Episode: 37 |
Jason Korman:
Art-based Consulting:



Jason Korman

Art-based Consulting

Show Notes

Our guest today is Jason Korman, who entered the world of consulting via the wine industry.

Jason is the founder of Stormhoek Winery, a South African wine label. While running that label, he retained Hugh MacLeod to blog and draw for Stormhoek, creating one of the the web’s earlier social media campaigns.

Even if you don’t recognize the name Hugh MacLeod, you have probably seen his cartoons, which are absolutely distinctive. Hugh’s cartoons are generally about the world of work and marketing, and the drawings are beautiful and abstract, often resembling a cross between Rube Goldberg and Pablo Picasso. I’ve been subscribing to his daily blog for years and years – check it out at GapingVoid.com

My hero Seth Godin is a huge fan of Hugh, and I think that’s how I first discovered him.  Hugh is also the author of the book Ignore Everybody, which I highly recommend.

So Jason hired Hugh, and the campaign that Hugh developed was widely successful and won all sorts of awards – while the work helped sell wine, they found it was also helping people have important conversations.

One thing led to another, and the winemaker and the cartoonist decided to set up a consulting firm, and the Gaping Void Culture Design Group was born.

In our discussion, Jason tells me about how his firm helps corporate clients use art to drive cultural change. The firm is happy to partner with independent consultants, so if you are working to drive cultural change at your client, check out the website to explore if it might make sense to collaborate – visit gapingvoid.com

One weekly email with bonus materials and summaries of each new episode:

Will Bachman: Hey there podcast listeners. Welcome to Unleashed, the show that explores how to thrive as an independent professional. Unleashed is sponsored by Umbrex, the world’s first global community of top tier independent management consultants. I’m your host, Will Bachman.

Our guest today is Jason Korman, who entered the world of consulting via the wind industry. Jason is the founder of Stormhoek Winery, a South African wine label. While running that label, he retained Hugh MacLeod to blog and draw for Stormhoek, creating one of the web’s earlier social media campaigns.

Even if you don’t recognize the name Hugh MacLeod, you have probably seen his cartoons, which are absolutely distinctive. His cartoons are generally about the world of work and marketing and the drawing’s are beautiful and abstract, often resembling a cross between Rube Goldberg and Pablo Picasso. I’ve been subscribing to his daily blog for years and years and I love it. Check it out at gapingvoid.com

My hero Seth Godin is a huge fan of Hugh’s, and I think that’s how I first discovered him, he was also author of the book Ignore Everybody, which I highly recommend. So Jason hired Hugh, and the campaign that Hugh developed was highly successful, won all sorts of awards, and when the work helped sell wine, they found it was also helping people have important conversations. Well one thing led to another, and the wine marker and the cartoonist decided to set up a consulting firm and the Gaping Void culture design group was born.

In our discussion, Jason tells me how his firm helps corporate clients use art to help drive cultural change. The firm is happy to partner with independent consultants, so if you are working to drive cultural change at your client, check out their website to explore if it might make sense to collaborate, visit gapingvoid.com. I’d like to thank Umbrex member Astrid Malval-Beharry for introducing me to Jason. I found the conversation with Jason simply fascinating and I hope you find it valuable.

Jason, it’s a pleasure to have you on the show. I’m so excited for our conversation.

Jason Korman: Thanks Will.

Will Bachman: So I have been a fan of Hugh MacLeod for years and, you know, my biggest hero, Seth Godin I know is also a huge fan of Hugh’s work. Perhaps for listeners who aren’t familiar with his work, could you give us a little background on Hugh and how he started, I think there was drawing on the back of business cards involved, and kind of just give us the story of how that turned into becoming a well known artist, and then not only that, he’s now taken that and developed it into a consulting firm. I’d love just to hear that story.

Jason Korman: Yeah. So, Hugh is creative and works for a couple of large ad firms, but you know, as a classic creative, he didn’t fit into a specific mold, if you will, and always sort of viewed the world through his own lens, which was very, shall we say, he had a different take on most things. You know, hyper intelligent and also, you know, loved to really doodle and to draw cartoons and he did it from I think his late teens. He wound up in Chicago and New York and started, I think, late ’90s drawing literally on the back of business cards in bars, and giving these things to people. And in the early days of blogging he had set up a blog, which was called gapingvoid, and started posting these cartoons with brilliantly insightful perspectives on marketing.

