Scout, Juggle, and Ignore Technology to Out-Innovate the Competition: Lessons from CSAA

Innovation: Scout, Juggle, and Ignore Technology

Debbie Brackeen was in the “innovation” business before it was even called “innovation.” After completing her undergrad at Stanford University, she found herself in the heart of Silicon Valley. She spent her first years at Apple followed by stints at a variety of high-tech companies from HP to venture-baked start-ups. Today she is the chief strategy and innovation officer at CSAA Insurance Group, one of the largest AAA insurers in the world.

Execute with CLARITY

Execute with Clarity

You stepped into the future…but has it felt more like you stepped off a cliff?  Some of the most spectacular strategic failures have been due to poor execution.  Unfortunately, the momentum of vision is often short-lived as the reality of the complexity of execution begins to set in.  Since 1955, only 57 companies have maintained a position in the Fortune 500 while nearly 2,000 companies have come and gone during that same time period.

What You Can Learn From The Cayman Islands’ Path To Growth

What You Can Learn From The Cayman Islands’ Path To Growth

Three days are too few to fully unwind into what makes the Cayman Islands special. Lobster at the waterside cafe, sparkling blue water lapping white sand, genuinely nice people living in a safe country that feels, well, just happy. I was there to teach a two-day Outthinker course for a local university, training fast-rising government officials on how to sharpen their strategic and innovative thinking skills.

How the 100-Year-Old Uber of Apparel is Thriving with Platform Business

How the 100-Year-Old Uber of Apparel is Thriving with Platform Business

A hundred years before Uber popularized the “platform business,” an English teacher and a porcelain merchant were launching their own platform business in Canton, China, called Li & Fung. In 1906, Li To-ming and Fung Pak-liu started a trading company, exporting porcelain, fireworks, jade and silk. They eventually set up headquarters in Hong Kong.

The Next Financial Services Business Model

Next Financial Services Business Model

My wife knows credit cards. She has a couple, of course, but she is also the general counsel of one the world’s leading credit card companies. So, it’s enigmatic that were she old enough in the early 1970s to apply for a credit card herself, her bank would have refused to issue her one. Before 1974, most banks deemed women too high a risk unless they were married and their husbands co-signed for the card.

Strategizing in an Agile World


Strategy lasts. Derived from the title of ancient Greek government officials charged with rallying resources to fuel military campaigns, refined in China, then ported back to the West by Napoleon, the science or art of coming together to agree on a goal, and the method to achieve it, is an activity that like farming or governing or writing poetry distinguishes human from animal.