Driving Strategic Performance and Sales

If so, listen to this MFG eCommerce Success show where Don Schmincke, Strategic Growth Advisor, Author, and Keynote Speaker, at the Schmincke Research Alliance, shares ways leaders can overcome the high failure rates of management theory implementation to drive strategic performance and sales.

Want to learn what leaders can do to drive strategic performance and sales?

If so, listen to this MFG eCommerce Success show where Don Schmincke, Strategic Growth Advisor, Author, and Keynote Speaker, at the Schmincke Research Alliance, shares ways leaders can overcome the high failure rates of management theory implementation to drive strategic performance and sales.

Don has trained over 15,000 CEOs to drive higher strategic performance and sales. Don is a highly sought-after CEO advisor that helps CEOs unlock their talents to create incredible careers and companies. Don works with clients across virtually every industry, including healthcare, manufacturing, non-profits, distribution, technology, communications, finance, and insurance.

Download our free business valuation guide here to understand more about business valuations and view our business valuation FAQs to answer the most common valuation questions.

Don has a unique perspective on leadership, being an MIT in planetary physics, a Johns Hopkins graduate in human behavior, and a Johns Hopkins researcher, who was nearly arrested as a capitalist spy in the Soviet Bloc, got shot off an aircraft carrier, survived in the Kurdish capital as the Ayatollah held hostages in Tehran, and developed missile inertial guidance systems.

Don has traveled to the far reaches of the globe to understand leadership and the traits of successful thought leaders. Don is also a repeat best-selling author with “The Code of the Executive” and “High altitude Leadership.”

Damon and Curt open this Livestream with very warm regards to Don, who is delighted to be with the hosts.

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After mentioning a couple of Don’s accomplishments, Curt asks the guest about his childhood hero. “Neil Armstrong,” Don replies, who “remembers tracing flight paths around my globe at home.” He admits that more people have influenced him.

Don recounts his early days of struggle and his academic journey. He says that he worked at his uncle’s gas station. He noticed that “all the guys with fancy cars had an education.” Consequently, he applied to a community college. There he came across a couple of retired teachers from Cambridge and MIT. He did not exactly “know what MIT was.” He applied there, and “they were so supportive.” He opted for the Trident Nuclear Missile Guidance System Program at Draper Labs.

Similarly, he “automated the Harvard MIT biomedical lab” and majored in Planetary Physics. Don realizes that “it is very disjointed.” Since he has ADHD, “it explains a lot.”

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Knowing about his disorder urged him to study humans and their groups. “And I got fascinated by that.” His aptitude took him to Johns Hopkins. Cathy A. Trower, his erstwhile class fellow, convinced Don to teach there.

As a Johns Hopkins researcher, Don investigated the causes and “failure rate of management theories.” With this in mind, he started meeting anthropologists and evolutionary geneticists. They started discovering why management theory failed. They created new models and started applying in companies and training 30,000 CEOs.

Damon and Curt appreciate Don for sharing a glimpse of his illustrious career.

Teaching at Hopkins enabled Don to access different resources. He considers himself privileged to have come into contact with brilliant minds. “We started toying around with some of these ideas.”

Don undertook expeditions to different parts of the world to satisfy his curiosity about human beings. He was interested in doing autopsies. “So dead companies or civilizations are declining.” At the time of Soviet disintegration, he was in the Soviet Union.

He made several more expeditions, chronicled in High Altitude Leadership. He shares a friendly relationship with Chris Warner, Don’s co-author on mountaineering, studying humans and their failures.

Thanks to Oxford University, Don got to examine 700-year-old manuscripts on “training samurai managers.” The guest correlated this ancient knowledge with neurological brain science at Hopkins and developed his strategic framework to boost performance and sales. Some friendly CEOs let him experiment with their companies, and “their sales would go up two or three times.”

Curt nudges the speaker to share his findings on “the Viking leadership secret for driving focus and achievement.”

Don reveals that when he started researching early leadership, he discovered that 10,000 years ago, a bunch of folks left their villages in Africa and went north, east and west. He noticed that leadership was based on religion and “some magical forces of nature.”

He used the term the Vikings as an exploratory tool to refer to the people who left their safe villages and undertook migrations, “like in the northern UK as an example.” Many of them knew that they were going to die. So, they hung “motivational posters on the ships.” These posters served as a mission statement. Don adds, “they were using some sort of winning saga, some sort of compelling saga.”

The host asks Don about the metaphorical “deaths” and “post-mortems” that the latter mentioned earlier. The guest replies that he inquired into the causes of companies’ symbolic deaths. There were many top performers like IBM and Toys “R” Us, but they stumbled. It turned out that their people were not “willing to suffer and sacrifice.”

Don argues that we should have happy employees with “some self-esteem.” He further posits that many successful entrepreneurs could not execute flawless plans. “They, in the end, have a history of failure, losing, and making mistakes.” And those moments of losing made them stronger “because they learned something.”

Don expresses his gratitude for all those “brilliant people” who helped him write his magnum opus, The Code of the Executive: Forty-seven Ancient Samurai Principles Essential for Twenty-first Century Leadership Success. In this book, he aimed to look at strategic planning and failure rates and relate them with the military’s rules of business. This book made “the rounds of the Pentagon.” So, he got invited to tour military operations with the Secretary of Defense and the Joint Chiefs.

Don discussed strategy formulation and its tactical execution with top generals. He says that if our strategy is good, we can make any number of tactical errors and still win. “But if your strategy is flawed, you’re going to lose the war.”

He started working with Black Hawk Down on Mount Everest. There he learned the ability to adapt and execute. There he pondered the question of strategy and tactics. “Strategy,” in Don’s view, “is a pattern of thinking about winning.” He maintains that many companies leave out “winning,” so they lose. The strategic advantage comes from intuition and shifting our beliefs about winning. Similarly, we saw that some of the greatest wars were won by outmaneuvering the enemy’s beliefs. During this conversation, the guest remembers his friend and thanks Henry Mintzberg.

Curt asks for Don’s advice for the small manufacturers and business owners. Don believes that any business—whether small or big—going into bankruptcy must reconsider its beliefs and strategy. He opines that SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) analysis can help us rise even against our arch-business rival, China.