In 2004, I was running a company based in London. We were in the wine business and had a winery in South Africa and my background was I did wine in California, and I was a wine production type, but always more interested in the marketing side of wine rather than the production side. Largely because the folks in the wine world would like you to believe that it’s hard to make good wine. But the truth is, it’s actually easy to make good wine, it’s very hard to sell it though.

So, I had seen Hugh’s work, and it actually sounds like the same journey you had. I took some time off in 2004, I found Seth, I then probably followed a link to go to Hugh and I saw brilliant super funny cartoons and really insightful marketing. A bell went off in my head. And back in the old days, Hugh’s cartoons were mostly filthy, there was an issue there, but what I did was call him up, and it turned out he was living in the north of England because his family had a house up there and he came down to London and we met up and shortly thereafter he moved to London and started working with us.

And the winery back then, it’s called Stormhoek, and we, the next couple years, we wanted an added 50 for work. We did, really just using blogs, we became sort of the poster child and case study for what could be done with what was then social media. It was pre-twitter, pre-Facebook, for the most part, but we showed that through connecting people and creating a visual language that you could essentially create a global brand with that, back then, on a very limited budget.

So, it was a really exciting time and we developed a huge network, which is mostly in the tech world. So a lot of big companies and back then people didn’t probably didn’t realize it, but most the folks interested in blogs and social media back then were tech folks. They were all looking, it was very early days, and they were just looking to validate the fact that it was gonna work, if that makes sense.

Will Bachman: Yeah. And you were doing this to sell wine?

Jason Korman: Correct. And sort of over a couple years, it was probably one of the most interesting stories happening in tech slash social slash blogs. You can go see lots of, just tons written on him. So, the approach that I had back then was, I didn’t wanna talk about wine because I find wine fairly boring, meaning you know, who really wants to hear about the grapes and how you crushed it and what temperature you did it at and how beautiful the barrels were and all that. So, for us, and my perspective was, it’s not really about the wine, it’s about what people do with it, right?

Will Bachman: Mm-hmm (affirmative)

Jason Korman: As part of that, what we did was essentially offer folks this opportunity to have a dinner where they would have a subject matter to talk about or celebrate. We would send them a free case of wine or two or whatever they needed and then they would also get these limited edition prints that were part of a sponsorship thing. And then, people started to post online basically the photos from the dinner and the prints and what have you. So, one of the folks who engaged with this was a guy named Steve Clayton who was a Microsoft marketing guy in London, who we became, especially he became close friends with. And Hugh drew him a little cartoon, which we then turned into a print which was called the Blue Monster and basically it was an image that said, “Microsoft changed the world to go home.” You know, if you want to put Microsoft blue monster into the search engine, what you will see is this viral that just really captivated folks inside and outside of Microsoft and wound up being a real powerful tool within the company for people to talk about what was happening there.

With the time, it was 2005, ’06, ’07, when Microsoft was still sort of the evil empire, they were struggling in a lot of ways and people were not saying good things about them and what we, a lot of people in the company to do through that image was simply tell a story about how they wanted to connect with the world, how they wanted to do good work, how they were part of a company that thought it was benefiting everybody and they really wanted to use it to change the world for better. And it wound up being, and you have to remember this is all sponsored by a little winery in South Africa, and we wound up with a very significant article in the FT. Techcrunch reported on it repeatedly. I mean, tons of publications turned this into a meme around the change happening at Microsoft.

So what we saw from that, for the following few years, is that when you combine what a lot of people look and like, “Oh, it’s just a cartoon, or a small illustration,” with an insight and an understanding that really resonates with people, it has a huge impact on letting people have hard conversations and really talk about things that otherwise would be very difficult to address. And so it seems a little weird, but it’s actually true and if you think about it over the course of human existence, it’s actually something that’s happened many many times. It is oftentimes an illustration or a visualization of an idea, you think about hope, you know, the Obama Hope poster in 2008. You can think about, well, Make America Great Again on the hat. You know, these iconic things that capture people’s hearts and minds and attention.

