Soren Kaplan’s “Leapfrogging”, où on parle beaucoup de la Caféothèque, parmi les bestsellers du mois sur Amazon et Barnes & Nobles.
Dans “Leapfrogging” l’auteur américain Soren Kaplan développe
ses idées sur le thème du rôle des individus dans les avancées technologiques
et cite la Caféothèque dans une introduction remarquable et une courte video de
présentation visible sur http://www.leapfrogging.com
Nous citons ci-dessous l’introduction de cet ouvrage:
Praise for Leapfrogging
Leapfrogging challenges its readers to break out of conventional thinking by implying a few
simple notions: know who you are, stay true to your purpose and enjoy the journey along the
way. By showcasing examples of challenging conventional thinking, embracing surprise and
welcoming failure as a learning exercise, readers will learn from the stories of others.
Kaplan’s book is part storytelling, part self-reflection. Leapfrogging shows that leaders who
look inward to challenge the status quo will be on track to truly change the game.“
Sarah Robb O’Hagan, President of Gatorade.
Kaplan’s book is a powerful and practical read on an aspect of breakthrough thinking that
many of us have been missing – even though it’s always been there right in front of us.
Through the use of compelling stories, he brings to the foreground principles and practices
that cause the reader to see the world of opportunities with a new lens. His integration of
what it takes to innovate, both organizationally and personally, is exceedingly pragmatic.
And his use of questions to help readers reveal their own insights and wisdom make this a
must read for anyone wanting to take their success to the next level.
Teresa Roche, Vice President and Chief Learning Officer, Agilent Technologies
Throughout my career I have relied on building prototypes to guide the path to great
solutions. Whether it is a new product, service, experience or business, the goal is to
challenge assumptions and find unexpected and hopefully breakthrough insights, and these
often come in the form of small and large surprises. Soren’s treatise hits the nail on the head.
Dean Hovey, President & CEO of Digifit and Co-Founder of IDEO
Change and therefore innovation, is often seen as disruptive and uncomfortable. When a
change requires us to adjust our own habits and behaviors, it takes additional energy to learn,
understand, and adapt, as well as to take the risk of leaving known paths to try new ways.
Leapfrogging provides individuals and organizations a tried-and-true path for stepping into
the unknown. With experience and compassion, Soren leads the reader through a process that
is not only imaginable, but invaluable.
Renee Dineen, Head of Organizational Development ‚ Roche Pharma Division
Foreword by Marshall Goldsmith
Soren Kaplan is one of those interesting individuals who has spent decades working with a variety
of different types of organizations and individuals. And, those of us fortunate enough to have
selected this book to read will benefit by leaps and bounds from his knowledge and expertise.
Drawing on his extensive experience with all types of organizations, from corporations to non-profits
to start-ups, Soren has boiled the basic mission of business down to a simple sentence:
“individuals, groups, and organizations across all sectors of society want bigger ideas so they can
have a greater positive impact.”
The rest of Leapfrogging explains how leaders can guide their organizations to successful and
continued completion of this critical mission. One of the most poignant messages I found in the book
is in Chapter 3. In this chapter, Soren makes the strong point that “leapfrogging to breakthroughs
is a process, not a one-time event.” Manyof us want, even expect, things to happen right now,
just because we believe they should. For instance, by picking up this book, you might expect
that your organization will change tomorrow. It won’t, buty ou have taken a big step in the right
As we all know, things have changed quite a bit in the last few decades. Globalization, which we
in the West thought would mean a world of people competing to buy our products, has actually
come to mean millions of smart, hard-working people around the globe working and competing
for food, oil, cement, wood, and natural resources. In this era of uncertainty, nothing can be
taken for granted. We have to keep upgrading, changing, and growing if we’re going to be
successful. This is exactly what Soren teaches us. Using stories and ex– amples from his own
experience with leaders in different organiza– tions, Soren reveals how these leaders have led
their organizations to breakthrough success. These are real-life examples, from successful
leaders who understand the concepts behind Leapfrogging. You will learn much from these
leaders, for instance: How did they challenge the norms, break the molds, and inspire followers?
How did they ap– proach tough times? How did they make the most of mini-successes? How did
they stay focused on the larger goal—to create something new or significantly different that
would push the organization forward?
Read this book. Take its message to heart and implement it in
your business. You will be glad you did!
Life is good.
(Marshall Goldsmith was recently recognized as the world’s most-influential leadership thinker in
the bi-annual Thinkers50 study—sponsored by the Harvard Business Review. His 31 books
include the New York Times bestsellers, MOJO and What Got You Here Won’t Get You There).
After twenty years working with corporations, start-ups, nonprofits,
and health-care organizations, I’ve seen that individuals, groups,
and organizations across all sectors of society want bigger ideas so
they can have a greater positive impact. Whether developing a new
product or service, creating a new HR program, improving finance
procedures, introducing a new fundraising campaign, embarking on
a membership drive, or launching a new business, people want suc–
cess through being different and making a difference.
Today’s business, political, economic, and social challenges are
so daunting that we’re experiencing a palpable, collective yearning
for breakthroughs—recognition that small changes no longer move
the needle and that incremental thinking won’t suffice. We want
meaningful results, but we know we can achieve them only by chal–
lenging norms, inspiring others, and crafting a future unconstrained
by the present.