Don draws on several analogies to prove his point. He refers to his coined term “tool seduction.” When Chris was pulling dead bodies off of mountains, frozen, “they were clutching their tools.” Similarly, “dead companies are also clutching their tools.” It is “so seductive” but lethal in reality.

Curt wants to know what advice Don has for crisis management, like supply chain and labor shortages that the manufacturers faced during the COVID-19 Shutdown.

Don says that humans have been living in groups for ten thousand years. On regular days, workers come together and perform their duties in tandem. COVID showed us a way to remoteness. If a company can carry out its business from 30% to 50%, it did an excellent job. “We organize our beliefs and align them to execute faster.”

Don shares his vision for 2023. He believes the world has learned to deal with supply chain problems. Still, Ukraine War poses a threat to modern civilization. He believes “this shaking up the road a little bit will typically make us stronger.” He believes after Covid-19, we have entered an era of innovation.

Furthermore, Don thinks our new way of living in the community is renewing. He’s interested to see how these new tribal patterns evolve when we’re not limited by time and space. With these remarks, the guest concludes this conversation.

Before the curtains drop, Damon and Curt thank Don for his precious time and healthy arguments.

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Damon Pistulka, Curt Anderson, Don Schmincke


Damon Pistulka  00:03

All right, everyone, it is Friday and you know what that means it’s time for the manufacturer ecommerce success show. I am one of your host, Damon Pistulka. And I am so excited for our guests today. I am going to turn this show over to my friend over there. Kurt Anderson, co host to take this off and introduce our guests for


Curt Anderson  00:24

the day. Damon Happy Friday, dude, what an absolutely, boy, what a magnificent we could spend it’s fall sports, all sorts of exciting things going on. But man today, we have a legendary guest here. Don Schmidtke. And Don, happy Friday. Thank you for joining us. How are you today?


Don Schmincke  00:43

Oh, great. Thanks. Thanks for having me.


Curt Anderson  00:45

Absolutely. So done. You know, we have so much to cover. So yeah, guys, Whitney’s here today. So if you’re out there, please drop us a note, give a hello, you absolutely want to, you want to connect here. This is such a dynamic program that we’re going to cover. So Dan, you’re you know, if I read your entire resume and who you know, like I’d be here all day, but you know, MIT, John Hopkins, you’ve written multiple books, we have the code of the executive, high altitude, high altitude leadership, you have coached trained and helped lead over 30,000 CEOs.

So my first question for you today, Dawn is, as a young man growing up, I wouldn’t say a young boy growing up, who was your hero? Growing up? How Who on earth paved the path for this researcher to go like all in on leadership and entrepreneurship? Who was your hero? As a little boy growing up?


Don Schmincke  01:39

That’s a good question. I was I was kind of geeky as a little boy probably would have been like Neil Armstrong, or one of the astronauts. And I remember tracing flight paths around my globe at home to see where everything was before they you know, launched. But I don’t know, it’s a good question. I there were a number of people that influenced me. But you know, I put that I almost dropped out of high school. So I’m probably going to ask that question.


Curt Anderson  02:09

Was dropped out. That’s the guy with Damon. Like, I don’t know if Dan realizes like, like, right. He really liked somebody from MIT. And John Hopkins, like really shouldn’t be on this program. You know, but yeah, Dan, was there. Was there a coach, family member like teacher? Was there somebody that really kind of like paved the path that you know, I mean, for you to go to undergrad? And the education route that you took, there had been somebody in your path that really inspired you? Anybody that you want to share? Well,


Don Schmincke  02:34

the police


Curt Anderson  02:40

good answer, man, though. So Sergeant Cooper back in whatever year it was, thank goodness that he pulled you off the streets and get you on the right path. Is that what you’re saying? Yeah.


Don Schmincke  02:50

It basically says, you know, you have to show up for us your senior year, or you got to repeat, repeat. And there’s no way I’m repeating. Yeah. So it was like, so what I gotta do this, we got to finish the whole year in like, two months. So the teachers are great. And I did. And so I got out of there. And then I was working in my uncle’s gas station. And I noticed like I was in a rock bands. I mean, I was I was not a good role model. And I ended up noticing, like, all the guys with fancy cars had an education, but I get an education.

So I went to a community college of the street, right. And at that point, they didn’t care whether I showed up or not, I mean, they had my money. So it’s Yeah, sort of feeling accountable. But it was interesting. There were a couple people there that were retired from Cambridge. And like one guy was an MIT professor, another woman, her she went to the EU or husband went to MIT. I don’t know what MIT was, I there was like a trade school. I mean, what is it? What’s, what is this?

And they said, You know, I must have been getting good grades are something that you should apply because you’re involved with all these different things. So I applied and I got in, you know, so now I’m like, next thing I know, Cambridge. And, and then things just took off. I just got they were so supportive, because I could go into any area of research or learning and, and I did I mean, I, you know, I bounced around at the early stages of AI.

I had to work my way through through school and I ended up working on the Trident nuclear missile guidance system program over at Draper labs. Automated the Harvard MIT biomedical lab, major majored in Planetary Physics, it was it was very disjointed. I have ADHD. So it explains a lot. So I could connect all the dots and all these things in my head. That was really good. And that’s when I started studying humans, and how they start grouping. And I got really fascinated with that.

And that’s what took me to Johns Hopkins. And then Kathy Trower before she went over to the and took over one of the Harvard projects she got me to start teaching thing there. And that’s how I started to happen. So I started hanging out with a lot of executives in the, in the MBA programs, right? And they started complaining about, you know, the failure rate of management theories.

And they said, you know, could this be biological? And I’m thinking, well, that’s a great idea. So no one had ever asked this question before, right? So I started hanging out with anthropologists and evolutionary geneticists. And we started discovering why management theory fails and created a whole new set of models that we started applying in companies and next thing in training 30,000 CEOs. So that’s sort of a short story.


Damon Pistulka  05:36

Story, right? Well, hey, thank you. He gets just like next thing you know, I’m trying 30,000 See,


Curt Anderson  05:43

ya know, just, I’m gonna wrap in one minute. Next thing 30,000 CEOs that you know, so don, appreciate your Majesty, your humility, can give a shout out to everybody here. Take Tom Herman’s here today. Hey, Tom, happy Friday, Adam, our buddy Adam Baker, we got Whitney when he says the police I mean, the rock band, so he might have been.