So what we did, just to fast forward over time, so we saw these outcomes that we were able to achieve, which was really about empowering people within organizations. And we said, “Okay, if we’re able to give people the ability to have a voice and to have conversations they otherwise wouldn’t be able to have. Then why not build frameworks where we can actually go in and collect data, understand, get a real pulse on what people are thinking, understand what the future state of where they wanna go, and then essentially create tools, visual tools, that connect people to those outcomes.” Does that make sense?

Will Bachman: It does. So, maybe we should just pause for a second. So, folks who are interested in this and who haven’t seen Hugh’s work before. What’s the best place for them to go, and if they can’t do that right now, how would you describe Hugh’s art?

Jason Korman: It’s a bit anarchic and it’s a bit, it’s whimsical, you know, there’s different styles. Some of it is very cartoony with critters, what have you, and some of it’s sort of abstract. But it’s always a few words with an illustration, and the illustration is oftentimes, but not always, just reinforces the message. And so it’s very much, there’s two very distinct components to each illustration, which is the message and the visual, right. For many many many people, you know, going back to our blog, we have over a million organic [inaudible 00:12:01] and so the stuff is spread all over the internet. The chances are that you bumped into it at some point, for most people. So, it’s a lot out there. If you go to gapingvoid.com, the best place to go to blog and then you just kind of go back and there’s almost 7,000 blog posts at this point. So we post every day now.

Will Bachman: So, I’ve been a fan of Hugh’s work for years and he has a great book, Ignore Everybody, which is a good introduction as well in telling more details of the story that you kind of sketched out. His work if very distinctive, it’s line drawings, sometimes I guess black and white, sometimes colored in, but it’s always a line drawing. And sometimes kind of a lot of crosshashing appears as sort of abstract, like a big city, or sometimes lots of looping, kind of connections, Rube Goldberg kind of an idea. But typically kind of abstract and some characters, but very distinctive. You see a few of them and then you identify them in the future, even if you don’t see his signature.

Jason Korman: Well you described it much better than I did, so I … There is a distinctive quality to it, but I think the problem that most artists have is that they look like somebody else, and you’ll say, “Oh yeah, that guy looks like whatever,” right? But Hugh, one of the things about Hugh’s brilliance, is that it doesn’t look like anything else, really. Once you see it, it sort of occupies a special space in your mind.

So, to go back, ’cause I think finish answering your question, so if you think about what we sort of generally categorize as human centered change, how do you connect people to abstract concepts within your business. How do you align not just the fact the intellectual facts that things need to change, but how do you connect them emotionally to those changes, that’s the space that we live in. We’re very clear, from where we sit, that business, health care, large organizations have separated people from their emotional needs and by satisfying those needs and connecting them to important outcomes that organization’s usually have, you can create much more efficient change projects, engagement projects, whatever it might be.

Will Bachman: Yeah.

Jason Korman: And that’s really really what we do. So we apply it to patient experience in health care and workforce engagement. We apply it to digital transformation, culture broadly, culture as marketing, higher ed in helping career centers be more focused and strategic around their work and more engaging with their varied and complex stakeholders. So we look at almost any human centered problem and we can actually deconstruct the dynamics and then create, you can call them campaigns, call them lots of different things, but they are data driven visual tools that drive people towards an outcome.

One of the things that the world of social media, Instagram, Facebook, has helped people understand over the last several years is the incredible power of visuals, right? Which honestly, seven or eight years ago when we were having this conversations with people, they didn’t quite get it, but now, unless you’re living under a rock, you know that people are driven by visuals and it helps connect people in ways that you often can’t through the written word. So for us, it’s data driven visuals that are totally connected to some necessary outcome that the business has. So, I don’t know if that makes sense or not.

