Two-Minute Takeaways: Leap by Howard Yu

Some FISD members recently read Leap: How to Thrive in a World Where Everything Can Be Copied by Howard Yu. Yu holds a PhD from Harvard Business School. He serves as a LEGO professor of management and innovation at the International Institute for Management Development where he directs the university’s Advanced Management Program for executives. He’s provided training to top companies such as Maersk, Electrolux, Mars, and Daimler. Below is a summary of some of the book’s most important takeaways for FISD members, according to FISD Reads group leader Hope “Hope-rah” Wilkes.

The robot takeover is simultaneously bleak and exciting. Yu writes, “What begins as an act of human creativity by a world-class expert usually ends in machine automation.” The information age has enabled us to make expert knowledge transferrable to others – and copy-able by other people, or even by machines. While losing a job to a robot doesn’t sound great, having technology perform some jobs would free people up to work towards further innovation.

First is the worst, second is the best. Latecomers to the market can learn from those who came before, avoiding costly mistakes and potentially making large investments in disruptive technology that entrenched leaders are unwilling to make. It’s not nearly as important to be the first mover as it is to be the first one the get it right.

It’s not true that if nothing changes, nothing changes. Managers too often assume that the company’s current financial situation will persist indefinitely, thus making investment proposals that much likelier to lose out to the choice to do nothing. The world will change around you, it’s up to you to choose to keep up.

Keeping up (or even setting the pace) can require a great deal of courage. Most managers are incentivized based on quarterly performance, so they’re much happier making small investments in existing assets for a marginal, practically guaranteed return than making a big investment in new assets that could (or could not) yield a big return.

Leaps can change what a company is in addition to what it does. Yu cites P&G as a prime example of a company that made leaps that enabled it not only to survive, but to thrive. P&G went from a mom-and-pop soap producer to a huge soap-manufacturing conglomerate that added chemistry research creative marketing to its list of core competencies.


Yu, Howard. Leap: How to Thrive in a World Where Everything Can Be Copied. PublicAffairs, 2018.

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