Episode: 530 |
Soren Kaplan:
Scaling Your Consulting Business:


Soren Kaplan

Scaling Your Consulting Business

Show Notes

Soren Kaplan, author of Experiential Intelligence: Harnessing the power of experience for personal and business breakthroughs, talks about his book, his experience as a consultant, and the software company he founded, Praxie.com, to digitize his consulting processes and help other consultants and Fortune 1000 clients scale their processes. Soren decided to scale up his experience in executive education, leadership development, and innovation and strategy work, which led him to create the no-code software platform he uses to digitize his own consulting work processes and create annuity revenue streams. 


SaaS as a Service Business Model for Consultants 

Soren’s team has done extensive work in work process digitization, and they realized that the best scalable way to do this is to create a platform that anyone can use to do it themselves or help others do it in a fast and easy way using no-code software. Soren talks about the first application and use case and how it helps consultants to access templates and  processes, and streamline workflow. Soren’s innovation consulting experience led him to create a platform for running the innovation process for a large steel manufacturing company. He shares how the team has their customized process digitized in a workflow that their entire team can now use in a repeatable way. He explains that the software is a SaaS software as a service business model, combining consulting with work process design. Soren explains the innovation process: idea generation, validation, and implementation. The process involves evaluating the different dimensions of the first phase, selecting which ideas to move forward, and then evaluating the results. The process then moves on to validation, where the user evaluates the assumptions and moves them to the next phase. The digitized workflow allows individuals or teams to view their entire portfolio as a dashboard, showing pipeline, portfolio maps, and financials. Teams can work through their own product ideas and provide access to the dashboard for reporting. The application also includes tools for execution and dashboard elements for reporting. 


A Branded SaaS App for Consultants

Soren talks about the low cost of the digital application, as it digitizes hundreds of tools and templates. For example, a PowerPoint or Excel file can be converted into an interactive template online, making it more cost-effective for clients. The sales process is the engagement process, with the cost depending on the level of customization. The Praxie tool is similar to SaaS software, with a monthly fee per user. He explains how a consultant can use the platform to develop their own business process software, and how the pricing model is adapted to the user and the customization. The business model is being built with tools which allow consultants to build their own branded processes within it. Soren explains that the platform is built in the Google Cloud, which allows for easy security and billing. The platform also provides an annual fee for consulting clients, which includes technology and consultative support. The revenue share is determined by the number of users and the different apps available. Consultants can quickly build their own SaaS application for their branded processes and tools, and sell them. This becomes an ongoing, billable opportunity, making it profitable for the consultant.  Soren believes that having a software platform or application that supports best practices with clients is an opportunity to sustain the relationship. He suggests checking in quarterly or annually to check in on the process, modify and update it, and using the software to help build and sustain client relationships. Soren talks about developing a robust portfolio of work, which now  includes writing for Ink Magazine, Psychology Today, Fast Company, and books on creating a culture of innovation and leadership for innovation. He also engages in consulting, developing business strategy, and creating innovative portfolios of products and services for companies. His speaking engagements often lead to consulting and sometimes a day or two-day stay with the leadership team.


Experiential Intelligence Explained

Soren explains the concept of experiential intelligence and how it combines IQ, EQ, emotional intelligence, and experiences. It is the intelligence gained from our experiences, which are broken down into three components: mindsets, abilities, and skills. Experiential intelligence is a combination of IQ and EQ, which are essential for leadership, change management, and alignment in organizations. In today’s fast-changing world, the combination of these factors is not sufficient. Soren’s book highlights the importance of experiential intelligence, which is the combination of IQ and emotional intelligence. Experiential intelligence is a key factor in today’s disruptive world, as it helps individuals develop their skills and abilities, as well as their ability to live with uncertainty or ambiguity. This experiential intelligence is not just about street smarts, but also about understanding the other dimensions of an individual’s experience that are not yet recognized as such. Executive interviews often focus on a candidate’s experience, such as their experience in a supply chain role. However, experiential intelligence can also be a valuable tool for leaders to understand their own mindsets and personal experiences. Experiential intelligence can be applied to both individual and team members, as it allows leaders to probe for life experiences that have shaped their abilities and contribute to the overall success of their teams. This can be particularly valuable in the hiring process and in the hiring process of existing teams. He explains that experiential intelligence is a valuable tool for leaders to understand and leverage their experiences, skills, and hidden assets, outside of their resume, to create a more effective and successful team. 


