32 episodes

The way to think differently is to act differently and get comfortable with being uncomfortable. For business leaders, entrepreneurs, managers and anyone who wants to improve how they work and live: Welcome to the Unlearn Podcast. Host Barry O’Reilly, author of Unlearn and Lean Enterprise seeks to synthesize the superpowers of extraordinary individuals into actionable strategies you can use—to Think BIG, start small and learn fast, and find your edge with excellence.

Unlearn Barry O'Reilly

    • Business
    • 5.0, 27 Ratings

The way to think differently is to act differently and get comfortable with being uncomfortable. For business leaders, entrepreneurs, managers and anyone who wants to improve how they work and live: Welcome to the Unlearn Podcast. Host Barry O’Reilly, author of Unlearn and Lean Enterprise seeks to synthesize the superpowers of extraordinary individuals into actionable strategies you can use—to Think BIG, start small and learn fast, and find your edge with excellence.

    Behavior Design and Tiny Habits with BJ Fogg

    Behavior Design and Tiny Habits with BJ Fogg

    Barry O’Reilly talks with social scientist and author of Tiny Habits, Dr. BJ Fogg on this week’s Unlearn Podcast. BJ is a Research Associate at Stanford University and creator of the Fogg Behavior Model in which he teaches people how to adapt their behavior based on the challenges they want to solve. His students include the co-founder of Instagram, as well as several other product, app, and service developers who create solutions using the models and methods he teaches.

    A Natural Experimenter
    “There’s a real skill about recognizing different patterns and seeing a trend and bringing it all together to create a new field,” Barry comments. He describes BJ as a natural experimenter, as he was able to converge his love of rhetoric with scientific study to create the new field of persuasive technology. BJ points out that it’s not a straight path: “You kind of stumble into learning and unlearning moments—you find what works and what doesn't; and certainly do by being curious to explore new paths, design experiments and get insights through research.”

    How To Make Change Sustainable
    Lasting change has these two characteristics, according to Fogg: Will it help you do what you already want to do? Will it help you feel successful? These two maxims are foundational to Fogg's systematic approach, Behavior Design, that helps people make the sustainable changes they are aiming towards. BJ describes how he discovered this new domain by setting himself up to be free to pursue his goals in the way he felt was best. Once you have a little support to independently sustain yourself for a while, he says, you realize that you can take more risks than you thought before. Barry adds, “Our ability to continuously adapt our behavior and thinking to changing circumstances is probably the most important skill we may need.”

    Just Get It Out There
    “Design the experiment. Crank it out. The first you're gonna mess up on. So just do it, learn, change and then do the next one,” BJ advises. Instead of trying to get it perfect, just get it done and put it out. The market will tell you what you need to improve and how to iterate. This is a key tenet of Behavior Design, BJ says. He illustrates this idea with an interesting story about how he forced his students to create a Facebook app in a seemingly impossible deadline. An important lesson he took away from that experience, he says, is that simplicity is key. It was the simple apps that really took off: “10 weeks later it engaged over 24 million people on the Facebook platform and some of them were making lots of money.”

    Looking Ahead
    As BJ looks to the future, he comments that now is the critical time for behavior change. He feels a responsibility to help people get through the current pandemic and social justice issues using his behavior change system. It’s a system that you can apply to any problem, so he wants to teach people to use the system to tackle these challenges. He also talks about the focus mapping tool that he is launching to help users match themselves with new habits or behavior changes that are right for them.


    • 37 min
    How to Be Forever Employable with Jeff Gothelf

    How to Be Forever Employable with Jeff Gothelf

    Barry O’Reilly and Jeff Gothelf have been best friends ever since Jeff reviewed Barry’s first draft of Lean Enterprise and told him it sucked. They have worked together as co-authors of the Lean series, and as consultants to Fortune 50 clients. Jeff joins Barry on the Unlearn Podcast this week to talk about his new book, Forever Employable: How to Stop Looking for Work and Let Your Next Job Find You. 

