Newsletter: Learning U N B O U N D

people, products, and ideas energizing workplace learning

summer 2017

In this issue …

  • Interview/ Sue Baechler gets us “All In” with her new board game
  • Provocations/ My latest article for suggests we do away with leadership training
  • Coming Soon/ Joe Wheeler’s new program creates leaders for a digital age
  • Big Idea/ How to future-proof your education
  • Book Review/ Through the Shadowlands, by Julie Rehmeyer, takes us on a life-or-death learning journey
  • My News/ A cool conference in Santa Fe, Oct 3-4; a college course based on The Greats on Leadership; my next book, now in the works

interview/ Sue Baechler Gets Us All In

Sue Baechler, Founder/CEO of Originaliti Media, is one of the most creative thinkers I know. I spoke with her about her new All In board game and her thoughts on today’s learning landscape.

What’s different about the All In board game? It’s game-based strategy implementation. But it really solves a human-behavior issue more than a strategy issue. People’s motivations and actions need to be aligned behind the company’s goals. And that is hard to do. The game brings people together, and they walk away with a clear line of sight to the strategy, a plan for the couple of actions they’ll take, and an ally to help them. (By the way, “All In” is shorthand for alignment and for being included and inspired and intentioned.)

What was the gap you saw that made you want to develop it? In all the work I’ve done over 30 years, I’ve found that you have to go in believing that people want to do good work and look for what’s getting in the way of that happening. Like, in the case of strategy implementation: misalignment or lack of trust. We’re good at writing down the strategy and putting it on the whiteboard; not so good at getting the people on board.

What do you like best about the game? I like seeing the transformation from “How do I win?” or “What if I lose?” to people helping each other get there. We put the company strategy and goals on the table, and at first it all reads “foreign.” But the game is engineered to dispel fear and reward collaboration. However they come in—excited to learn or afraid to fail— there is eventually a shift from the individual to the collective, and you can see it.

What was the biggest a-ha you had while you were testing it? The biggest a-ha for us was that this misalignment issue is huge, and it’s real, and it blocks people from getting things done. It struck us how inefficient groups can be when they’re working at cross-purposes or without a clear purpose. We felt even more compelled to figure out how to help. For participants, the biggest a-ha is going from “I want to win” to “Oh! I can’t win until everyone is all in.”

As you look at leadership development today, what is most exciting to you?Everywhere I see people who are inclined to take the lead. They’re self-propelled. It’s no longer, “Wait 10 years and then you can be where I am; wait your turn.” They can do it on their own. You may find participants in your own development programs saying, “Um, we had a meetup at Starbucks and learned this two years ago.” That kind of energy needs to be understood and nourished. It’s very peer-based.

… and what is most frustrating? The overdoing of control: Insisting that people demonstrate a long list of competencies to advance in an organization rather than personalizing the list to recognize all the stuff people already know about leadership—from volunteering, parenting, driving a pizza van, dealing with a jerk boss. It doesn’t mean people don’t need guidance, but how you provide it—how you use what people know and their desire to help other people—I have not seen that catalyzed. It’s not, “We will develop you.” I am developing me!

What’s a piece of hard-won wisdom you’d like to share with learning professionals?Listen and learn from the people you are “developing.” Whatever you think you know, start with that—but then ask what they think. Really, truly make it a habit to listen and learn from everyone at all levels. We (the supposed experts) need to be closer, not farther away. And it’s so much easier to get help from everyone! Years ago I was intoxicated by the idea that “the higher you go, the more you know, and therefore you’re right.” Actually, it’s the opposite.

Listen to Sue’s recent podcast for the O.C. Tanner blog.

Learn more about the All In board game.

provocations/ Please … No More Leadership Training

The term “leadership development” has morphed over the years. It used to refer to executive education programs, housed at business schools and populated by rising vice presidents sent off to those ivy-draped enclaves to receive the polish deemed necessary for top corporate jobs. But starting in the 1990s, two things happened …

Read more of my article for

coming soon/ Leaders for a Digital Age

I love getting a taste of cool stuff in the test kitchen. Here’s what Joe Wheeler (of the Service Profit Chain Institute and CX Workout) has cooking. Yes, it’s D for digital, but it’s not about the technology; it’s about the strategy. I served up three questions for Joe.

What’s this new program about? Accelerating Digital Leadership is a program based on the work of Professor David Rogers as described in his bestselling book The Digital Transformation Playbook: Rethink Your Business for the Digital Age. It’s designed to give leaders a practical roadmap to navigate their way through the digital transformation of their business.

Why did you decide to create it? Digital transformation requires more than just appointing a chief digital officer. It requires an organizational commitment to embracing digital business models to remain competitive. A recent research study by Bizagi, a leader in digital transformation, found that 70 percent of business leaders agree that “efforts to transform the business externally are undermined by the internal complexity of the organization.” Accelerating Digital Leadership is a first step to solving this issue.

What will surprise people the most when they experience it? The ROI. Managers leave with an actual playbook to change their business. The action learning version of the program provides a blended learning experience: cross-functional teams are chartered to transform a product or service to a digital business model.

To learn more, contact CX Workout:

big idea/ How to Future-proof an Education 

“College is supposed to help young people prepare for the future. But as headlines warn that automation and technology may change—or end—work as we know it, parents, students, and universities are grappling with a new question: How do you educate a new generation for a world we can’t even imagine?”

Writing for Quartz, Peter Marber tells how “the most forward-thinking college in America” paves the way to the future with books and ideas that have been around a long, long time.

Read the Article

book review/ When a Learning Journey Is Life or Death

THROUGH THE SHADOWLANDS: A Science Writer’s Odyssey into an Illness Science Doesn’t Understand

   By Julie Rehmeyer

Julie Rehmeyer had spent years battling a mysterious illness so extreme she often couldn’t turn over in bed. Using her science and math training, she sought solutions from doctors, researchers, and the medical literature. Nothing helped. Then she found a group on the Internet who said toxic mold was making her sick. Their theory struck her as wacky pseudoscience, but she was out of ideas—so she drove into Death Valley, alone, leaving behind everything she owned.

Part memoir, part science journal, Through the Shadowlands will naturally be of interest to ME/CFS sufferers and to anyone with an illness poorly understood by Western medicine. But it’s also a fascinating account of an extreme learning journey. Rehmeyer turns an unflinchingly mindful eye on herself: her physical symptoms, thought processes, family history, relationships, emotions, and possible delusions. In the end, love of learning and the courage to self-reflect are the driving forces behind her recovery. (May 2017, Rodale)

Buy the Book

my news

  • My latest book, The Greats on Leadership, continues to find fans. I’m especially excited about a new partnership with the Alliance for Liberal Learning to develop a for-credit, college-level course (Leading with Substance) based on the book. To learn more about the course or to chat about how I might engage and inspire leaders in your organization, email me at
  • Book No. 3 is in the works! MAINSPRING: Zen and the Art of Quiet Influence. Tagline: “Mindfulness meets execution.” My wonderful publishers and I are aiming for a summer 2019 launch. Stay tuned (and if anyone can connect me to the Dalai Lama, let me know).
  • Please join me in Santa Fe, New Mexico, October 3-4, for the Culture Ambassadors Retreat. I’ve already met a few of the other speakers, and … wow! This is a unique opportunity to make connections with a think-different group—in the City Different, no less. Email me for a discount code for 50% off the registration fee.



About Jocelyn R Davis

Jocelyn Davis is Principal of Seven Learning, a leadership development firm that creates a lasting lift in leaders' effectiveness using classic books, films, and stories.
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