Building a Robust Corporate Culture

Soren emphasizes the importance of understanding and applying culture to create corporate culture. Culture is created from people’s experiences, which reinforce assumptions about what is good or bad and the environment. Leaders can intervene by changing experiences and reshaping assumptions and culture. One way to do this is to look at and scale best practices within the organization. This involves identifying the experiential intelligence of both individuals and teams and highlighting their stories. This can be achieved through training, recognition, awards, and rewards. Another way to build teams is to recognize and leverage assets that may not be fully appreciated within teams. He shares the example of a Fortune 1000 company team after the COVID pandemic. This process allowed the larger department to identify new assets and apply them to their business strategy. This empowering process allowed people to surface their individual strengths, see how they contribute to the team, and apply them into the organization’s future business strategy. Soren shares exercises that anyone can use to reflect on their own experiences and inventory their mindsets, abilities, and know-how. He suggests using this information to identify gaps, seek out other experiences, or realize their capabilities that they weren’t fully utilizing, and he offers a personal example. He suggests thinking back on the experiences that have the biggest impact on their trajectory in life, whether they are difficult or positive. This can help them live with ambiguity, which is essential for startups and decision-making. Soren’s experiences have helped him coach leaders and understand culture quickly. The next level involves dividing experiences into positive and challenging ones, focusing on the mindsets and skills that were learned from them. This baseline can be used to reassess how to use these experiences to improve performance, create new service offerings, or contribute to their team or others.  



01:10 Why Soren started Praxie.com

04:44 The product development process of Proxy.com

13:41 How the Praxie platform works for consultants

15:58 How billing works for consulting companies

23:47 Experiential intelligence and how it works

32:48 How leaders can intervene and reshape culture

37:48 Developing experiential intelligence through difficult and challenging experiences.



Company: praxie.com



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  1. Soren Kaplan


Soren Kaplan, Will Bachman


Will Bachman  00:02

Hello, and welcome to Unleashed. I’m your host will Bachman. If you visit umbrex.com/unleashed You can get a full transcript of this episode. And all the episodes that we’ve done so far. I’m so excited to have as a guest today, Soren Kaplan. He’s the author of experiential intelligence harness the power of experience for personal and business breakthroughs. And he’s doing a lot of other stuff as well. Soren, welcome to the show. Thanks. Well, great to be here. So Soren, before we get into the book, give us a bit of an overview of your portfolio of activities, you have a lot of things going on.


Soren Kaplan  00:42

Sure thing? Well, you know, I’m going to kind of go back to I started doing consulting as an internal consultant at Hewlett Packard hp in Silicon Valley. And then, you know, since that time, the last 25 years I’ve, I’ve had a small consult boutique consulting firm. I’ve done executive education and leadership development, as well as innovation and strategy work for probably 30 of the Fortune 1000, Disney visa, Colgate, NBC Universal and many others. And a few years ago, I realized that as I was maturing, I wanted to figure out how do I not just do consulting, but take my experiences that I’ve had, and scale them up, so that I could scale myself essentially. And so I started a software company called proxy.com. That has, I used to digitize it’s a no code software platform, I use it to digitize my own consulting processes that then I can create annuity revenue streams with and then also help other consultants and my fortune 1000 clients create in digitize their own processes that then kind of help them scale too. So that’s essentially kind of the essence of what I what I do, I’ve written a few books that helps to create thought leadership and visibility and articulate a lot of the work that I do, and kind of how, you know others can can tap into and leverage for themselves.


Will Bachman  02:12

So let’s talk a little bit more about your software company proxy. And what does it mean to digitize a consulting project? And how do you help your clients digitize business processes? What? Give us some examples and walk us through that a bit?


Soren Kaplan  02:30

Sure, you know, a lot of what consultants do and I have done for many years is take our knowledge and our expertise, whether it’s process consulting, and facilitation, or it’s content knowledge. And a lot of times we have deep experience. And that experience is usually codified and captured in our PowerPoint templates and in our Excel templates. And it’s it’s valuable, and we do engagements, but then we walk out the door. And there’s not a lot of scalability there in terms of how we are continuing to contribute value, as well as how we can generate ongoing revenue streams. And so what what I wanted to do for myself is to digitize how I go about doing product development and business strategy and cascading objectives with organizations, and create organizational cultures that are more innovative. And so I digitized a lot of the tools and templates that I use into work processes. But as I did that, we realized that the team I have is kind of based out of Silicon Valley and has done a lot of work in this area of work process digitization, what we realized is that the best scalable way to do this is to create a platform that anybody can use to do it themselves, or that we can help people do it in super fast and easy way using what we call no code software. And so the first application and use case was myself. And now we provide other consultants and organizations with really simple ways to take, you know, piecemeal processes that are rooted in different, you know, tools and templates and in different types of files and databases, and integrate it all into a very simple user interface that streamlines a whole workflow that a consultant can help with, and then leave behind and then essentially have an annuity revenue stream because the client is continuing to use it that value there.