So again, guys, bring your questions, drop your comments, you absolutely want to do yourself a favorite connect with Don here on LinkedIn. So Dan, okay, so you’re Community College, and you’re very modestly you end up at MIT. Go to Johns Hopkins. And you, you know, you deem yourself you’re the robe, scientists and explore an accelerating leadership performance, you know, like, so take us a little bit deeper.

So I understand like, you’re like, hey, I started studying human behavior. The NBA folks are kind of complaining. They’re like, hey, we might be on to something, but walk us, you know, like, it’s one thing. One idea, you know, a bunch of guys hanging out at the bar, or wherever you were, how did you take that conversation and like, turn it into this illustrious career. Walk us through that.


Don Schmincke  06:48

I, when I started teaching at Hopkins and the graduate school, I got access to a lot of really different resources. So I was really privileged to just hanging out with some brilliant minds. And we started toying around with some of these ideas. And then I started doing I thought, well, let’s test this out. So I started doing expeditions to different parts of the world to see how humans organize and study, like collapses and fairies, I was interested in doing autopsies.

So dead companies or civilizations declining, like I snuck into the Soviet bloc when it when it collapsed, collapsed, just kind of weird, but, but I learned a lot, you know, by being inside of that. And, you know, so I’ve done a number of expeditions in like, high altitude leadership came out of the NBC project with Chris Swan are my co author on a mountaineering studying humans and deaths on environments. But but more specifically, sort of emerged when I began doing ancient research. So absolutely.

Oxford, gave me permission to use an ancient manuscript that had been developing for 700 years. And they got documented about 500 years ago and didn’t translate it. And they had the manuscript. And they asked me to, or I asked them, Could I could I use this? And so they gave me copyright permission. And I And now, that’s when I published the code of the executive, because they were training samurai managers had a leak.

So you know, Sir, here I am in doing formal academic teaching, but then I’m branching off into these weird areas. And I start discovering things that I could correlate with, like some of the neurological brain science at Hopkins in the medical school there, and it’s just sort of took off. And then, you know, I had some CEOs that were crazy enough to let me experiment with their companies, and then their, their sales would go up two or three times, right. And I said, Is that important? And they were like, yeah. Okay.


Curt Anderson  08:54

That’s a big deal, right? Yes. Yeah. Right. Get it to time. So I want you have some amazing stories. You said, have some great adventures. You mentioned the Soviet bloc, Vietnam. I know. We’re going to talk about Korea in a second. But before I’m gonna go off script here, you mentioned like ancient folks, so one of your topics is what is the leadership? What is the Viking leadership secret for driving focus achievement? What is the Viking leadership secret for driving focus achievement? I do wonder, curious minds want to know, what is the what’s the Viking secret man?


Don Schmincke  09:32

Well, you know, I think when I started looking at early leadership, and I thought, Okay, let’s go back 10,000 years just to start, and, you know, so somehow, somebody got a bunch of people to leave their villages in Africa and go north, east and west. How do you do that? It’s like, we’re gonna go to these new lands. We have no idea where we’re going.

But we’re going to figure something out. And I noticed that the leadership stuff Well then was based on like, the gods, you know, or some magical forces of nature. And, and so the History Channel actually did a really great series called The Vikings if you sold an incredibly anthropologically, and archaeologically replicated one of these tribal migrations. And so you got to see how they were using that. Well, the thing that we came up with is we started seeing failure.

We saw a lot of bankrupt companies that had died, but they had great mission statements, great visions, great purpose statements, great why statements, but they were dead. And I was curious, like, why did they die? They had, they did everything, right, we’re creating these statements. And that’s when I realized, like, Oh, those statements are nice and motivational. I get it. But they’re not what was driving us to migrate to evolve as a species, we were something else was needed.

And that’s where I use the Vikings as a, as a as an exploratory tool and actually went over and started checking out like a migrations, like in the northern UK as an example. And what we found is that, you know, for you to get your people to leave a safe village to get on that boat for the dark water. So it’s not like it’s a hey, we’re going on a fun cruise. It’s like, hey, we don’t know where we’re going. But a lot of us are probably gonna die. Yeah. Well, I mean, what are you gonna do hang motivational posters on the ship?


Curt Anderson  11:27

You know, they didn’t, they didn’t have like the all you can eat buffet and like the, they didn’t have the things back that appear on your slide.


Don Schmincke  11:34

things right. And, and that’s what we came up with, they were using some sort of winning saga, some sort of compelling saga. And that’s different than a mission statement. That’s different than a y statement of purpose or a vision. It’s, and we began crafting this in companies.

And it was amazing the impact of this, it was like we had to create a belief, which is what leaders should do, that’s your job is to create beliefs on something ahead, that’s so formidable that people believe they need each other to achieve it. And they’re willing to suffer and sacrifice for it. So that’s different than a mission statement. And that ended up being a just a breakthrough for us, because we go into these companies and make it accelerating faster, or turn them around, once we were able to create a saga.


Curt Anderson  12:25

Okay, Dan, on this show, we have these things called the moment of silence where like, somebody just drops like this massive, just bombshell and you just did that. So we’re just gonna run it’s lunchtime here and on the eastern, eastern part of the country.

So we’re gonna save her that for a second. So Dan, can you take us a step further? So how powerful Whitney just said mitre operate there? Right? Yeah. So, Dan, this is such a powerful thing. So again, like, you think about, you know, the mission statement, the war cry, the fighting for a cause? Right.

That’s what you’re describing. So like, you know, we need each other? Can you take it a step further, like, you know, as you’re describing companies that failed, you know, immediately I’m thinking like, Kodak blockbuster Circuit City, like, what were some of the companies that you were studying at the time? Or what were some of those deaths that those post mortems that you were diagnosing?


Don Schmincke  13:16

Yeah. I mean, they’re all there on the list. And I think the note was, I was looking at, like, why were companies stumbling, and some of them might have a great passionate beliefs before you know, like, you know, IBM, or you look at, and some are trying to come back like toys r us as an example. Yes. Yeah. So it, but what was stopping and what diverted it? And it turned out that, you know, that this, there wasn’t a saga, there wasn’t people willing to suffer and sacrifice.