    Push vs Pull
    The higher up the corporate ladder you climb, the fewer the jobs and the fiercer the competition. You have to constantly push your way through. Jeff woke up on his 35th birthday and made the unsettling realization that he would soon be battling younger, better-skilled people for a job. He understood that this was untenable, so he vowed that he wouldn’t look for jobs anymore, rather he would have jobs look for him. He tells Barry that pulling job opportunities means telling the world explicitly who you are, where you could help them, where people can find you and what problems you can solve for them.

    First Steps
    Why do you exist? How can you help people become successful? Being forever employable involves self-assessment. Jeff says that the first step he took was to examine what he was good at and what value he had provided up to that point. Then he thought about his audience and where the market was trending. “...if you're going to plant a flag somewhere you want to plant it in a growing market rather than ... one that's shrinking,” he points out.

    Your Personal Brand
    You have a story to tell that no-one else has: storytelling is how you differentiate yourself. Jeff tells listeners that we all have a unique perspective, and it’s how we build our personal brand. He and Barry talk about sharing their stories and fighting the impostor syndrome. “People massively underestimate themselves,” Jeff says. He coaches people how to find the self-confidence to pursue their goals, a trait that is critical if you want to be successful. Barry says that doing something you enjoy gives you confidence because your passion shines through.

    Catching The Wave
    Recognizing a problem, tracking the trends, then adopting a position and sharing it, orients you to catch the wave of new opportunities. Jeff describes how sharing his ideas attracted many unforeseen opportunities. “All of a sudden this conversation goes global and that begins the pull,” he shares. “All of a sudden I start to attract new opportunities because the story and the conversation and the sharing has become so powerful. Giving all this stuff away starts to attract all these new opportunities my way.” He shares how each new opportunity gave him the confidence to take another step, until he could confidently transition into full-time entrepreneurship. Barry comments, “One of the things people also need to unlearn is this isn't like from 0 to 100% overnight.” It takes small, continuous steps and a constant process of experimenting, evolving and reinventing and growing the things you already do.

    Counterintuitive Leadership
    A great leader does not purport to have all the answers, Barry says. Instead, it’s someone who is authentic and vulnerable and willing to learn. Jeff says that he is unlearning the fear of becoming vulnerable in public. He finds that his personal struggles resonate with people. He is becoming comfortable with being uncomfortable, which Barry notes is the mark of a successful leader. Jeff is driven by enthusiastic skepticism as coined by Astro Teller: there’s always a better way to do something the next time around.

    Looking Forward
    Jeff is looking forward to the launch of Forever Employable and the new opportunities it brings his way.


    Forever Employable: How to Stop Looking for Work and Let Your Next Job Find You

    • 41 min
    Break Up With The Job For Your Dream with Kanika Tolver

    Break Up With The Job For Your Dream with Kanika Tolver

    Barry O’Reilly welcomes Kanika Tolver to this week’s Unlearn Podcast. Kanika is the bestselling author of Career Rehab and founder of a consultancy business of the same name. She has coached hundreds of clients, helping them discover opportunities to do their best work and to find higher performance roles that are better suited to them.

    How To Break Up With Your Job
    Despite fear and anxiety about job security, especially in this COVID-19 pandemic, Kanika says, that you shouldn't be afraid to seek the right job or to break up with the wrong one. She and Barry discuss practical advice: 

    Turn your anxiety into accomplishments. For example, you can upskill by getting a new certification, and expand your network. Connect with recruiters or hiring managers who can help you get a new position.

    Join a new online community. Apart from learning new skills, you may be able to connect with experts.

    Fearlessly resign when you know you’re prepared. To prepare, think about what you need to do to get ready, what you can learn, and who you can connect with or who you know that can refer you. Taking these small steps builds your confidence to fearlessly resign.