Will Bachman  04:29

Can you give us one example and sort of paint a picture since we can’t see the screen of what this would look like? Perhaps the product development process that you mentioned, or one of the other ones? So what? What does it actually look like once it’s been digitized?


Soren Kaplan  04:44

Yeah, I’ll bring it to life with a real client example. So I’ve done a lot of innovation consulting, where you help a team come up with ideas and move them through kind of a phases and gates process where you To develop the idea, you have executive look at the idea and kind of evaluate it and then fund it to the next level, it’s kind of the innovation process. Well, I would charge 100 plus $1,000, to do that kind of an engagement that might last a few months with a with a client. And then I’d be done. Well, with the software we created, we have now sort of a platform for running the innovation process. And one of the largest steel manufacturing companies came to us and said, they wanted to generate some ideas and have a process. And so if I was kind of five years ago, I would have said, Okay, I can help you. And I would have left behind a bunch of PowerPoints and Excel templates, and kind of lead them through a process to do that. Now, what we do is I lead them through that. And it’s a consultative process, and charge consulting rates for that. And then they have their own customized process digitized in a workflow that their whole team can now use in a repeatable way. I’ve essentially trained them how to use those best practices. And then they’re off and running. And they’re using it themselves. And they’re using the software on an ongoing basis. So it’s, it’s consulting tied with work process design, and as basically a SaaS software as a service business model.


Will Bachman  06:26

Okay, so paint a picture for me of the digitized workflow for the this innovation, like software, like what’s the screen first screen, say? It says, Okay, come up with 10 ideas, like, sort of like you would do in person. And then it says, okay, prioritize these 10 ideas on these three dimensions or something like what? What’s it actually look like?


Soren Kaplan  06:49

Oh, yeah, you’re starting, you’re starting to describe it. So yeah, essentially, what you’ve just started to describe is, is what? What the innovation process is, so you’ve got different phases. So we’ve got kind of the early idea generation phase. And that phase involves either a number of individuals submitting ideas, or it looks like an individual is, is just generating a bunch of ideas themselves. And then there’s some kind of a prioritization process based on number of inputs. So describe the idea, who is the customer for this idea? Is it a b2b or a b2c concept? Is it what are the jobs to be done, or the problems that you’re solving there. And as you go through that, then you can look at how to evaluate the different dimensions of that first phase, give him scores. And you might have multiple ideas, they all have different scores. And based on the portfolio, then you select which ideas you want to move forward into that next phase. And then you click submit, or advance, and then it goes into the next phase of validation. And then you get into the validation, a new screen opens. And it’s going to ask you a number of different questions. And those other questions might include things like what are the top assumptions that you need to test by going out and doing customer interviews, and then you can decide define the test methods you’re going to use, what your findings were, and whether you validated those assumptions. And then you can essentially look at did I validate those assumptions, and if so, you’d move it to the next phase. If not, you can either kind of go back and validate it. And it’s essentially, you know, you go from the new idea, to the validation to the proof of concept to the business case, and then the implementation. And each of those five steps involve a series of best practice templates that essentially came out of my toolkits that were based on design thinking and product development, and they’ve been digitized. So we’ve digitized kind of the tools and templates that I’ve had into workflows that advance those ideas. And that allow a individual or team to kind of see their entire portfolio as a dashboard and how things are progressing. And there’s roll ups that show your whole pipeline, show your portfolio maps, show your financials. And so you can as a team, work through your own product ideas, and then also give access just the dashboard part to your, you know, your sponsors or your executive leadership teams so that you’ve got alignment, you know, because the tools are only one thing, you need alignment, and you need to be able to have that ongoing sponsorship along the way. So there’s, there’s tools for execution of these processes, but there’s also kind of the dashboard elements that allow you to report out and kind of see how you’re doing. So in a nutshell, that’s kind of what that whole whole application looks like from an innovation app simply


Will Bachman  10:04

talk to me about the economics of doing this, like, what what does the client pay for a tool like this? Is it sort of per user? What is it like 29? a month, per user per month? Or something? Or? And what’s the cost to develop? You know, this sounds like a lot of work to kind of build the digital application. I’m curious about just the economics of, you know, how much the customers pay what’s, what’s the effort involved in selling some digital solution like this?


