May Day or Mayday?

Last month’s newsletter announced the launch of Shift Thinking and where it came from.  This month we’ll talk about where we are going.

Sunday was May 1, or May Day.  It seems ironic that May Day is a festival to celebrate new opportunities while “Mayday” is the international signal for distress. Yet this duality captures the times we live in.  A time of both distress and opportunity. Success today comes from dealing with dualities and transcending tradeoffs.  A shift from OR to AND.  

I recently published an article on Harvard Business Review on “How to Build a Strategic Narrative.”  The article generated a lot of interest.  I’ve heard from companies ranging from dentists and educators to nonprofits and manufacturers.

They all have both distress and opportunities. They are trying to fend off competition and keep up with technological change. They all want to tell a new story that empowers employees and engages customers. They want May Day, not Mayday.  

Writing the article had me reflect on my own challenges and opportunities, and the need for my own narrative that says who I am and where I’m going.  So in the interest of “walking the talk,” here’s a first narrative for Shift Thinking. If you read the article, you will see many of the elements.

We all know that digital technology is creating profound disruption and accelerating change. Incremental improvements are no longer enough. We need exponential results.  

The landscape of business has changed, but we are still navigating with old mental maps.  Just as we update our operating systems to keep our computers current, so too must we update our mental operating systems to keep ourselves current.  

This process requires not only learning, but unlearning. To do new things, we need to think in new ways. It’s a simultaneous shift on many dimensions: push to pull; hierarchy to network; industry to ecosystem; audience to community; product to platform.     

The shared purpose of Shift Thinking is therefore to update our thinking for a digital age.  

In effect, Shift Thinking is in the epiphany business. We produce those “aha” moments that lead to a new way of seeing the world. With a new view, leaders and organizations naturally take more effective action. 

Our success is measured by the rate, reach and return on epiphany.  How rapidly can people unlearn old models and adopt new ones?  How widely is a new mindset adopted in the organization and how quickly does it spread?  What is the impact of a new mindset on profitable growth, customer value, and employee engagement?  

Shift Thinking creates environments, develops tools, and invents language. Our current tools include Shared Purpose, Strategic Narrative, Brand Orbits for customer engagement, Decision Doctrine for employee empowerment, and Catalyst Networks for transformational change. 

I welcome your thoughts on this narrative and how you are ensuring that next May Day is one of opportunity rather than distress.  You’ll find this newsletter on LinkedIn where you can add your comments.  


Mark Bonchek
Chief Epiphany Officer