    You Are The MVP
    Whether you're thinking of changing careers or starting a business, think of yourself as the product. The first step is a Career Rehab Diagnosis, a self-assessment of what is and isn't working in your career. Make adjustments based on what you discover. Next, Kanika says, list your career, education and personal goals. The next step is to think about financial goals and culture fit.

    Barry comments that it takes so much unlearning for people to recognize that they deserve to have a fulfilling career in a place where they’re recognized for who they are and what they bring to the table. Kanika cites Barry’s book about reevaluating past behaviors. We need to stop thinking that we should conform to fit the company culture. Instead we must recognize that we’re the MVP (minimum viable product), and negotiate job offers with this mindset. She remarks, “They should be just as happy to have you as you are to have them. So I think when we shift our mindset to looking at ourselves as products and services - we have unique offerings - then it changes the direction of the conversation. Instead of you just praising the company, no - praise yourself and then get with the right company.”

    Divorcing The Job For The Dream
    Innovating your behavior is imperative to live your dream. Incorporate continuous feedback as it helps you to continuously improve. Another key point is that you should never settle in your career or your business. You have to be resilient in order to be successful.

    Kanika also shares the following advice:

    You have knowledge and skills from your job that you can transfer into your new business.

    Start creating your personal brand: you need a track record before you can divorce your job and marry your dream.

    Don’t overthink it. Just do it.

    Consistency is all it takes.

    Looking Ahead 
    Kanika is excited about the future of the workplace. The current crisis has proven that workers can still add value working remotely, so she expects more companies to transition into remote. She is also looking forward to more virtual events so new speakers can get an opportunity to spread their message. Information sharing and online networking is being normalized, she believes, and she is looking forward to seeing how businesses and careers pivot during this period, as people develop new communication skills.

    Website: KanikaTolver.com 
    Book: https://www.amazon.com/Career-Rehab/dp/1599186519/

    • 35 min
    Cultivating Serendipity with Michael Bungay Stanier

    Cultivating Serendipity with Michael Bungay Stanier

    Michael Bungay Stanier is the bestselling author of The Coaching Habit. He is part of the Thinkers 50 and has been named the number one Thought Leader in Coaching this year. Michael joins Barry O’Reilly on the Unlearn Podcast this week to share insights, including how to measure success and pivotal lessons that shaped him.

    An Unconventional Career Path
    There is a saying that inspiration is when your past suddenly makes sense. Certainly, several experiences in his early career showed Michael that he needed to work for himself in order to be at his best. He recounts that the turning point for him was 20 years ago when he was fired from the last company he worked with. That’s when he started his own business.

    Three Memorable Lessons
    Barry asks Michael about the lessons he’s learned over the years. Michael responds with the three pivotal lessons that he remembers to this day:

    You need to understand who you work best with. He is a great leader to his ideal clients, Michael says. “I'm great at having people's backs; I'm great with people who take responsibility and accountability; I'm great with people who have just been waiting... for the wind beneath their wings… In terms of figuring out who influences and nudges and helps shape people's journeys, you’ve got to get the right match between the right people.”

    The power of No. “Part of what I've learned is that the more courageous I can be about what I say no to and the fewer things that I say yes to, the more likely it is I'm going to make a difference in the world.” A lesson that stands out for Barry from The Coaching Habit is that if you’re going to say yes to something, that means you have to say no to something else. There’s great discipline in being able to say no.

    Be careful about what you measure as success. Barry and Michael talk about the insidiousness of vanity metrics: sometimes the metric becomes the target and you do anything to achieve it, oftentimes destroying the bigger win that you’re looking for. Michael says that how he measures success is to constantly keep in mind “the bigger game.” He describes how he used this principle with his book. 

    Serendipity or Intention?
    Is success intentional or serendipitous? How do we create success? Barry posits that it starts with systems: when you have big aspirations you need to think big but start small. Michael agrees that “intentionality is what allows serendipity.” Taking steps towards your goal is what prepares you to notice opportunities that you can capitalize on.