Soren Kaplan  10:34

Yeah, so it’s a great question, what we’ve tried to do is make it a lot, you know, not much effort, actually, because we’ve digitized already hundreds and hundreds of tools and templates. So if you got you can, if you have a PowerPoint, if you have an Excel file, just take some minutes to essentially take that and digitize it into an interactive template online. So you know, imagine, like a Canva tool, you know, Canvas, us for designers, but you know, we can we kind of use something similar, that then allows you to have something really interactive, really fast within, you know, minutes and hours, rather than days and weeks. So what, from a selling standpoint, a client standpoint, essentially, you know, if your, as a consultant myself, I’ve been able to take engagements where I’m being asked for, you know, a portfolio map of ideas and a roadmap for your business strategy. And I’ve been able to say, Yes, I’ll give this to you, here’s my, you know, kind of traditional billable rate. And, you know, here’s what this engagements gonna cost. And then as I develop it, I am using the tool as part of the process. And then they see the what the tool is, and they see how valuable it is and tracking the project as well as rolling up the output. And it essentially starts to sell itself, because they want it afterwards. So the sales process is sort of the engagement process from that standpoint. In terms of the cost, it can, you know, it’s like any, you know, our proxy tool is like any other SAS software you can get for, it depends on kind of the level of customization, but you can get in for 3995 a month per user. And, and then if a usually an enterprise client wants customization, then the customization can be, you know, a few $1,000 up to 100 plus $1,000, depending on how customized they want something. So we have a lot of out of the box business processes that consultants use that are not expensive at all. But then there’s an opportunity if a consultant has a client that wants something customized for, you know, some, you know, customization of solutions, on kind of go to market together, we worked a lot with consultants.


Will Bachman  13:09

Talk to me about how it works if a consultant wants to use your platform to develop their own business process software, and then how does that all work in terms of let’s say that they then, you know, take the, you know, the the Jane Smith innovation process, they build it with your tool, and then they sell it to a or they use it at a client, the client says I want to keep doing it. So how does the economic record today pay proxy or just practically take a cut? How does that all work?


Soren Kaplan  13:41

Yeah, we’re building out the business model right now. It’ll we have tools or consultants can just essentially build their own processes in it. And to do that, it’s really not expensive. It’s that monthly fee, I mentioned that to have access. And then if there’s more support, I mean, we’ve also worked with consulting firms. And we we worked with one firm in South Africa, that wanted a risk management app. And so they basically gave us all their their Excel files, we digitized it in about a week. And then they had a full SAS application that then was branded or their own. And, you know, it was about four or $5,000. I think that we had to, you know, kind of charge them to for our time to do it. But then we had they were able to essentially pay that per user fee and then go to market and sell it for whatever they whatever they wanted to to their clients. So the economics are pretty scalable in terms of, you know, kind of lower if you’re doing you know, higher value strategic consulting. You can basically have your own SAS application that then you sell to your clients for whatever you sell to your clients. And then there’s just a monthly kind of user fee that we charge for you SaaS maintenance.


Will Bachman  15:02

So for the consultants that are listening, or think that’s interesting, I should build a, an app and sell to my clients. Talk to me a bit about the infrastructure that you need, if you’re going to do that in terms of just, you know, how does the billing work, you know, sort of just administering that, you know, and collecting the fee on an ongoing basis and getting, you know, maybe the contracting works a little differently than, you know, a typical, more negotiated management consulting contract. And anything else you need in terms of, you know, user resets, or I lost my password or customer support? Or, you know, IT security? What are some of the things that you would need to think about getting in place, if a user, if a listener here wants to build their own, you know, app and sell it to a client?