It sounds so politically incorrect. Oh, we should have happy employees. And we should have, you know, build some self esteem and get rats like, no, no, no, it’s when you create a saga, people are going to rally around that, and be willing to lock arms with you to go into battle. And you look at the stories of some of these companies, like these entrepreneurial firms.

And the fact that this new book I’m doing is letting me get into some of this research. A lot of these successful entrepreneurs, didn’t execute flawless plans. They, at the end, have a history of failure, history of losing history of making mistakes, and it was those moments of losing, that made them stronger, because they learned something.

And that’s what I think we should be teaching how to lose powerfully. Yeah. And so when you say, so when you when you say that it’s like opens up a whole new realm of leadership that we don’t teach. And, and the saga came out of that. So when we looked at what was missing, yeah, they had some really great motivational statements and all that but none of it made strategic sense. In other words, we think well, we need a rallying cry.

We need to do this. We didn’t have a good why statement. That’s great. You do. However, if it’s not strategically indexed, you’re just gonna have a bunch of happy employees that end up in a dead company. So we back up and say, what is your strategy for winning? Before you even make the story?

Before you create a saga? What’s your strategy for winning? And this is where we started going into strategic planning research. And there was a lot of data out there on the failure rates of strategic planning. So of course, you know, as a scientist geek, I’m like, Oh, this is cool. Let’s find out what’s going on here. And after so many years of researching this, we finally concluded that most strategic plans aren’t strategic. Or tactical. So we become confused, or a teaching tactical planning a strategy, and it’s not.


Damon Pistulka  15:48

Yeah. Again.


Curt Anderson  15:54

Alright, guys, if you’re just joining us, we’re here with Dinesh, Mickey boy, and Don has, if you’re just getting a little taste of this, he has helped coach over 30,000 CEOs. He’s the road scientist that is just really powerfully helping entrepreneurs. He has a new book coming out, you absolutely want you want to grab high altitude leadership than a couple of things that folks say about you the most provocative speaker in industry.

Damon, I have a couple, Dan, sit back for a second, I want him let’s talk about Don for a minute here, listen to if you have time to work with a genius, take it that’s something that somebody said about that profound effect on our entire group, best speaker I have ever heard the most revolutionary and transforming event in my entire career.

That was somebody that attended one of Dan’s events, unconventional style, change how we work I could go on and on best speech ever. One in a million. Anyway, so you’re just you’re a dynamo. Let’s talk about your new book. I’m gonna take it a step further.


Don Schmincke  16:53

You guys, were you just like you really bumped up here. I’m like, I’m getting like feeling good about myself. Oh,


Curt Anderson  17:00

kidding. I’m like, man, like, Damon, we should be paying him for this.


Damon Pistulka  17:04

So I’m gonna tell you, I will tell you, Don, and one of my one of my friends, Chuck Cox had hurt you heard you speak earlier this year or last late last year? I can’t remember. He said, You got to meet this guy. You’ve got to meet this guy. And it was after we had talked before. And I was like, Yeah, I know. Right? It is like that. When people talk to you about your again, your love, spending time with


Curt Anderson  17:29

you. That’s done. Let’s take it another step further. So again, you know, so guys, you know, we have the researcher converted into this, this just amazing leadership guru expert. So Don, when you’re like, Hey, I’m kind of onto this leadership thing. And like, hey, maybe maybe I’ll get a career out of this right Damon? Like, maybe this thing’s gonna work. Right?

So Don, is you’re digging into this, like, to give us some examples, like a tactic, you know, versus a strategy where like, you know, together as a group, and let’s say like, Hey, we’re on that corporate board at Kodak, or we’re working at Blockbuster. You’re like, man, these are great strategies, when indeed, they maybe they were tactics. And we were just completely confused. Can you give us some examples?


Don Schmincke  18:06

Yeah, I would, like I said, I’m really, I’ve been just really grateful to all these brilliant people that have helped me and, you know, let me learn some things. And I thought, Oh, we’re gonna look at strategic planning, failure rates, let’s go to the company that started strategic planning, the military. Right, I mean, they invented the board. So I was fortunate that my, my book when the samurai was making the rounds of the Pentagon, so I got invited to tour military operations with the Secretary of Defense and the Joint Chiefs.

And, of course, I’m milking everything I can out of these guys heads, because I’m trying to find out what’s going on. And it was interesting, it was, there was a quote, and I forget the general, but it was, it was like, Hey, you could execute tactically very well, just incredibly so. But if your strategy is flawed, you’re going to lose the war.

On the other hand, if you have a great strategy, you can make any number of tactical errors and still win. And then, you know, later on, I met with different people, I started working with Black Hawk Down in Mount Everest man, and I learned a lot of this from the ability to adapt and execute, but the strategic question came up that most of us have tactics, because we’re only looking like one year out. And, and Henry Mintzberg, get it and I’m like, yo, I love using his work.

He’s brilliant. You know, he said, you know, strategy is a pattern of thinking, and what I’m adding to that is about winning and thinking about winning, you know, what does winning mean? And a lot of companies don’t have that documented anywhere in their strategic plan. And then how are we going to do it is another way.

And most of strategic plans are analytical, and that’s why they become tactical, because what we found out, you know, I noticed that when again, is there, the small startup companies, the small startup companies, all the thought leaders that are not going to make it all the management consultants say they’re doing it wrong. Have all the industry experts say, you know, they’re not going to be a problem, they’re gonna they’re gonna fail. And somehow the small companies end up rising up and dominating their industry.

And I’m like, has anybody asked a question about this? Like, how did this company that everyone said was wrong, all the industry experts and consultants and thought leaders, and they’re not going to make it end up dominating the world? So I went to look at that, like, you know, Southwest Amazon, right? I mean, like, everybody was saying, These guys aren’t gonna make it. Netflix. Turns out, they were using strategy, which was had nothing to do with tactics, you get to that later.

But strategic advantage comes from intuition comes from shifting your beliefs about what, what winning means? And how are you going to do it. And what they were believing was something different, that everyone else couldn’t figure out, because they weren’t on the same belief system. So we went back through history, and we saw that some of the greatest wars were won by outmaneuvering the beliefs of the enemy, the thoughts of the enemy? You know, I mean, have you seen Patton? That old classic film patcher? Absolutely.

