Professional Development

Tom Wiese

Navigating Change

Introducing a new monthly column by Nate Garvis and Tom Wiese of Studio/E

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Nate Garvis and Tom Wiese are serial entrepreneurs who have known each other since seventh grade. They talk with a sense of playfulness, and like many who have long shared the same world, they are able to finish each other’s sentences. Nate and Tom became quite concerned a few years ago when they realized that all of their highly successful friends were unhappy. The common thread, they concluded, is that these people from various industries were too stressed because they were not equipped with the proper mindset to handle change. They resolved to develop a workshop to foster this mindset, and the result is Studio/E. It was developed in conjunction with Babson College in Massachusetts, and the four daylong sessions over the course of a year take place at the James J. Hill Reference Library in St. Paul. This new monthly column — Navigating Change — will tell the stories of some of the more than 400 people who have been through the experiential program and have brought the lessons about change back to their businesses.

MNBIZ: Why were your talented and successful friends so unhappy?
Nate: The common thread was ambiguity, and the speed at which change was occurring. Basically, the business models that their organizations were resting upon were expiring, and they were expiring fast. That was causing a lot of dislocation. We asked ourselves, “Who deals really well with ambiguity? Who deals well with what shows up, not what you plan for?” We answered that with two types of people: serial entrepreneurs — the folks that actually take an idea and make it happen — and explorers. What we were really after was the mindset of exploration and creation that we wanted to see in practice.

Tom: We discovered that a lot of people have this fallacy that they can plan for the unknown. They hit the wrong target with amazing accuracy, and they wonder why they’re no longer relevant. A lot of industries that are going under extreme stress just work their business models harder and harder, because it’s what they know, and unknowingly, their customer has become their business model, and they’re not actually listening to their customers any more.

MNBIZ: Can you give me an example?
Nate: Kodak invented digital photography and went bankrupt because they weren’t into digital photography. How does that happen? They confused why they were in business with what they did. They thought they were a film business. They were actually in the memory preservation business.

MNBIZ: Can you tell me about the four key ideas in your program?
Nate: We call them competencies. Number one is get really in tune with your personal desire. If you look at an athlete or anyone else, the people who win are connected with what they care about. You have to have desire for what you’re doing. If you don’t, you should do something else.

The second thing is to look at the current means that exist in your life. Everyone has current means, not just well-to-do people. It’s who you know and what experiences you have. And when you’re designing your idea, don’t try to be the best. Try to be the only. That is a really unique way of looking at ideation and design. Quit trying to be No. 1 on the list. If you’re No. 1 on the list, that is a step toward commoditization. Whoever designs the criteria for the list, controls your destiny, not you. Be the only.

The third competency is boundaries. That’s just creating safe pathways into the unknown. If you’re really good at creating pathways, you don’t ever have to fail anymore because what you can do is you can say, this is how much money, how much time I’m going to put in to take the next step on this learning journey. If it doesn’t work out, you just say, that’s the tuition we paid for knowing what worked, what didn’t work. You can completely avoid the paradigm of failure.

Tom: The fourth competency is enrollment, bringing the gift of others into the equation. You do that by finding people or institutions or organizations that have overlapping desire with yours. Not people you try to sell. These are people who want to have something to do with what you’re doing because it’s where they get their mojo.

Nate: You can get enormous catalyzing movement by bringing the gift of others into an idea. We’ve learned over the years that people who create tight ownership around ideas, kill their ideas. People who gift their ideas grow huge communities of interest behind their ideas. Those are the ones who usually see success.

MNBIZ: Can you tell me what we can expect then in your column?
Nate: Some of the most fascinating, super cool folks have been through the studio. We want to tell the ideas and ideals behind what the studio stands for through the stories of what our members are doing in the community. They’re all heroes. They’re engaged in these amazing journeys of overcoming adversity, and creating new value. We’re so proud of these folks.


Nate Garvis (right) and Tom Wiese are founding partners of Studio/E. They are both Senior Fellows at the Lewis Institute’s Social Innovation Lab at Babson College, as well as co-owners of Earn Influence, a consulting firm that helps its cool clients profitably travel into the unknown with clarity and confidence.