Soren Kaplan  15:58

That’s a great question. And the answer is, we’ve tried to keep it extremely simple for the consultants, and, and manage most everything. And so I’ll just kind of rattle off some of the things you just you just mentioned, security wise, you know, our platform is built in the Google Cloud. So the Google security, so we pass all the security requirements of most of the major US companies that have done in their evaluations very quickly. So you know, all of that security, you just need a web browser to use it. I mean, it’s like most of the modern SaaS applications today. From a billing standpoint, you know, the way we go go at it is with our clients, who are your consulting clients, and then who use their software, we just provide an annual, an annual fee, that includes the technology and any consultative support. And sometimes that fee is broken up by quarters. But, you know, the idea is that if you’re a consultant, and you’ve got a client’s then, you know, you show the value of something like this, you just tell them, you know, and quarterly or annually for some, you know, X amount, and then, you know, we’ve already kind of worked out what that revenue share is, and so, you know, there’s, you know, based on number of users, or based on the different apps that that exist, you know, there’s always margin built into that. And so a consultant can essentially, very quickly have their own SAS application for their own branded processes and tools, and sell those themselves using whatever usually it’s, you know, an invoice or whoever the consultant bills, and just build it into their engagements or their their approach, but it becomes instead of a single engagement, more of an ongoing, billable opportunity, and then we are making sure that, you know, that’s it’s all profitable, and that it kind of works for the consultant.


Will Bachman  17:57

All right, cool. Now, you know, some SAS companies, particularly if they have an annual renewal cycle, have a whole team of, you know, renewal specialists, right? Do you typically see consultants doing more of just a automatic ongoing renewal until you cancel kind of thing, or, if you really want to be serious about this, do you need to, you know, maybe get a sales rep who’s going to, you know, follow up with a client a want to make sure you’re getting the value out of it, your renewals coming up? Let’s get this renewal done early, you know, we can lock you into a two year thing, get you a discount, I mean, the normal sort of renewal stuff, three years, I can get you, you know, make sure I lock in your rate. So it doesn’t go up all that.


Soren Kaplan  18:42

Right. You know, all of what you’re talking about is the software language that a lot of SAS software companies use. You know, I’m a, I’m a consultant, I’m not a technical guy, even though I ran the Strategy Group at Hewlett Packard HP. I’m not a software guy, you know, we have a team and a CTO and others who really know their enterprise software, the way I would look at it for consultants is essentially, you know, this is having a software platform or an application that supports your own best practices with your clients is an opportunity to sustain your relationship. So it would be it would be, you know, remiss essentially not to be checking in quarterly or annually to say, How’s it going? Is this process working for you? Should we modify and update it in any way, and, you know, building using the tool to build the relationship, so that it creates conversations around other needs, other support opportunities, and if that turns into reconfiguring the software, or it turns into, you know, other requests for other processes, then that’s the opportunity to expand the solution set and the relationship and the revenues, but it really is just mostly about maintaining the relationship and checking in and trying to continue to add value. And so it’s essentially a vehicle to sustain the relationship with the client, rather than do kind of a one off where you’re charging charging for your time. And then you’re gone. And your your IP is not scalable. And this is a way to make it scalable and extend relationship.


Will Bachman  20:24

I say, let’s keep going through your portfolio of activities. Because in addition, running proxy, you also have, you’re doing speaking, and you’re writing so good, you’re doing some consulting, I believe. So walk us through your, your portfolio, and then we’ll turn around and get to your book, but I want to hear about what else you have going on.


Soren Kaplan  20:46

Yeah, and I’ll put all this in the context. Since I know most of our listeners here are consultants. I wanted to make sure I had a robust business model for myself many years ago. And so as a consultant, I wanted to establish myself with some thought leadership. And I chose innovation and innovation, culture and leadership for innovation as a way to do that. So the portfolio is I write for Ink Magazine and Psychology Today. And I’ve written for Fast Company. And I’ve have written a couple books, all on how to create a culture of innovation, and drive use leadership to drive disruptive innovation. And so I’ve surrounded myself with content, so that I can add value as a way to reinforce the way I make a living, which is through consulting and doing engagements around developing business strategy and coming up with new business models and innovative, you know, portfolios of products and services for companies. And then I also do speaking, so I might come in and do a keynote for a conference or corporate meeting. And that speaking, then, was usually about my books. And that sometimes leads to some consulting. And then the speaking also sometimes leads to requests for come in, and maybe spend a day or two days with our leadership team. And that turns into not just speaking, but a little bit of leadership development as well. So the thought leadership books and writing and articles, speaking generates revenue, leadership, development, generates revenue, and leadership development in the speaking oftentimes lead to consulting engagements. And so that’s a portfolio of solutions that I’ve been able to develop around kind of my focus, which is innovation. And then that led me to create proxy, because I wanted to scale myself, if I stopped working as a consultant, I would not make any more, you know, I wouldn’t be able to support myself, or have, you know, kind of ongoing revenue. So I wanted to figure out how to why, you know, because I’ve had a small firm, I really haven’t tried to really scale the firm itself. I wanted to scale my my own experience and knowledge in the innovation process. And that’s what proxy has allowed me to do as well.