Yeah. Seen that’s in the middle. And I thought this is perfect. And I actually use this when we do our workshops with with Zia, executive teams, and patents going up against rombo. In North Africa. Yeah, a lot of them was the industry leader. He’s the he’s the thought leader on tank battle strategy, right? So patents got to engage his troops. And he ends up engaging and winning. And he says something, and I can’t remember what he said. But it was Rommel, you magnificent bastard. I read your book.

And I’m thinking, That was brilliant. Because he doesn’t mean I’ve read your book. So I know what and how do I do this better? He read the book, because I want to know, what are you believing about tank battles. And you see this outmaneuvering every successful battle and company. And yet what we ended up teaching in our business goals is analytics. Well, we got to do a SWOT analysis, we got to do this analysis and market analysis. And I was doing the same thing. I was part of the problem. I was teaching this stuff. Yeah.

And politically until I realized it was all bullshit. If the strategy is flawed, it doesn’t matter how good your tactics are, how what are you going to do to maneuver? And, and our ancestors, I found nailed it. It’s like, there’s three areas to change your beliefs. Where’s the battlefield? Who’s the enemy there? And how you gonna? How are you going to maneuver them? And when I opened up a strategic plan and a company, I rarely see those questions answered. Because sometimes you gotta change the battlefield.

You know, like, Southwest wasn’t coming in and competing against an airline. They all thought he was in the airline industry. No, he was and he was out to crush greyhound. He wanted to crush the bus company. You know, I mean, he only needed the in an airport because they that runway things. Because he needed a bus with wings on it, you see. And it’s just so when these things come out, all of a sudden, all the experts Shut up. criticizing them thinking, wow, brilliant. Were they you know? Like that? Yeah.


Curt Anderson  23:20

Okay, so, you know, when you talk if you guys just came in, you know, so Dan’s talking about the saga and done you just really remind me if you know, like the Shackleton story. Do you know the Shackleton? Right? And he put out that newspaper ad, you know, like, and I don’t remember you guys. Damon, do you know that story? Yeah, like he.

So Shackleton was going to do an expert exploration of what the Antarctic and it was, like, you know, starvation possible might not return low pay something something but like he but and like, all these guys came out because like he created the saga where like, you know, if if, you know if you’re talking about like, hey, you know, great pay great this great this who shows up, uh, because he created the Saiga he created the cars.

He had a you know, like you’re saying down to belief system. And they returned. It’s a great you know, so if you look up Shackleton, it’s a great story. But that’s what remind me. So talk, let’s think a little bit deeper into your So Don has a new book. If you boy, guys, if you’re on your book lists, you know, holidays around the corner, stocking stuffer, whatever you believe in, grab Dan’s book. So Dan, let’s talk. Let’s go a little bit deeper. So you’ve talked about how to win by understanding failure. Can we let’s go a little bit further


Don Schmincke  24:27

there. Well, the books in the new books that I get from one of the Nora’s menorahs on on winning and losing, and we’re, we’re still working that title. But what I think is interesting is that we, if we and people have always been saying this, that’s the best point and we’re just not listening, I think. I mean, who was it like Mandela says, I never lose, I always learn. I was it’s like and you see this through these these these great leaders and yet we’re not teaching how to lose you know, we’re not teaching like what do you do with Uh, but the but I think that once we’re able to reorient our beliefs about it, we can learn.

And the military was really good at this, they do these after action reviews on every event on AI, right? And what are they doing? They’re trying to learn, you know, even if it was successful or not successful, where could we be better what happened when, and this this, but we don’t teach orientation that way. George stock actually, like I said, I’m really grateful to have access to some great minds.

And he started the lean manufacturing revolution, like 20 years ago. And, and so, you know, I spent a couple hours with George every few weeks to sort of share data and I tried a Malgus brain for, for things, he’s just brilliant to work, but we’re thinking about doing a podcast with him. And, and he said something interesting about, like, his latest Harvard Business Review articles, like only OODA loop.

And if you’re familiar with an ODA, and it stands for, you know, observe, orient, decide and act and it was a it was a fighter pilot technique used by a few fighter pilots in the Korean War. And what they found out is that for some reason, these, these, these, the US jets were not at all superior to the new Russian MiGs. In fact, they were inferior in just about every measurement. Yeah, some pilots had a 10 to one kill ratio.

So how the heck do you get a 10 to one kill ratio using a substandard equipment. And they found that it was from the way their minds are working, you know, they had a way of observing everything going on and then orienting like, what does it mean. And that’s, that’s, I think, what we should be teaching more of, and because when you look at losing, and course correcting and adapting a lot of what happens in that space, if you do that, well, then you can look at decision alternatives and which actions you want to take.

We kind of skipped that part. You know, we observe something, roll right into, okay, let’s make a decision and take some action. We don’t spend time and orienting, like, what does this mean? How can we maneuver? How can we maneuver this problem? And that’s, that’s what I want to promote more of your future teachings.


Curt Anderson  27:15

Right. Okay. So guys, I know we’re coming to the top of the hour, if you’re just joining us, or if you have to leave man, you absolutely want to connect with Don here on LinkedIn. But Dan, I want to talk about you know, so John Buck Leno’s with us today, Damon, we in somebody’s going to go out and grab the high altitude leadership book. It’s on their must buy list right now.

So Dan, that’s awesome. We’re moving some books for you today. But I want to talk about you study ancient tribes like you really, you know, I don’t like that cliche out of the box, but many lack of vocabulary you think so out of the box, you’ve studied all sorts of walks of life, you’ve traveled the world. Now, a couple of things I understand you’ve been shot off an aircraft carrier, you were seen in a North Korea, D DMZ minefield with your kids know, last week, I have to dig into that first session.

You were let’s see, you were almost arrested as a capitalist spy in the Soviet bloc. So can you talk about like some of your travels or what’s going on? Go to Don’s website, you need to check out his website. Yeah, stories, but then share some of the stories as you’ve traveled the globe to really deep dive understand human behavior to follow these leadership strategies.


