'Blue Train' lays out plan for business growth on fast track
December 28, 2006
BY MICHAEL KRAUSS
Can chewing gum be
a growth business? Can an established Chicago giant like Wm. Wrigley
Jr. Co. achieve explosive growth?
Midwest companies deliver breakthrough growth like Silicon Valley
stalwarts? Can you and I transform our own companies?
and Surinder Kumar, co-authors of Riding the Blue Train: A
Leadership Plan for Explosive Growth (Penguin Books, $24.95,
228 pages), believe explosive growth is possible. They've set
down a series of tools and techniques managers should follow to
jumpstart companies into breakthrough mode.
Sayle is the
CEO of The Breakthrough Group, a London-based innovation consultancy.
Kumar is the highly regarded chief innovation officer at Wrigley.
Their book offers an intriguing collection of anecdotes, techniques
and war stories that are instructive for any manager seeking to
stimulate positive change and growth.
the Blue Train is not a groundbreaking business book. It's
a bit self-promotional and self-laudatory, but it's still worth
the Blue Train reminds us that business executives grow too
defensive, pessimistic and closed to new ideas. It may be human
nature, but most of us ride what Sayle and Kumar call the Red
Train, symbolic of fire, anger, resistance and destruction. We
let fear, criticism and bureaucracy stand in the way of organizational
change, growth and success.
Kumar want us to follow the path of executives at Apple, Procter
& Gamble, Southwest Airlines and Wrigley. They urge us to
ride the Blue Train and be "creative and optimistic and embrace
the opportunities inherent in change."
Kumar site examples of executives who successfully embrace Blue
Train behaviors. They point to Bernard Marcus and Arthur Blank,
who were fired when a corporate raider took over Handy Dan. Instead
of wallowing in despair, Marcus and Blank rode Blue Train behaviors
to success, founding their own home improvement store, Home Depot.
how in 1943, Edwin Land got the inspiration to invent instant
photography while walking in New Mexico with his young daughter
who -- in those pre-Internet days -- didn't want to wait for the
photo to be developed.
how the sudden death of Bill Wrigley Jr.'s father in 1999 thrust
the 35-year-old into leadership of his family's company. They
demonstrate how the new CEO outlined, "a bold aspirational
goal: to increase Wrigley revenues from $2 billion to $5 billion
to the breakthrough leadership of Bill Wrigley Jr. (now executive
chairman and chairman of the board) and the efforts of his consultant,
Sayle, and his chief innovation officer, Kumar, the Wrigley company
is closing in on the $5 billion mark (sales were $4.2 billion
Kumar offer many -- perhaps too many -- frameworks and lists for
aspiring corporate change agents.
"magical thinking" and "heroic thinking,"
and urge us to let go of "resigned thinking" and "cynical
thinking." They cite five behaviors of life on the Blue Train,
including "awareness, acceptance, letting go, taking risks
about "five powers of insights, inspiration, intention, language
constructive models for communication, collaboration and providing
feedback called the "feedback frame." They say that
smart business leaders should describe "what works, what's
possible" and then pursue "what's not working yet? what's
missing?" rather than attacking and criticizing colleagues
who venture new ideas.
innovator and change navigator will recognize these concepts as
valid and valuable, but for some, the pop psychology feel may
in Riding the Blue Train are the war stories and anecdotes.
They are insightful models for aspiring executives.
in Riding the Blue Train is a compelling narrative that
will spark readers' imaginations and guide their actions. An entire
book devoted to the transformation of Wm. Wrigley Jr. Co. would
have been a more effective backdrop for presenting Sayles' and
from Sayle and Kumar is a second, more refined book that evolves
their thinking. Sayle and Kumar have much to offer. They found
their voice in Riding the Blue Train, and their voice
is worth hearing.
Krauss is president of Market Strategy Group, a Chicago-based
consultancy. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.