Will Bachman: No, that’s great. I’d love to hear a bit more specifics about how this works. So I kind of have the general idea, I mean, I love Hugh’s work and I can have some good instinct of how you could help spark conversation, but walk me through the specifics. So you have this nice piece of art, right, with an interesting message. Walk me through, if I was on the ground there, what would an engagement look like. Is it, we have now 20, let’s pick one specific. Maybe you can walk me through an engagement related to the patient experience. So, is it 15 doctors in a conference room and someone comes in and speaks to them, or what does an engagement look like? Maybe you can walk me through from the initial, how does a hospital or practice say we have a problem, they call you, do you do a diagnostic, walk me through an engagement.

Jason Korman: Sure. I can speak specifically about one that we did for a new hospital called the Miami Medical Center in Miami. It’s owned by, well it’s jointly owned by one of the big hospital groups in South Florida and a company out of Kansas City that does these development projects. But they asked us to come in prior to the hospital opening and then essentially create a culture from the ground up and integrate it into patient experience, employment brand, and marketing.

So, in that case, what we did was essentially do stakeholder interviews, which are one on one, and then focus groups. We really dug into the questions around why are people, you know, there. It’s a relatively small hospital, 75, 80 beds, and providing a fairly unique service in the market. So, we really wanted to understand what connected people to that, as opposed to going to one of the big hospitals.

So, we uncovered that, we got those insights, and then we do all the traditional work that the woman who runs our consulting side is [inaudible 00:17:59] with a black belt, you know she’s very process driven, built frameworks over the years to really address, whether it’s healthcare, you know, we do a lot of work in innovation and pharma. We do a lot of different types of work, but we’ve got frameworks that address all those issues. And all those different markets.

So we get those insights to what’s driving people, we then look at where it is the hospital wants to be in terms of an internal culture that makes sense for them. And we look at a lot of issues of how you create an ideal culture. A lot of it about motivating the best possible outcomes for patients in healthcare, because that’s what drives most people.

Will Bachman: Can you give me just a specific example of a patient experience specific cultural change, like we want people to, I don’t know, let people know every 15 minutes that we are working on their case, or we want to smile when people walk in the door, or-

Jason Korman: Sure.

Will Bachman: What are some specific examples of the future state that you would identify?

Jason Korman: Sure. So one of the problems in high pressure health care environments is that the patients don’t feel that they’re being properly tended to, they don’t feel they’re being cared for. I’m talking about in a not well functioning environment. The caregivers don’t feel appreciated, they feel like … they just have to deliver the patient three foot. It winds up, if it’s not constructed properly, to be a pretty toxic environment.

There was another organization we wanted to, and we looked at all these issues. What’s really driving the caregivers to showing up everyday, going to work, and what is it that the patient’s really experiencing. And in this case, essentially that’s what we uncovered. But we have something we call small acts of meeting, which is a line we borrowed from Dan Ariely, who’s a payroll economist down at Duke. We borrow a lot of our perspectives and what we do from payroll scientists, by the way.

Will Bachman: I love Dan Ariely’s work. Predictably Irrational, great book.

Jason Korman: Yeah. So, for example, you look at the difference in perspective between the traditional view of economics where it’s based on rational actors and the behavioral economic view which is that they basically say, “Look, no one’s rational. We’re all doing stuff just because we do it. So don’t look at the theory of rationality, look at what they actually do.” And if you think about that and apply it to culture within organizations, or patient experience, what have you, you come out with much different outcomes and you enter with a much different sort of perspective to what’s going on. That’s why we have this realization that through visuals change people’s behavior, because in a normal sort of change approach, you write a new SOP, train people.

So anyway, that healthcare environment, we borrowed this line from Dan and we basically created what I would call a positive feedback loop, which has to do with trust and the feeling of care and the feeling towards the patient of appreciation and openness towards the caregiver, in a very positive sort of way that delivers a better experience. So at the end of the day, the patient feels that they’ve been cared for better, the caregiver feels they’ve been appreciated more and you wind up at the end of the experience with everybody going away feeling better.