Don Schmincke  28:19

That’s that sign there says mine. So we’re actually standing next to a mine. Oh, my goodness, it’s like that pictures. But you know, I wanted when my kids got old enough, I started dragging them on these excursions with me around the world. And I wanted to see how beliefs alter leadership, but also and how that impacts countries.

And you know, you can, you can look at different parts of the world and just within just a few kilometers, they’re totally different societies. There’s nothing to do with the land, it’s the same land, even same culture, if you will, has to do with leadership. And so when we were in Korea, we decided to go to the DMZ. And look at that. And it was a stark contrast between the two countries. But that was part of that’s how I, so we get the minefield shots. That’s awesome.


Curt Anderson  29:19

So can you like I know, like Vietnam or some of the, like, share some of the things that you discovered or like how, you know, share with us. And what I want to dig into is like, say, like, the crowd that Dave and I are targeting, or like that 30 person, 50 person manufacturer, maybe the founder is still working at it.

30 years later, maybe grandma and grandpa founded it, you know, generations ago, it’s third generation, but like for that smaller manufacturer, that, you know, maybe they’ve been doing things that the you know, the way they’ve been doing it for years, how do you help some of those smaller folks are like, what are some of these applicable strategies that you’ve picked up?

You know, in Korea and Soviet, how can we help like the small manufacturers get these competitive advantages? You know, there’s so that you know, there’s so deep in the trench Come down in the weeds, it’s hard for them even lift their head up. What do you tell those folks?


Don Schmincke  30:04

Well, what it is I don’t, I don’t really tell them anything I ask you, great. It’s very Socratic. It’s like we, like if we do a strategic planning event, like we just don’t go in and say, Okay, we’re gonna go through the list and fill in the blacks. We actually spend time on the front end, interviewing everybody separately to find out what their belief systems currently are, and, and how they see reality.

And then then when we engage, we’re able to design the questions around shifting what they’re seeing as reality. And we’d like to use those those themes I mentioned earlier, like, you know, where’s your battlefield? I mean, why do you think that’s what it is? And why do you segment your markets the way you think you’re segmenting? And what business? Are you really in? And these are interesting questions.

And, in fact, I was just coaching a CEO earlier. And, you know, they, they were in the bank data analytics business, and they were going bankrupt, they were in a 5 million in revenue. They’re losing half a million that year. And when we took them through this, it was like, well, we’re not really in data analytics, we’re in the customer intimacy.

And that was the big shift. And then they realize who else wants customer intimacy like everybody, every industry? So they lost all their banking clients, but they went from 5 million near bankruptcy to over 25 million, highly profitable. It was just a belief shift. We did no SWOT analysis, we just changed, like, what’s the field that you’re on? And when you do that, you’re able to open up new questions around, okay, who’s the who are the threats there, or they’re the enemies, they’re on that new field.

And, and we found out that when we studied the autopsies, most of the deaths were from arrows in the back not in the know, they, they, they weren’t seeing the other threads coming out, then they were fucking sleep focusing on their arrivals. And that may be a threat, but a lot of times it wasn’t. And so, you know, they couldn’t shift. You know, they couldn’t, you know, like, we had a home builder.

Another example, in Fort Myers, they were about 7 million in revenue doing very well, but, but the whole industry is being stopped by China, taking concrete out of the planet, and we couldn’t get it. And their whole belief shift was around cheese. How do we fight China that’s stopping our growth? And I thought that was doing the CEOs group the other day. And I remember he said that yeah, it was one of my VP says, Why don’t we buy that ready? Makes plan and I’m like, That’s a stupid idea.

We’re not we don’t know that business. It’s ridiculous. So after we bought the ready mix plan, guess who ended up having Summit? I guess we did get it anywhere from 7 million in two years later. There’s 70,000,070. Yeah. So it’s like we tell people look, if you wanna grow your company three to 10 times in the next few years, you’re gonna have to think strategically, right? You get about the SWOT analysis for now and get to that later. But how are you going to help maneuver? Right, you’re going to help the enemy.


Curt Anderson  33:07

I love that and you have a program, why strategic planning fails? And how, why to ignore it, and what to do about it. And you’re kind of describing that here. So let’s dig into that friendly fire. Okay. If you find clients are, you know, they’re, they’re getting hit with that friendly fire, but just don’t realize it. And next part of the question, when they do realize it, how do you fix it? How do you stop the friendly fire?


Don Schmincke  33:30

Well, when you say friendly for everybody, mainly mainly, like when you were


Curt Anderson  33:33

seeing like a lot of the arrows when you’re describing like the arrows in their back or like you know that they’re they’re self I’m I took it that you’re describing, like self inflicted wounds are a lot of the products.


Don Schmincke  33:41

It’s things like cheese, we didn’t know, it would be globalization, we thought it was our rival over here, or we didn’t know her biggest enemies, our customer.

Yeah. You know, I mean, the freaking bargaining power is so high, you know, and a lot of stuff started with with the Michael Porter research like 30 years ago, which is, you know, so you build on that. It’s like, Wow, maybe that’s your maybe our biggest enemies are suppliers, they’ve got us, you know, cranked, there’s all these other things that can be threats to you, and maybe it’s not your rival. And that’s what we found is interesting is that when people get that it changes strategy.

How do we win? What do we let go of? Why are we fighting battles we shouldn’t be fighting. That’s another thing we don’t teach in our business schools is the art of withdrawal from battle. You know, it gets stuck into these battles. And we we don’t think about withdrawing. It’s like, wait a minute, so every time I’m in an audience of CEOs, it’s like if somebody would guess fighting battles, you should be fighting. And that is one of them was like, Oh, my God, that just changed everything I’m going to do tomorrow.


Damon Pistulka  34:49

mean just that one thing, right? You could they could be going headlong down the road and they’re like this is just kill and sucking all of our resources for this and you look at the other three quarters of their business. it’d be going really well and just just stay, okay, we’re switching that we’re not worrying about that that’s a battle we don’t want to win.


Don Schmincke  35:07

Right? Right. So these are subtle belief shifts that for some companies are major, and actually change their trajectory and their growth. And so that’s what we’re looking for. We’re looking for that level art. And it really is arc, you know, because analysis is so seductive, and effect in the in the climbing book, we did Hyatts do leadership, we have a chapter on tool seduction.