    Advice That Has Shaped Michael’s Life
    A question from his Latin teacher helped Michael decide to become a Rhodes Scholar. Commendation from a past employer helped him see himself as a force for good. And a frustrated directive from his friend to focus helps him “find the focal point that allows [me] to play but also creates the boundaries in which [I] play so that there's a coherence to the stuff that [I] do.” Barry adds that we all need to have a system for who gives us feedback and helps us become aware of our blind spots. Michael comments that the deepest level of feedback is to speak to a person’s being rather than their doing. “To speak to somebody's inherent qualities as to how you see them and how you experience them is a very powerful active leadership,” he remarks.

    Looking Ahead
    Michael has launched a podcast called We Will Get Through This, where he talks with interesting people about building resilience at the personal, team and organizational levels. He says that he is still figuring out how he will serve next, but he is disciplining himself to say yes less so that he has the space to see what emerges.

    TEDx Talk: How To Tame Your Advice Monster  

    Michael’s new book The Advice Trap is out, and it's pretty good.
    Don’t forget to get his international bestseller, Th

    • 38 min
    Game Thinking For Product Innovation with Amy Jo Kim

    Game Thinking For Product Innovation with Amy Jo Kim

    Barry O’Reilly is excited to welcome Amy Jo Kim to this week’s Unlearn Podcast. Amy is a game designer, startup coach, and author of Game Thinking. She has worked on the early design teams of games such as Rock Band and The Sims, and has helped many companies, including Netflix and eBay, find their customers to help them scale.

    A Cooperative Designer
    Amy describes herself as a social game designer. She is enthusiastic about teamwork, having learned many lessons about creating a collaborative environment from working in music bands and modeling great bandleaders. One of those lessons that she now teaches in her Team Accelerator program is how to “make everything gel so we don't even remember whose idea it was… just getting the work done in a really focused yet creative way.”

    Many opportunities opened up for her Amy when she found a tribe of like-minded people. She tells Barry that she found mentors that she could click with and saw a way that she could contribute immediately to a much larger team.

    Go After The Early Beachhead
    “...If you're innovating you can't just go after your average customer in that market,” Amy posits. “You have to capture this narrow early beachhead market first.” As early as 1961, Everett Rogers of Bell Labs found that innovations always start by capturing the early market before going into the early and later mainstream. Amy has taken these insights from innovators like Rogers, Jeffrey Moore, and Will Wright, and made them accessible through a step-by-step program. She shares how these principles were lived out in building out The Sims, and in companies such as eBay and Netflix. “...There's so much you can learn and get out of iterating ideas with [your early beachhead] that it gets you to a point where you can get a vector in the direction and build out for the next layer of people around them,”Amy adds.

    Early adopters or beachheads have these three characteristics:

    They actually have the problem that your product solves;

    They know they have the problem and are willing to try anything that might help;

    They're taking actions that demonstrate they're trying to solve the problem.

    Game Design Is About Customer Journey
    The best game designers create a customer journey and then use mechanics such as gamification to deliver that journey. While shaping behavior with rewards - the basis of gamification - may deliver short-term lift, it does not provide long-term engagement. Barry comments that tapping into intrinsic motivation is a delineation towards game thinking. Step one in designing for intrinsic motivation, Amy says, “is understanding that the best use of any game mechanics or progression mechanics is to support a journey.”

    The framework Amy details in her book gives a synthesized approach to building an engaging customer journey. The core, she says, is how your product transforms the user into the person they want to be. “If you think about creating a product that gets better as the customer becomes more skilled, you'll be really getting to the heart of it.” Barry comments that Amy’s work is about helping the person to be the best they can be, realizing that struggle is part of the journey. “All the best things we do in life,” Barry says, “requires to test our character, to cultivate skills and behaviors in ourselves that we don't have, to grow as individuals.”

    The mental model - the story that’s unfolding in the customer’s head -  is at the heart of intrinsic motivation, Amy points out. She advises mapping out the story building up in the customer’s mind to understand their point of view. This will drive retention, she says.