Now, what we did and what were able to validate from data after the fact is that we can trigger that shift in experience strictly by what we put on the walls, the messaging, right. The messaging and the illustrations and this creating an environment where people are not thinking, oh, I have to get through this doctor’s appointment, but they’re thinking, oh, I feel awesome, I feel better, I feel this is really cool, I feel cared for. In a world where the gold standard of health care artwork is all about nature, for a lot of reasons which we won’t have time to get into, what we’ve been able to demonstrate repeatedly is that nature scenes are not nearly as effective as artwork that aligns people to mentally feeling better about experience, whether you’re working there or you’re a patient being cared for.

So, I don’t have time to get into it, but it’s a fundamental difference between just wanting to calm people down or making them feel wonderful. We can make people feel wonderful and direct their attention based upon the messages we surround them with.

Will Bachman: Okay. So, in terms of the actual kind of project, is it put the piece of art on the wall, and that’s kind of it, or is there a whole thing around it where you show the art, you have small group discussions about what it means to you and what the world would like if you were being small acts of meaning, how do you kind of implement the change?

Jason Korman: So another fundamental theory that informs our work is that change is driven, not through training right, but through creating a social structure that encourages the right kind of mindset and outcomes and socialization of the right kind of ideas. So for example, if you go, and I mentioned earlier the Miami Medical Center, if you speak to people in the Miami Medical Center, you will notice they’re using our language that has been installed in the facility in visuals and that they’ve absorbed as they do their work. It’s kind of mind blowing, but what you’re able to do is actually provide people to language connected to a visual that they absorb and they start to use it. It’s no different than the way you look at how language moves through society. When I was a kid, no one said dude. When I was a kid, there’s a lot of new vernacular that’s developed over time, it’s how language progresses. You can actually inform language within an organization. So we are all hardwired to copy, so once something starts to take off, you get dramatic changes in behavior, language, and outcomes over time.

Will Bachman: Yeah. What would an example of that language that you’ve heard adopted be? What’s some of the vocabulary that you’ve heard people adopting from the visuals?

Jason Korman: There’s a line that sounds like it’s a throwaway, which we see at Miami Medical Center, and it’s not a throwaway, which is actually thank you for you. And it sounds silly, but it’s not silly there in that context because when you walk into the facility, you’re greeted by an image that basically says that to you and when you leave you see that when you leave. People just have absorbed it. We see in career centers a lot of language around, we had co-opted a student job’s line that’s probably 20 years old now about making a dent in the universe. Totally used in a number of places in a way that is completely unique. There’s another image we have, also a career center thing, which is if in doubt, begin, we see people using that all the time. We have an archive of maybe 15,000 images, so I can’t honestly even begin to go through all of the phrases that we use, but we see them consistently, reliably pulled off the work we do and used within the vocabulary of the organization.

Will Bachman: That’s a great, when you hear about the power of a mantra or something that people are talking about, and with Facebook, everybody’s heard Mark Zuckerberg move fast and break things.

Jason Korman: Sure.

Will Bachman: So that kind of statement can permeate a culture and help establish things. In terms of driving that culture change, is it beyond putting the art on the wall, are there other things that you’ve found are necessary to cement and drive that change? Is it curated conversations or anything like that, or is just hey-

Jason Korman: Sure.

Will Bachman: Put the art on the wall, you walk out and then people see it and start changing.

Jason Korman: In environments like health care or say career centers, it’s very much about environment, so immersive installations that are designed to effect experience within four walls. In bigger organizations, it’s impossible to execute on that, so you may have places where these places live, which people can point to, say walk through building 12 and see what the experience is like of walking through there, for example. But for those type of engagements, it’s far more complex.

So what we do for those is really look at okay, how are people communicating, what are the channels that are available, how do you then spread the work, how do you integrate into [inaudible 00:26:59], town halls, how do you make assets available for people to put into decks, however they’re communicating, we go in and figure that out. So it becomes then more like, what are the channels that are available and how do you integrate ideas into that work and then spread them.

And then there is, especially in culture change projects, broad culture change projects, you need to activate individual folks that are sort of [inaudible 00:27:25] in the organization or respected within the organizations. Health care’s actually in a lot of ways, it’s a different animal, which I’m sure everybody in the consulting world knows that, but it’s an enterprise, it’s a much different challenge.

