BGBS 020: Someday I’ll be an Idea Man
How adopting other people’s perspectives allowed Michael Ventura to discover that empathy is the secret to success and build a world class strategy and design studio serving the world’s biggest brands.
Michael Ventura is the founder and CEO of the strategy and design firm, Sub Rosa based in New York City. He is also an expert on empathy and practicing empathy in business in order to produce real innovation. Later in the show we’ll hear Michael’s definition of empathy… how most people get it wrong and how applying empathy is the secret weapon for any business looking to innovate.
In this episode we talked about:
- Michael’s early aspirations to be an “Idea Man” growing up.
- Background of Michael’s parents, their involvement, and what life was like growing up in suburban New Jersey.
- Where the sense of empathy and perspective taking came from for Michael.
- Michael’s plans to wanting to go to college coming out of high school and landing into a specialty school.
- The introduction to the business world in Michael’s college years.
- How Michael and his friend started doing events at bars and nightclubs at the age of 19.
- The next big move Michael makes coming to the end of his college years, which happened to be at the end of the dot-com boom, finds a job for a bit until he gets laid off at 23, stuck and unsure what to do.
- Michael and a friend of his who was a software engineer team up to build what was essentially a platform that made flash websites: the birthing of Sub Rosa.
- Michael’s insights on how he stayed valuable to his clients who were potentially ready to leave.
- How Seed came about and how it interwind with Sub Rosa.
- How Michael knew and learned of the business strategies he practiced with design thinking and a methodology for solving problems.
- Michael’s thoughts on what it’s like running an agency on how hard it is to stay relevant and why he feels strongly on practicing empathy.
- A powerful conversation between Michael and a three-star general about why Michael was even at the WestPoint Military Academy.
- One of Michael’s favorite examples of empathy into an organization revolving around the world of equality for women in the business space.
[7:38] “Then that night she said, when she laid in bed with my dad, the two of them were talking, they were like, what the hell is our kid talking about that he wants to be an idea man, he’s nine years old? What does that even mean?”
[18:12] “What I ended up doing pretty quickly, was actually starting a business with a friend of mine where we were doing events at different nightclubs and bars and restaurants, which probably you’re not supposed to do when you’re 19, but somehow we got away with it.”
[18:40] “Genetically I think I’m pretty always predisposed to bringing people together.”
[27:09] “I knew if I was going to turn this business into what I wanted it to be, I was going to have to get some humility and go have uncomfortable conversations. But it proved to be the best thing ever.”
[30:35] “I think that any good culture inside an organization operates like a magnet and if it is going to attract, but it’s also going to repel and places that are, something that for everybody, usually don’t have a strong point of view on themselves.”
[32:02] “It certainly wasn’t learned in a academic or in another employer’s setting, right? It was, it was learned on the battlefield, which I think is actually the way you learn the best. At least is the way I learn best because theory is great, but you know, theory goes out the window the second you get out in the real world and you see what works and what doesn’t actually, right?”
[32:44] “If you don’t get into trouble you’ll never learn how to get out of it.”
[38:24] “Empathy unto itself is really the act of perspective taking.”
[47:03] “Most people do think empathy equals being nice right? And so when you go in and you talk about empathy in business, people are like, Oh God, like more HR training, you know? And they’re not thinking about it like, oh, this might actually help us sell products differently or understand customers better or be able to retain our top talent or longer.”