Will Bachman  23:16

Let’s talk about experiential intelligence. So the idea is that there’s IQ, kind of general intelligence, there’s EQ, emotional intelligence, and then experiential intelligence. That’s our intelligence that we have gained from our experiences, and you break it down to three components, mindsets, abilities, and no how, tell us a little bit about those components and about the kind of origin story to the book.


Soren Kaplan  23:47

Yeah, so the, the book is about how in our society, and in business, we’ve sort of pigeon holed ourselves around. What does it mean, you know, what are the ingredients of success? And if you look at, you know, most leaders and teams think are the smartest people we have on board, the better. And that’s sort of true, like, we need smart people. But then we’ve also realized emotional intelligence, how, you know, we’re in touch with our emotions and the emotions of others. It’s important from a leadership angle, as well as change management and kind of gaining, you know, alignment in organizations to get stuff done. So intellect and emotion, intellectual intelligence, emotional intelligence. Well, in today’s day and age where things are changing faster than ever before, you’ve got disruptive change and emerging technologies. Those two factors really are not sufficient. And so what I realized just through working with literally 10s 10 plus 1000 leaders in my career and lots of organizations is that the secret sauce is the combination of IQ EQ and people’s experiences, the experiences they have, it gives them resilience or the ability to live with uncertainty or ambiguity, those things are, are not articulated as intelligence. And so through doing some research and also some my own work, I realized that there’s this concept of experiential intelligence. I didn’t coin it. It was coined by the former president of the American Psychological Association, but experiential intelligence combined with emotional intelligence. And IQ is really the third leg of the stool, that if we start to recognize as a success factor for our own individual development, but also for teams and organizations that we can really take things to the next level. So, you know, the simple example is, is, you know, well, how did you learn how to ride a bike? What do you do? Did you read the manual, you probably tried it, right? You, you put on training wheels, you fell over, you kind of learned to ride a bike by trial and error. And so that’s, you know, that’s life experience, essentially. And so, when you look at what riding a bike is, you have the base skills, like, Oh, I know how to steer, I know how to brake, but then you have higher order abilities, I can anticipate bumps in the road, or I can ride defensively in traffic, like those are, those are collections of skills and ways, you know, kind of ways of thinking about it. But then you have mindsets about it. So what’s the bike? Is it just transportation, you only think about it as transportation, you might not realize, well, I can use it to socialize and do group rides, or I can, you know, be adventurous on and do mountain biking, so mindsets, abilities, and your skills, kind of your base know, how are three components of your experience. And, you know, historically, we’ve talked about it only as like, quote unquote, street smarts. And, you know, we don’t have this word to capture these these things. And so a lot of consultants develop deep experience in certain areas, like I had had been, but didn’t don’t have a way to articulate and understand what are those capabilities that were the assets we’re bringing to the party in a way that we can scale them? And then also, how do we help our clients do the same thing. And so experiential intelligence is really about trying to articulate the kind of other dimension, that’s a real success factor in today’s disruptive world, that people really haven’t recognized as such just yet.


Will Bachman  27:40

Okay, so if an executive is interviewing a candidate for a role, already, just sort of intuitively, people tend to ask about someone’s experience, right? So if they’re going to be interviewing someone to be their director of supply chain, they’re typically going to ask people about their experience as Okay, have you run a supply chain before? You know, give me some examples of some supply chain challenges you encountered? How did you address them? Whatever, right? Normal stuff, people, I think, are used to asking about people’s experience, and probably even more than necessarily diving in and trying to test someone’s IQ or EQ. So given that, what are you hoping that someone who reads your book is going to do differently related to experience and, and, you know, kind of thinking about experiential intelligence differently than they already do? Where people, you know, tend to already think about that as something that they’re going to, you know, look at and evaluate.