So we did some work, I mentioned earlier our interaction back in 2005, ’06, ’07. When Satya Nadella took over at CEO, one of the projects we did for them was really creating a language for … to connect people to those new ideas. So we went in and did a ton of creative around what was Satya’s new vision and I think for most folks, if you think back, Steve Ballmer when we left was a hard charging sales and numbers guy, so for him it was all about delivering on the sales numbers. And Satya, the first thing he took over, he sent an email to every employee, which basically went look folks, if we want to sell more and we want to grow the business, we need to help each other bring our best selves to work and we need to care more about our customers and we need to really be focused on building great products and if we do that, we’re gonna do better, all of us, we’ll be happier at work and our customers will be happier with us and we need to really remake how we look at what we do.

And it was a massive culture change project. The question always is how do you socialize those ideas. How do you get people to adopt them, how do you get them to spread, how do you get them to be embraced. So we created, I don’t know, over time probably hundreds of images for them, which helped leaders tell their story, which they then published on outward facing Microsoft media, blogs and websites and what have you. Really, helping them have that conversation internally and externally about what the new vision of Microsoft is. It’s easy to find if you put Gapingvoid and Microsoft in the search engine, it’ll come up.

But there’s a good example and I think one of the great opportunities moving forward for companies of all sizes, especially large ones, is this idea of culture as brand. You know, especially when you see what’s happened the last couple few years with what is whether … be that be Wells Fargo, Bluebird, you know, airlines, all those big fiascos were really culture driven. They’re all about how people view their companies and how they work, and it’s not about fixation on core values, it’s not about core values at all. In fact, we think core values is an outdated idea. It’s really about belief systems and that’s what we help create.

If you were to find the Microsoft work and you were to put it all together, what it does is create a belief system about how you look your work internally as an individual contributor, how you look at how you are as a leader, how you feel about customers. It creates a real system of beliefs around the future of the business. I think that is very much great marketers will be really focusing on that in the future, if that makes sense. That kind of holistic view of the company and how it relates to the market place.

Will Bachman: No, that’s a fascinating story. How is Hugh involved in big assignments like the Microsoft one? Is he in there interviewing clients and then drawing based on that or is he kind of off in a garret somewhere just drawing away? How is he involved in the business?

Jason Korman: So, Hugh loves to draw and so for the most part, the data collection piece, the insights, the way it works is we go out and collect data. It’s a whole nother conversation which we don’t have time for, but the act of data collection is really problematic in so many ways. The truth is that most people on surveys will lie. And they’ll lie, not because they want to lie, but because they feel they can’t tell the truth. So surveys are a real problem, right. Focus groups, the way they’re traditionally administered are a real problem too. Again, people feel like they don’t have the permission to speak their minds. So, we’re always looking for narrative and we’re always looking for people telling stories about what they do.

But we collect that data from those stories, we process it, we get our insights, and then it gets turned into creative briefs. And then we feed those creative briefs to Hugh and his, he’s got a small creative team behind him, and then they go to work on those insights and then produce the visual assets. Then we go back and we do all the work around, we look at how do you map the execution of the visuals back in the organization. It might get integrated into L&D, learning and development. It might get integrated into hiring, employment brand. It might get integrated into internal spaces. It just depends and that’s why, I think, what’s interesting about our business, because it’s a model that we just created, we weren’t constrained by a traditional model consultant.

My approach was always how do we build something that’s useful to the client and deliver something that no one else does, or a few other companies do. So our model for making money, we bill for time, and we don’t bill hourly, we never bill hourly. It’s always based upon a fixed fee for an engagement. We try to remove the tension between us and clients. Then based upon what’s created, then we license the images to the client for use, or however they need to use it within the organization or externally even. And then lastly, we then supply whatever art or swag or whatever they need in order to execute on the changes they need to make.

What’s interesting for us is that based on that model we can partner, and we often do partner with other consultants, where they can put the time in and do what they normally do, and go in and use our frameworks and collect the data, give us the briefs, give us the insights at least, maybe we do the briefs. Then we do our creative, do the license piece and the product piece and that way it’s a model where everybody wins. Because we don’t need to do the whole job ourselves and we can seamlessly partner with anybody who’s open to kind of working in a way that will get us what we need in order to do the creative and then the execution piece with that. Does that make sense?