Because when Chris was pulling dead bodies off of mountains, frozen, they were clutching their tools, you know, and I said, Geez, Chris, dead companies are also clutching their tools. You know, and why is the why it’s, it’s so seductive. And I think it’s because the human species, we strive for safety, because we want to be safe, right? I mean, it’s how we survive. And analysis lets us be safe, because we can understand and control the world.

And that’s what we try to do, let’s analyze this so we can understand and control it. Control makes us safe. So we get really seduced by our tools. However, the people that are outmaneuvering, everybody are operating from a different level of altering beliefs, which is purely art. And there is no textbooks, there’s no fill in the blank programs, there’s no equations, there’s no formulas. It’s like art is it’s dangerous. It’s uncomfortable. It’s like how do we create this? And that’s what we try to teach, we try to teach art. So


Curt Anderson  36:25

when you have a small company that maybe see like, the staff is on board, like, Don, we need your help desperately, maybe the CEO just as a little bit resistant, or like, you know, the oh, this is how we’ve always done it. How do you help folks? How do you how do you convince them to buy into that new belief


Don Schmincke  36:39

system? Well, the by being part of the journey, and I think every leader needs to think of it this way, you know, you get them to buy in by leading them to it. And you don’t get, you know, by telling them, Hey, here’s our new abilities. And then let’s put the poster on the wall. And yeah, but it’s having them discover, you know, these fundamental questions of, you know, what is what was, what does winning mean?

Why are we doing this? How do we do it, and you started uncovering the assumptions like, oh, we thought this was our battlefield, but no, it’s over there. But we thought this was interesting. No, it’s over here. And it’s in that artful look at the world, they begin to come up with more powerful strategies. And so they’re buying in because they’re part of the journey with you.


Curt Anderson  37:25

Right? Right. So all right, so let’s go here. I’m gonna be mindful of your time. I know you’re super busy man. So you know, this? I don’t know, Dan, if you’re aware of those little things been going on the past couple years, called COVID, and kind of disrupted supply chain workforce, all that. What what do you do?

And boy, you’ve been traveling for the past year, you know, year and a half, you said doing a lot you do a ton of speaking engagements, again, promoting your book promoting your, you know, helping 30,000 CEOs? What, what, what tips and advice? Do you have folks, you know, kind of surviving COVID, the supply chain labor shortage, the quiet quitting? What do you kind of hear in Word on the Street right now?


Don Schmincke  38:05

Well, it’s interesting, there was a lot of issue around remoteness, you know, and so I get questions like, Well, wait a minute, how do I put a saga in place and have them follow me when everybody’s distributed, and it’s the remote.

And I’m like, just follow what people have been doing for 1000s of years, the massive armies of the world are distributed, and they’re still one army, you know, or look at the churches or there are religious, they’re distributed, but they’re all in there together. And this is where we start teaching about how to alter human grouping beyond being localized with each other.

And it turns out that it’s what we don’t teach in our business schools, or our culture change programs, which leads to the failure, right? Is humans like to grew up. And if you trigger grouping instincts, you got an edge? And the best way to do that is what are the tribes symbols? What’s the tribes rituals? And what are the what’s the tribes magic, you know, those magic moments and the mythologies. And when we go into companies, and we start altering symbols, and rituals and magic, everything starts coming together.

So even these remote, you know, COVID based operations can still be as one. But also what we noticed is that we started studying dysfunction. And I’ll do this in speeches, I’ll say, what percentage of your business’s time is spent in dysfunctional behavior, you know, politics, and, you know, all that stuff going on, and it dropped during COVID because people weren’t together, it went from 50% average to 30%.

I thought that was fascinating. You know, so people are learning something about, oh, you know, maybe we should take this on, like when we come back together again, because I warn everybody, the humans are coming back that maybe we need for it. How do we organize our beliefs and align so we can we can execute faster? And that’s that’s the key when you can execute fast Yeah, bunich. Yeah.


Curt Anderson  40:02

Oh my god. All right, this is so good. All right, that’s, well, we’re gonna, we’re gonna wind down, you have a new book that you’re working on, it’s, you know, we’re discussing about, you know, power of describe that, again, the power of


Don Schmincke  40:17

how to lose powerfully as basically, the greatest winners know how to lose powerfully, you know?


Damon Pistulka  40:26

Yeah. Yep. So you’re you mentioned before we got on that this new book is about entrepreneurship. And it’s your it’s winning by studying losing? Is it said,


Don Schmincke  40:37

yeah, it’s sort of, we’re sort of uncovering the mythology and just sort of exposing, let’s say, what we’re teaching that may not be accurate, you know, so we’re getting, and because we teach about successes, look what they did look with data.

And it’s like, no, wait a minute, it teaching planning, you should be teaching that no plan is gonna work. Yeah, that’s what you should be teaching, and what do you do? And then we use our Black Hawk Down insights from what we learned about that around, you know, adaptation, and reordering and speed of adaptation. I mean, you know, we should be teaching then that teaching that a plan is going to work. That’s ridiculous.


Curt Anderson  41:19

Man, how’d you get so practical, and as a matter of fact, I think that was one of those. There’s, like, you know, most practical advice that we’ve ever heard and like, and again, guys, if you check out Dan’s website, you’re gonna see like, you know, we’re up seven acts were up 70% Are such and such score went up, you know, you know, doubled and all these things.

So, Dan, you just have a really profound effect. One thing I wanted to ask before we wind down, we’re seeing a lot of layoffs, at this time. So depending on where you’re catching this, or when you’re listening to this, we’re seeing, you know, like, you know, I think meta right, just had a big announcement this week. Any what do you what are you describing for companies? Or like, what are you seeing? Where do you see things going from here? Kind of overall, any forecasting from the dawn perspective?


Don Schmincke  42:01

You mean, in terms of the future? Yeah.


Curt Anderson  42:03

Yeah. Like, where are we at with the economy? And like, we’re like, what do you what do you see going on for coming in? And 2023?


Don Schmincke  42:10

I think it’s gonna be interesting, because their supply chains have been rattled a lot, you know, COVID. And then he got the Ukraine war. I mean, I mean, the Ukraine words, incredible look at leadership and the difference in leadership stuff. Yeah. You know, I mean, there’s gonna be some incredible movies and books around us that we’re going to learn from, but they’re being alive, what I’m what I’m teaching, and what’s going on is 1000s of years old. So it’s not like I came up with a new idea.

