The Voice of the Innovator: The Inspiring Story of Dr. Stephen Lundin

Stephen Lundin, Ph.D., Author, Filmmaker, Educator and Entrepreneur

www.stevelundin.com

Dr. Stephen Lundin is a writer, entrepreneur and filmmaker with a rich history as a graduate level business school professor and dean. Steve is the only professor in the history of the Minnesota State College System to receive tenure and resign. He did, however, continue teaching MBA students as an adjunct professor for the next 20 years.   During his ten year stint as a filmmaker for Charthouse International he worked on a number of award winning films including the film FISH! which has been the #1 best-selling film in the world for the last 14 years. Steve has written a number of books including the multimillion best selling FISH! and the simply best-selling FISH! Tales, FISH! Sticks and FISH! for Life. His book Top Performer, A Bold Approach to Sales and Service was published in January 2007 and has been adopted by a major hotel chain and the largest big box retailer in the US. CATS: The Nine Levels of Innovation was published in January of 2009 and was quickly adopted by a medical products company. He is currently a Visiting Professor in the Business School of Griffith University, teaching MBA courses in Responsible leadership, organizational change and innovation. He also serves Griffith as the Director of Executive Development and Academic Director of the Asia Pacific Management Center.

Takeaways from your childhood and life?

With age I have become more and more comfortable simply being me. I remember feeling like an outsider looking in for much of my childhood.  In 7th grade the teacher said the results of an IQ test were available and the highest score in the class was 120. I was devastated because I looked around and saw two students I was sure were brighter than me. It seems silly now but for years I was sure I was an overachiever and would eventually be found out. I never stopped to think that the fact I understood intelligence tests might be a sign of intelligence. Years later I worked up the nerve to take a test professionally administered, only to discover I qualify for membership in Mensa. I have no interest in belonging to a group that celebrates their raw IQ since it is a gift of birth, not an achievement. 

Stephen in his own words….

Innovation feels good. When I am on the creative edge, sparking, stretching for the frame that will make everything clear, I am my most vital. I know that if I can get in an innovative space that the energy will be natural, I will feel free and my life will have a quality it has when I am my innovative best. I only wish I could help everyone experience that place where ideas flow and anything seems possible.

People have always commented on my innovative nature. I don’t know where it came from but I am extremely grateful to be so. I do know as a child I watched my mother prepare contest entries. It was clear she was driven, not only to win, but to create something unique. As a result our mail was interesting. A washing machine, furniture and even a 25 foot flag pole arrived as a result of mom’ entries. The flag pole was a bit of a challenge as we lived in a tiny veterans home at the time. I think we donated it but I was 4 so I am not sure. I am sure that some of my interest in the creative world started there.

In the 1970’s I was conducting a five day management seminar for Sperry Univac where the participants got feedback, learned about management and made development plans. I overheard a lot of comments about learning these great things and then going back on the job and not being supported in their application. That was when I introduced the boss exercise. After 2 1/2 days I sent the participants back to have a conversation with the boss using a structured protocol. They returned for the fifth day with renewed energy and the word was reentry became much easier.

It all really comes down to self-confidence.  With regard to FISH, no one thought we should call the book and film FISH! but it felt like the right thing to do so I would not give in. With Top Performer I was not sure but felt that the focus should be on the Rat Catcher. I thought the title should be The Rat Catchers Guide to Sales and Service, not Top Performer: A Bold Approach to Sales and Service. I allowed myself to be swayed by the publisher and rue the day.

There were a number of other people who influenced me over the years including: Tony Buzan, CK Prahalad, Edward DeBono, Wells Hively III, David Whyte, Peter Block, Dewey Force Jr.

Steve’s advice for being more innovative and stretching your innovative capacity….

I don’t make a practice of giving anyone advice. I tell my stories and if you are provoked by one of those stories, to discover something on your own, that is as good as it gets. We live in a time when everyone seems to be asking for the bullet points and examples that will provide them security. Hog wash. I am reminded of the quote,  “If you see you path ahead of you, step one, step two, step three you know one thing for sure, it is not your path. You discover you path when you commit to the first step and everything changes”.

Make your life an experiment. In 1975 I was in Washington DC finishing The Presidents Interchange Program and my family had already returned home for the school year beginning. I decided to learn a bit more about another way of living and moved into a flop house for 4$ a night. I love to do things like that because the result is always a provocation that leads to novel thoughts.

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