Will Bachman: Yeah, no. That’s fascinating. I’m definitely glad you brought that up because I wanted to get to it. So Jason, so let’s say that I had a project where it’s a cultural change and some leaders are trying to drive some change and I said, “Oh, it’d be nice to have some visuals to incorporate in this.” I mean, that might be one, and I call you up, how would we partner on something like that? I suppose there’s maybe two options. One option is the thing where I’m already into it and I already have some ideas about the future state and I just need some visuals. The other one might be engaging you earlier and actually using your frameworks and so forth, but talk to me how an independent consultant listening to this show might partner with your firm.

Jason Korman: Yeah, so we do it both ways, and the way you first described, we just kind of provide visuals. To be honest with you, it’s not the preferred way to do it, only because it’s not the visual, it’s how the visual gets used, right. So if you don’t have your stakeholders bought into this idea that you’re going to integrate these new ideas, behaviors, and beliefs into your organization through this visual tool, then you wind up with us providing creative that doesn’t get used properly. And that’s happened many times, to be honest with you, many times. Which is why we say, “Look, if you really want this to work, there’s a lot of strategy connected to it and there’s a lot of really nuts and bolts execution.” Looking at the value stream at how we contribute the images to the organization.

We get a project a couple of years ago for a Fortune 50 obviously global company. CEO was doing an all hands for 2,000 of his managers in a year. And they came to us and they said, “Look, here’s the speech, illustrate it.” And so we did it and the talk went really well. Then literally a year plus later, we had different branches of the company reaching out to us, saying, “Hey can we get these images either modified,” or whatever their requests were. We were kind of surprised because CEOs give a bunch of talks, and here it is a year and a half later, it’s still the image is making it’s rounds. That was wonderful on the one hand, on the other hand, if it impacted people in such a way that a year and a half later they were still looking to use the work, just imagine what could’ve been done if it would’ve been orchestrated in a broader way through the organization at the time following the talk.

And my point’s only that if you look at the list of ways that you have to impact people broadly within a big organization, the list is actually quite short. So we’re happy to supply images based upon briefs and what have you, and then basically all we need on that basis is to get the outcomes you want, understand what needs to be communicated, and essentially get the briefs and then we can supply the imagery. And we will work with you behind that to help on the execution lightly.

But if you really want impact, there’s a more holistic view of understanding current state, understanding, just being working with you side by side. We provide all the steps that need to be taken to collect the data, get the insights, or you can use our frameworks to get it, and then really work on the nuts and bolts on how you execute within the organization. Does that make sense?

Will Bachman: Yeah, so on that second approach, the more holistic approach, how would that work? Does someone call you up at the beginning of a project and say … maybe walk me through the logistics a little bit and do you supply the frameworks upfront for free and then people would engage you for the licensing and stuff or would you do some sort of … practically how does it actually happen?

Jason Korman: We’re looking at a model for licensing the whole soup to nuts, we haven’t done it yet though. It would depend on what the engagement looked like. We would provide the frameworks upfront, we would then work to support the consultant to get what we needed and what’s really unique and proprietary about what we do, aside from the creative itself, is look at the execution, right. So really understand how we’re gonna spread the ideas, who the stakeholders need to be on board, and how do you get the ideas to spread. Then looking at how you build consensus around whatever the [inaudible 00:38:01] is that needs to happen.

So we are totally open to sharing frameworks and methodology of what we do and how we do it. Then we look at, from an economic model, how we work on licensing the images and then whatever products are required around that.

Will Bachman: Got it. That’s super helpful. Before I forget, what’s the best way for folks to contact you?

Jason Korman: Well I can be reached at jason@gapingvoid.com, can email culture@gapingvoid.com, or go to the website gapingvoid.com.

