This is an area INSEAD Professor Nathan Furr has studied for years, and his research and frameworks confirm that people and organizations can develop the capacity to not just endure uncertainty but to turn it into possibility. Part of Furr’s work involves studying people who have an innate ability to navigate the unknown, a trait he defines as “uncertainty capability.” Taking lessons from innovators, entrepreneurs, CEOs, Nobel Prize winners and even gamblers, paramedics, surfers, dyslexics and others who live with a great deal of uncertainty, Furr has developed a toolkit for teaching uncertainty capabilities. Through keynotes, workshops and confidential advisory meetings, he shares perspectives, tools and exercises for developing this capability so leaders and teams can be more resilient and creative in the face of unexpected changes – and better equipped to identify opportunities hidden inside the unknown.

Leading Transformation: How to Take Charge of Your Company’s Future

Creating transformative change in big companies may be the hardest task leaders face, due to a combination of conservative corporate cultures and eternal human tendencies toward incrementalism, habit and fear. Yet, in the turbulent times organizations face today, innovation has become an imperative. The more a company clings to established methods and practices, the more it is at risk of destructive disruption. A central question of management is “how do we overcome the cautious habits of large corporations to bring about necessary change?” Nathan Furr’s co-authored book, “Leading Transformation: How to Take Charge of Your Company’s Future,” argues that the answer lies in opening parts of the human brain that can think creatively about the future, a process he calls “behavioral innovation.” Employing such tools as science fiction writing and comic books, Furr has nudged companies in the right direction by using data to create a compelling, forward-thinking narrative. Based on an applied and proven process with Google, Levi’s and Lowe’s, Furr describes how leaders can envision valuable new futures and break the decision bottlenecks that hold organizations back. He also provides a framework for anticipating and recognizing when new technologies pose a threat and how to respond in order to profit from them.

Innovation Capital: Leading Innovation in a Changing World

Developing world-changing ideas is only the first step toward making an impact. One must also be able to persuade others to commit resources, by convincing them that such ideas are feasible and truly transformative – as well as profitable. Nathan Furr calls this missing piece of the puzzle “innovation capital,” the ability of great innovators to marshal human and financial capital to implement and commercialize ideas. But even legendary innovators like Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos, who consistently win support for even seemingly outlandish proposals, build up innovation capital over time. Creativity is just the starting point; they must also be great communicators and networkers capable of cultivating relationships with key players in their industry, and of successfully promoting their accomplishments to the public. These “innovation amplifiers” can be summed up as “Who You Are, Who You Know, and What You Do.” In this presentation, based on the book, “Innovation Capital: What Distinguishes the World’s Most Innovative Leaders,” which he co-authored with Jeff Dyer, Furr describes the process of leveraging these amplifiers in order to build up innovation capital over time, so that one’s ideas can go straight from the drawing board to reality without the painful process of rejection and financial failure.

How to Thrive in an Era of Rapid-Fire Digital Disruption

As we undergo what Nathan Furr calls the “4th Industrial Revolution” – that of digital disruption and its related technologies – leaders are increasingly pressured to innovate as digital opportunities create new points of vulnerability, new competitors and new processes. Although disruption has long been a threat to some sectors, the rise of digital technologies has accelerated the pace of disruption in virtually every industry, creating immense uncertainty. But what does digital transformation mean and what do leaders need to know to succeed? According to Furr it starts with doing the things you do differently and doing different things. When advising organizations – whether through keynotes, workshops or confidential advisory meetings – Furr shows how this process is much less frightening and much more attainable than many realize. He points to the ways digital technology transforms a firm’s “back stage” (resources and activities) and “front stage” (products, services and interactions with customers) and shows organizations how to optimize three aspects of digital transformation: platforms, ecosystems and digital business models.

Innovator’s Method: How to Innovate Like a Start-up

Every business lives in a world that demands innovation in order to survive. Teaching established companies to be more agile and innovative may seem challenging but Nathan Furr shows it is possible. Drawing on decades of research into how the world’s most innovative organizations create and profit from new opportunities, Furr’s book ”The Innovator’s Method” teaches audiences how to apply tools like lean startup, design thinking and business model transformation to foster a culture that can more successfully innovate. He brings these concepts to life in his talks, workshops and advisory meetings, which offer participants the opportunity to apply his frameworks to their own goals and challenges.