And I’m just looking at what’s been working for 1000s of years, and we see it playing out. But I think I think this you know, shaking up the road a little bit, I will typically makes us stronger. And so I think it’s, it challenges us to question our assumptions to look at maybe, maybe these beliefs got us here, but they’re not going to get us to the future. And what’s a new way of seeing the world and the reality and, and, you know, where we’re going on the field about I want who’s really what’s a real threat out there?

And that’s a very stimulating but also exciting question because you get people together to think about that and all of a sudden innovation starts happening, you know, your legacy beliefs and it was interesting George stock I mentioned earlier, he I was on a call with him when he said legacy companies when they’re under threat, respond with legacy strategies. And so that’s a good question. Is your company using a legacy strategy? Great question.


Curt Anderson  43:36

Okay, so for our small manufacturers out there folks in the room here guys, thank you everybody for joining us. This has just been what an event this was today what a learning lesson what a great opportunity done thank you for just sharing your brilliance and wisdom any last words of wisdom advice, suggestions, that small entrepreneur again like down in the trenches grinding grinding trying to survive supply chain trying to survive these labor shortages just trying to make great American products here made in USA to get them out there what any any last parting thoughts or words of wisdom for those folks?


Don Schmincke  44:10

So many more mistakes to make and so little time left? Yes, you know, use those mistakes as learnings just follow the greatest ones they knew how to turn it around and they learn from it and yeah, don’t don’t be I mean, you’re gonna feel bad at the time. But pick yourself up great samurai quote like seven times down eight times up, keep getting keep getting keep getting up.


Curt Anderson  44:40

Man trapped him like I know, I don’t I could talk to you today. Southwest. What are a couple of your other stalwarts? What are a couple of your other like? Just companies that you look that you feel fit your perfect model of leadership success? Anybody else that you want to share? Well, it’s


Don Schmincke  44:53

hard to say perfection because those great company lists change every 18 months.


Curt Anderson  44:57

Yeah, no, I do. They do. Who’s right now who’s fresh in mind right now? You know,


Don Schmincke  45:02

but I think what’s what’s happening is I’m, I’m interested to see where Amazon goes on this retail thing, and how we’re going to start seeing our connections with each other in different ways. For instance, I don’t know what’s going to happen with Twitter. That’s interesting, isn’t it? Where is that going to end up? You know, and, you know, I’m what happens if we have a Mars colony someday, which may happen pretty quickly?

And what does that gonna mean in terms of how we see ourselves and where we’re going? What’s happening with quantum computing? What happens with machines eating at a point to where maybe they’re out thinking us, you know, that can be scary. So this, there’s things emerging that I’m paying attention to, to see what does this mean for us in the future? Some of the greatest companies haven’t been born yet.


Curt Anderson  45:46

Some of the greatest many of the greatest companies are yet to be born. Absolutely. Guys, you gotta you gotta go to Dan’s website, man. I like this was just done. I’m like,


Damon Pistulka  45:58

I thank you. Thanks. So much on talk to people.


Curt Anderson  46:03

You know, Dan speaks to hundreds 1000 Over his career, Don, probably what hundreds of I don’t know how many people you spoke to over the years. Right. Yeah. And for you to share your time with us what an absolute honor and privilege, I guess, was just such a great learning opportunity, everybody. Thank you for joining us today. Thank you. Don, did you see somebody’s comments, you know, like, Tom says, What a fascinating conversation. Guys are thinking, you know, so Dan, thank you for joining us today, man.


Don Schmincke  46:32

Thanks for having me. I really haven’t had a ball with you guys. And I could go on for hours more. So I love you. I just love it. You guys are awesome.


Curt Anderson  46:41

I last question, I promise my last quite so dynamic. I kicked like Columbo isn’t he? I kick things off, I kick things off with who is your hero? Here’s the last question that we have for you. Today 2020 to talk about your boys taking them to Korea, you’ve been all over the world all over the country. Now that things are changing, shifting, moving into 2023, where you’re at with your career, you’re speaking all over the place you have a new book in the horizon. Who? Or what is inspiring you today? Who or what is your inspiration today?


Don Schmincke  47:14

I think what’s emerging is our new way of having community with each other community experimenting with that, because we’re not limited by time and space anymore. And what are we going to do about being a community? And so I’m interested to see how these new tribal patterns evolve when we’re not limited by time and space. Yeah. Okay.


Curt Anderson  47:38

Everybody, just savor that moment. Whitney says John Blue Book, lino says this was amazing. Whitney says, Thank you, Don, for sharing your perspective. Such a fascinating conversation. So alright, guys, we’re gonna park on this and just boy, please replay this. If you’ve just joined if you came in late, you dude, you gotta go back and catch the beginning. Go to John’s website you want to catch? He has a bunch of videos on his website of previous speeches.

He’s been doing this for talking about legacy. Dan has built a legacy on helping folks with leadership. He’s a humble modest guy, but boy, he is absolutely what a gift you are done. So Dan, thank you. I want to wish everybody in amazing, safe, incredible weekend and just like Dan was here today, Damon and what do we like to share? Be someone’s inspiration? Just go out there be someone’s inspiration make change. Change your belief system? Dude. That’s like a mic drop there. Daymond Take it away, man.


Damon Pistulka  48:35

All right. Well, I just want to thank Don once again, and man, I just get excited every time that we can get on and just listen to your talk, man. Thanks so much. Appreciate it. Barnhardt everyone that’s listening today. Hey, tell your friends have them go back listen this from the beginning. Get on Don’s website. I want to make sure it’s in the comments too. I think I gotta get it in the comments by the books and look for that new book coming out in a couple months here from Don man Kurt or this you


Curt Anderson  49:03

heard it here first right we got man we got like sneak preview from David yet All right. So guys, you heard it here first, be fallen down when his book comes out. You want to be in line get to be the first one to get that book. So yep. Thank you guys. Thank you. Thanks, everyone. We’ll be back again


Damon Pistulka  49:17

next week. Hanging out Don will be

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