Will Bachman: Now I know that Seth Godin has this common answer too, when people ask him how do you get your good ideas. And he says like, “I just have a lot of bad ideas and then some of them will be good.” But I’m just fascinated by, what’s the data sources that Hugh has, or the inputs to his thinking to come up with his output? Is it he sits kind of alone in a garret just reading the Financial Times to get ideas, or is he kind of out there doing some primary research by talking to folks, or is it his own intuition about having been in the working world? I’m just fascinated by kind of the source of inspiration for his work.

Jason Korman: You know, he’s very well read and keeps up on news and business news and what have you. And like everybody else, we all read HBR and do all that, but you know, I think when it comes to the work we’re doing, it’s really based upon the insights we brief him with, on what we hear from the clients, right. So, it’s very much about, okay, here’s a unique problem, here’s an issue that we need to get our head around for a client. And we’re in the middle of a project a for pharma company that’s got all sorts of issues around radio target matters and various other things. How do we help them make sense of this, if you’re in the middle of the organization, you’re showing up for work, and you need something to believe in.

So it’s really about making sense of that and then briefing him. And he’s able to make it come alive through a mastery of language and artistic skill. I think that the ideas come from combining unexpected things. I think as a business we’re very good at that, and I think as a creative, Hugh, there’s nobody better than Hugh really.

Will Bachman: Yeah.

Jason Korman: I hope that gives you a-

Will Bachman: No that’s great. Are there books that you either personally recommend or maybe even that your consulting firm recommends? I mean, Gapingvoid is awesome, are there other books on your most gifted list?

Jason Korman: Honestly, we go through … I’m the kind of person I’m reading four or five books at once, and I have a fundamental belief that most business books, everything you need to know is contained in the first hundred pages. I don’t know if you’ve ever had that sensation. So all the behavioral economics stuff, student [inaudible 00:40:52], we’re fond of, we’re fond of the Dan Heath stuff. We’re fond of the Thinking Fast and Slow. The Economen obviously is something that people very much should read it. There’s a lot fringe stuff. Things like The Silo Effect, a lot of culture books, most of them are not very insightful. Robert Cialdini’s work on persuasion and presuasion, the book is a good one. Cal Newport’s Deep Work is pretty good.

I mean, some of the classics, [inaudible 00:41:22] on management’s super interesting, not a new book, but again another book the first half of it is really insightful. We read a lot of traditional sort of management books, but also a lot of who’s really coming up with new ways of attacking problems. Some of [inaudible 00:41:39]. Len Schlesinger, who’s a great supporter of us and client of ours and who’s president of the Babson College, Len Schlesinger wrote a book two years ago on essentially culture and leadership, but we find the some of the stuff is pretty good. These are all things that a lot of people have already read, but that’s just what comes to mind anyway.

Will Bachman: Wow, that is a great list and we will include some of those recommendations in the show notes. Jason, I see that our time is up and we could keep going because this is fascinating stuff. And it’s an open new world for me, this idea of really incorporating these visuals as a tool for driving culture change and conversation and just wanted to thank you so much for taking time out and joining us on the show.

Jason Korman: Pleasure. Thank you, Will. It’s been fun.

Will Bachman: Thanks for listening to this episode of Unleashed. The show that explores how to thrive as an independent professional. Unleashed is sponsored by Umbrex, the world’s first global community of top tier independent management consultants. The mission of Umbrex is to create opportunities for independent management consultants to meet, share lessons learned, and collaborate. I’d love to get your feedback and hear any questions that you’d like to see us answer on this show. You can email me at unleashed@umbrex.com. That’s U. M. B. R. E. X. Dot com.

If you found anything on the show helpful, it would be a real gift if you would let a friend know about the show and take a minute to leave a review on iTunes, GooglePlay, or Stitcher. And if you subscribe, our show will get delivered to your device every Monday. Our audio engineer is Dave Nelson, our theme song was composed by Gary Negbaur, and I’m your host, Will Bachman. Thanks for listening.

Related Episodes


Founder of Junior, Harnessing AI to Extract and Structure Expert Call Insights

Dimitris Samouris


Automating Tax Accounting for Solopreneurs

Ran Harpaz


Integrating AI into a 100-year-old Media Business

Salah Zalatimo


Author of Second Act, on The Secrets of Late Bloomers

Henry Oliver