Soren Kaplan  28:49

I think we currently think about it at a surface level, what are those experiences that are written down in your resume? And so here’s, here’s an example, client of mine, she was named the, one of the top 40, chief marketing officers in the world. And she ran the energy International Business Marketing at Hershey. And I asked her, I sort of was interviewing her and asking her similar questions about, you know, what allowed you to be successful based on your experience, but I pushed her to think about non traditional experiences that aren’t on her resume. And she said, she can directly create a line of sight to the fact that she plays the violin to the incoming game, one of the top 40 CMOS in the world. And so you know, what’s underneath that as we peel back the onion, she had, has had to, from an early age have intense focus, and learn to be excellent at the violin. She plays in a small orchestra. She has to learn how to take the lead but also step back and let others basically kind of take the lead role at times she has to worked as a team, and kind of orchestrate the team side of things. And there’s a lot of creativity as well in music composition. And so those are, those are assets that she has outside of how we would normally, in an early interview, basically, talk about what our experiences, so leaders have an opportunity to probe for, you know, and ask questions like, you know, what are the life experiences you’ve had, that have shaped your assets today, or how you think we’re giving you abilities that might be outside of what’s on your resume. And a lot of times, that’s, you know, that can be really valuable in the hiring process as you staffing up your team. But also you can look at your own existing team, and do the same thing. And there are hidden assets all across your team, because of people’s, you know, travel experiences, or home life or community work that are remaining untapped. And that if you can tap into it, you get greater team performance, you get greater psychological safety in teams, when people understand kind of the historical context and kind of what they’re bringing to the party and you get better innovation and, you know, kind of innovation as well. process innovation, or whether your product focus, or maybe you have people on your team who kind of understand different markets that you’re going after, but you haven’t really understood that yet. So there’s there’s a ways to tap into resources that might currently you’re starting teams, or you’re hiring him hiring them in as well.


Will Bachman  31:35

How do you think about using this framework, to not just look backwards to people’s past experiences, but to intentionally design experiences for people to develop, and I mean, I’ll just add a little bit on that. I mean, I’m thinking now on my my navy experience, where as a submarine officer, you would always have a qualification card where you’re qualifying for the next thing. And, you know, you would have probably 100 200 signatures you’d have to get, some of them would be explain a concept. But then a lot of them were observe this happening, this evolution happening. And some of them were to simulate something happening if you didn’t want to do this every day. And some of them were to do it under instruction. So it’s very kind of a deliberate thought out way to give people a set of experiences and make sure they’ve had those before they qualify for that that duty station. In a similar way, how can companies think about designing experiences for their employees to get ready for the next level?


Soren Kaplan  32:48

That’s a really important question. Because it’s one thing to look backwards, it’s another to apply this and really look forwards. And let me just say, you know, when you think about what creates corporate culture, organizational culture, it’s, you know, that that’s a term that’s oftentimes thrown around out there. And I was actually working with the CEO of a Fortune 1000 company, who said, don’t use the word culture, never use it around here, because they didn’t understand it. Culture is created from people’s experiences, that reinforces the assumptions about what’s good or bad, and the environment. And then based on those assumptions about what’s good or bad, they behave in a certain way. And because everybody’s taking cues off one another, they do those same behavior, they behave in a certain way that is aligned to those assumptions, which create more experiences. So leaders in organizations can intervene by changing experiences, and you reshape assumptions and culture. So what are those different ways in which you can do it? One is you can really look at and scale best practices that exist in pockets in the organization. So you know, identify the experiential intelligence of teams, or individuals, and have teams where people in an organization are performing at a really high level in one place, but maybe not in others. And so if you highlight and give people stories, and you give people the tools and templates, from that pocket of innovation, and you elevate that, and give people experiences around it, and it can be training formally, but it can also be very informal, you know, kind of recognition, and awards and rewards. Then you elevate what’s important, you’re giving an experience and you’re communicating and leadership is sharing. Here’s what’s happening over here. And then other people that reshapes assumptions, oh, we need to do more of that. That’s good. Then you get more of that behavior, and it starts to create a cycle. So That’s one thing that you know can be done and that sharing our scaling best practices is a good example of that, you can also start to build teams by recognizing that you’ve got assets that may not be fully appreciated within teams that because of people’s prior experiences, you can elevate them to kind of more formal assets that you want to leverage. Here’s another example, I was working with Fortune 1000 company team hadn’t worked together as post, just post COVID. They had a bunch of new people also, they came together, and we have them do some pre work, all the pre work was was to say, share a couple of stories about how you about kind of where what you’ve done in life, that have given you strengths, you can contribute to this team. And we put created groups of six people, we paired people up first, they shared their stories, they extrapolated what their strengths were, then they got back into the groups of six. And then they shared their stories within the group and kind of identified the themes and elevated those assets of those pair teams into the group of six. And there are multiple groups of six, who then shared out. And within a very short amount of time, that larger department had identified these assets, these, you know, from, from strategic thinking all the way to certain types of execution that they had on their teams that really hadn’t been articulated in that way. And then they looked at their strategy for the year and said, How are we going to find these things to implement our business strategy. And so it was a really empowering process that allowed people to surface their individual strengths, see how it contributes to the team, and then apply it into the organization into the future into their business strategy. So that’s another way in which you can do that.