The Innovator’s DNA: How to Become a More Creative Leader

How do great innovators come up with new ideas and create opportunities in an era of increasing uncertainty and intense competition? Having identified behaviors of the world’s greatest leaders – from Amazon and Apple to Google, Skype and more – Professor Furr outlines the skills that distinguish the extraordinary from the ordinary. He also discusses how to create and lead a culture of innovation throughout an organization, an advantage that improves their innovation premium and spurs real growth. Drawing on his decades of research into collaborative innovation, Professor Furr teaches how organizations and leaders in any sector can apply these insights and tools to solve problems and create new opportunities.

Platform Strategy: Transforming from Product to Platform

Five of the world’s most valuable businesses are platforms, and platform-based businesses consistently outperform traditional product-based business models. Yet most firms offer products and services without platforms. Drawing on his years of research into transformational models, Nathan Furr shares strategies for converting a product or service business into a platform model so companies can multiply the value of their resources. During his talks, workshops and advisory meetings, he explains why platforms offer non-platform firms a chance to become more efficient, agile and profitable, and he shares what it takes to make the leap.

 

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Recommendations

Advance Praise for “Innovation Capital”

Innovation Capital shines a unique spotlight on a fundamental building block for achieving success in any entrepreneurial endeavor–cultivating a network of amazing mentors, advocates, and benefactors to help turn your ideas into reality.”

—Marc Benioff, Chairman and co-CEO, Salesforc

“There’s an adage in business that ‘the best idea wins.’ In truth, it’s often the idea with the best champion–someone who can instill belief, rally support, and paint a vision for turning ideas into reality–that wins. Innovation Capital provides a fantastic blueprint for becoming an effective champion of ideas. It’s full of valuable lessons from the companies and innovators who have lived them.”

—Shantanu Narayen, Chairman and CEO, Adobe

“This is an important book that should be read by anyone who aspires to lead an innovative organization. It clearly demystifies that path to gaining support for bold new ideas that will ultimately be game-changing.”

—Tina Seelig, Professor of the Practice, Department of Management Science and Engineering, Stanford University; author, Creativity Rules

Innovation Capital is that special currency that can be exchanged for true transformation. It’s what elevates great inventors into great innovation leaders. This book is a must-read for anyone leading their team through an innovation-inspired change and for startup innovators trying to make a success of their ideas.”

—Ralph Hamers, CEO, ING Group

“In this book, Jeff, Nathan, and Curtis present a compelling case for how leaders at every level can build and grow their innovation capital to turn new and creative ideas into reality. Whether you’re just launching your career or you’re an industry veteran, this is a must-read.”

—Indra Nooyi, former Chairman and CEO, PepsiCo

Praise for “Leading Transformation”

“Many leaders struggle to lead disruptive change. Leading Transformation provides new tools to overcome the old hurdles to success.”

—Clayton M. Christensen, Kim B. Clark Professor of Business Administration, Harvard Business School; bestselling author, The Innovator’s Dilemma

Leading Transformation is the most original and thought-provoking book I’ve ever read on how to design and inspire organizational change. It shows how using proven tools from places I never expected–science fiction, comics, and rap music, for example–can fuel remarkable cultural and technological transformations. This is the rare business book that is fun to read, will make you think differently, and teach you new skills.”

—Robert Sutton, Professor of Management Science and Engineering, Stanford University; bestselling author, Good Boss, Bad Boss and Scaling Up Excellence

“Transformation starts with a visionary and compelling story. The authors perfectly explain why this is true.”

—Ralph Hamers, CEO, ING Group

Leading Transformation is an absolute must-read. Science fiction, cartoons, neuroprototypes, and artifact trails are sure to become standard components of the strategist’s toolkit.”

—Scott D. Anthony, Senior Partner, Innosight; author, Dual Transformation and The Little Black Book of Innovation

“The many examples of how to leverage behavioral economics and applied neuroscience make this book one of the most important guides for navigating the accelerating changes affecting businesses today.”

—Rob Nail, CEO and Associate Founder, Singularity University

“A provocative and compelling book that convinced me the secret to behavior change often starts with counterintuitive storytelling.”

—Peter Sims, founder and CEO, Parliament, Inc.; author, Little Bets

“There has never been a more important time for organizations to prepare for the future, and this book is an indispensable guide for how to do it.”

-Peter Diamandis, founder and Chairman, XPRIZE Foundation; cofounder and Executive Chairman, Singularity University

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Intro Video

Video ThumbnailDigital Transformation is not Magic - vimeo Video