    Looking Ahead
    Amy is excited about the explosion of creativity that’s being unleashed because of the pandemic. She says that it’s “so much good that’s happening for the planet.”


    • 44 min
    How To Achieve Collective Success with Temi Ofong

    How To Achieve Collective Success with Temi Ofong

    Barry O’Reilly is excited to welcome Temi Ofong to the Unlearn Podcast. Temi is the Chief Operating Officer for Corporate Investment Banking at Absa, South Africa’s most influential bank and one of the largest banks on the African continent. Temi describes his journey to his present role as an incredible learning curve. He shares the lessons he learned and unlearned throughout his career, in particular, the importance of putting people first to achieve success.

    Empathy As A Superpower
    “If you're not able to connect with the person's journey and history and context, it's very difficult to get the best out of them because you don't really understand what motivates them,” Temi points out. Barry calls empathy a superpower. People who develop empathy always get the best information which informs how they behave and helps them to be successful in different environments. “Ultimately business is about people,” Temi adds. “Life is about people… The biggest thing you’ve got to unlearn or learn… is people and what motivates people, what makes them tick…” He illustrates how this principle helped him in the build out of their corporate banking business.

    Unlearning A Common Leadership Myth 
    One of the most common myths about leadership is that a good leader does it all on his or her own. However, Temi points out that his biggest breakthrough actually came as a result of his coach. Many times the attitudes and behaviors that brought you success thus far, are not the same ones that will take you further. The right coach, he argues, can lead you on a journey of unlearning which will help you enhance your performance. Barry says that getting a coach helped him accelerate exponentially. 

    Leaders also need to unlearn:

    How to be vulnerable;

    How to harness EQ;

    What motivates their people.

    The Notion of Collective Success
    A leader’s job is to create the environment for other people to succeed. “Ultimately it comes down to the notion of collective success,” Temi adds. People need to feel that they are part of the team, that their work is contributing to the success of the organization. “It’s about trying to create as many points of connection and collaboration where everybody feels that together they can achieve more,” Temi says.

    Temi shares insights about what led to his bank’s successful multi-year transformation program:

    It was a bank wide effort.

    There was a specific deadline.

    The team was willing to use a new approach.

    They trusted one another.

    They revamped how they tracked success and how they dealt with failure.

    They started with one project, then iterated.

    They invested in training colleagues.

    Frequent Evidence of Success
    Nothing builds trust faster than seeing evidence of a new way of working, Barry says. When they see regular progress, leaders feel more confident about new methods. This kind of collaboration builds trust, momentum and rapport. “That’s where you see real transformation in organizations, where people go through an experience together and deliver something beyond their expectations,” Barry comments.

    Looking Ahead
    Temi says the next step is to take what they learned in this project and implement it throughout the bank. Now that they are emerging from this multi-year project where they were focused internally, they have to make up any ground they lost in the market and accelerate past the competition. “The pieces that I focus on are the human parts,” he says. “I see my job as being to help them think through problems but without diminishing their accountability… it's a team sport and in that team we all play our part and I think that's a very important perspective to have as a leader.”

    Temi Ofong on LinkedIn

    • 35 min

Customer Reviews

5.0 out of 5
27 Ratings

27 Ratings

Hopegrrr ,

Witty and wise!

Barry has insightful guests sharing wisdom without taking themselves too seriously. Great listen!

mccannry ,

Always fascinating and thought-provoking

This is one of my go to podcasts. The conversations are always fascinating, thought-provoking and help me find new, and better, ways of approaching life.

JoshCrist ,

Entertaining, insightful and actionable! 🔥

Whether you’re well established as someone who can translate creative energy into the impact you want to have on the world, or just getting started as a catalyst for change - this is a must-listen podcast for you! Barry does an incredible job leading conversations that cover a huge breadth of topics related to the ins and outs of throwing off the outdated mental models holding you back from building a life you're proud of - from leaders who’ve actually walked the path. Highly recommend listening and subscribing!

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