Will Bachman  36:59

Okay, we talked about how some, some about how companies can think about using this methodology? What about as an individual, so individual listener to the show? What sort of exercises would you share with people on how to reflect on your own experience, and then maybe do an inventory of your own mindsets, your own abilities, your own kind of know how, maybe use that to identify gaps or seek out, you know, other experiences or to realize that you have some capabilities that you weren’t really making full use of? So as an individual, how can we take make use of this, this framework?


Soren Kaplan  37:48

So there’s a couple of different ways and the simplest way, I mean, I’m going to kind of layer this on simplest way is to think back on the experiences that have the you feel have the biggest impact on your trajectory in life. They can be difficult experiences and challenging things. Or they can be, you know, very positive, joyous experiences, maybe, you know, I’ll give you an example for me just to bring it to life. And I’ll give you a challenging one, I grew up with a mother who had schizophrenia. And you know, I at age three, she developed schizophrenia and I lived in and my father was rarely home. And by the time, we, at the time, I was 15 years old, we had moved 16 times. So I grew up with incredible uncertainty, ambiguity, a lot of, you know, kind of fear about what was going to happen. Well, those were very difficult things for me. And I was able to, you know, I had to do a lot of work on them. That’s sort of a storyline of my book. But they also, over time, I was able to recognize, they gave me the ability to live with ambiguity, which is important for doing startups. They helped me understand how to make decisions with very little data, those early experiences and so you know, I can now coach leaders on how to do that. And kind of decipher unwritten rules. I had to figure things out for myself early on, and now I can go into organizations understand culture quite quickly. So you know, those ever we all have experiences, the common denominator, life is experience. And so look at your, your experiences, then look at well, what did I get out of those? What are the strengths I got? It’s essentially, what are your experiences that have the biggest impact on you? What did you gain from them? That’s kind of level one simplicity. Now, the next level is looking at you know, if you wanted to go beyond that, you can say what are those experiences and you can divvy them up between the positive ones maybe you had a mentor maybe you did some travel and it blew, you know, got to you Oh, In your mind, whatever it is, what are the positive experiences? And then what were those kind of more challenging traumatic, you know, whatever experiences however you want to define difficult experiences, and then look at what were the takeaways in terms of the mindsets that you took away from him? What did they communicate to you that you internalized? So what mindsets? Did you internalize? How are you? How did they shape your thinking? And then based on how they shaped your thinking, what are the you know, what did you do with that? And what abilities and kind of skills did that lead you to develop, and sometimes those things can be maybe getting in your way, and sometimes they can be assets. And so you can kind of divvy up the things that you your experiences into mindsets, abilities and skills that are you’re working with today. And that’s kind of your baseline. And then once you have all of that in place, That’s level two. What you can do with that is you can essentially, kind of reassess how do you use those things to take your own performance to the next level, or to do something new in terms of a service offering, or to contribute that to you know, your own team or others in a way that adds value to them. So that’s, you know, that a very high level, that’s kind of the different possible approaches there.


Will Bachman  41:25

Soren, great discussion for listeners who want to find out more about your firm or contact you Where would you point them online?


Soren Kaplan  41:37

Sure thing, software company proxy.com PRAX i e.com. That is all about digitizing your consulting processes and practices and scaling your business. And then my own website is my name Soren Kaplan, s o r e n k. p li n.com. And you can get the gets a book there. There’s a toolkit that supports the book, as well as all my individual speaking.


Will Bachman  42:03

Amazing. We will include those links in the shownotes and listeners. Again, if you go to 92 umbrex.com/unleashed. You can find the transcript of this episode, and all past episodes. So Oren, thank you so much for joining.


Soren Kaplan  42:19

A real pleasure. Well, thanks so much.

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