Leapfrogging is about changing the game—creating something
new or doing something radically different that produces a
significant leap forward. What you create or change can vary, but
one thing re– mains constant: Individuals, groups, and organizations
old ways of doing things often become the new leaders of the future.
I’ll be honest. When I began this book, I thought I knew where
big breakthroughs came from. It took a small café in Paris to teach
me what leapfrogging is really all about.
One of the best things about being a business consultant and
part-time professor is that I can work from anywhere. When I’m not
on airplanes or leading workshops, I can work from home, at the
local coffee shop, or just about anywhere else for that matter. So, at
the end of 2010, I took advantage of my professional portability and
moved my family to France for a year. My wife was thrilled to go.
My two daughters weren’t quite so enthusiastic. But they were only
in elementary school at the time, so they weren’t old enough to put
up much of a fight.
Our goal was to get outside of our comfort zones and expand
our minds. I also knew that I wanted to write a book about the sub–
ject that’s been my work and passion for more than two decades—how
leaders and organizations create business breakthroughs. I couldn’t
think of a better place to step back from the flurry of my regular life
than in Paris. We took an apartment in the Marais and enrolled our
girls in public school. They didn’t speak a word of French when they
started, but after several months, they could sling insults and use
slang words like the rest of their French friends. We visited tourist at–
tractions and mixed with the locals. We tried French delicacies like
foie gras (goose liver), rognons (veal kidneys), and andouillette (pig
colon)—although my wife and kids watched me eat the colon solo,
saying it would push their taste buds just a little too far beyond their
American roots. My taste buds will never be the same.
One day shortly after we arrived in Paris, I wandered into a
little café called Caféotheque, hoping to find an Internet connection,
a caffeine boost, and a corner table with an electrical outlet where I
could hole up with my laptop and get busy writing. Little did I knowIntroduction 3
that inside this modest coffee house I was about to experience some–
thing that would shape the entire focus of this book.
I ordered a cafe crème (like a strong latte) from a woman who
turned out to be the owner, a native of Guatemala named Gloria
Montenegro de Chirouze. I took a seat, preoccupied with the task of
writing I had ahead of me. The moment I took a sip of my coffee, I
forgot about everything else that had been on my mind. What a sub–
lime cup of java it was! So smooth and yet so potent. I was
As I savored my beverage, I glanced up at a couple of news–
paper clippings tacked onto the wall above me. One was written by
David Lebovitz, the author of The Sweet Life in Paris, hose
book and blog are the bible for foreigners in France. Out of 35,000
bistros and cafes, Lebovitz called Caféotheque “the best coffee spot
in Paris.” The other article was from The New York Times. In a city
chock-full of world-class destinations like the Louvre, the Eiffel
Tower, Notre Dame, and the Bastille, the paper had recommended
this tiny café, with just eight small tables and a few well-worn
lounge chairs, as a must visit attraction.
I immediately realized I needed to get a better understanding
of what exactly made this place so special. I struck up a conversa–
tion with Gloria. She told me that when she first came to France, she
was shocked at how bad the coffee was there. Even in the best
restau– rants, terrible coffee would follow an exquisite meal. So, she
and her husband, Bernard, quit their jobs to introduce Parisians to
the truly great stuff she had known in Guatemala. This all made
sense to me. But when she started describing how they do it, and
what’s behind it all, that’s when she really blew me away.
Caféotheque breaks all of the rules for a café in Paris.
There are no quintessential outside tables. They don’t serve food.
won’t find any snooty waiters in white aprons. A miniature in-house
roaster by the front door beckons every passerby with a welcoming
aroma of pure smoky bliss. While 99 percent of other French cafés
serve blended coffees of varying quality to reduce cost,
Caféotheque offers only single-origin espresso drinks using beans
from individual plantations. And customers can book personal
coffee tastings (simi– lar to wine tastings) that allow them to
experience Caféotheque’s twenty varieties of beans from around
the world. Gloria person– ally goes and buys beans directly from
each of these plantations, ensuring that they receive a fair trade price
for their precious com– modities, which in turn gives Caféotheque an
assured supply of the best-quality product available. Gloria even
sends her best full-time baristas to visit these plantations so they
can see and experience ev– ery step of what makes great coffee truly
Caféotheque is all about “purity of purpose”—and that purpose
is to give the highest quality coffee-drinking experience to others. In
keeping with this, Gloria doesn’t horde her beans. She sells her spe–
cial roasts to other cafés and restaurants around the city. But perhaps
the business’s most unique venture is Caféotheque University, where
budding baristas can receive a degree in “cafeology,” which
includes a month-long hands-on “menteeship” working under Gloria
and Bernard. Most of their students have gone on to open their own
ca– fés around France and even in far-off locations such as Ethiopia
and China—and many return as customers to buy their bulk beans
As Gloria recounted her story for me, I had a startling real–
ization. Here I was trying to use a little caffeine to jump-start my
writing about what exactly constitutes a business breakthrough.
And just by chance, I had wandered into the midst of the very thing
I was laboring to describe. I was literally sitting inside of a
breakthrough, something that had vastly exceeded its peers by “leap–
frogging” the conventions of what it means to be a French café (or
any type of café for that matter).
Put simply, Caféotheque surprised me. It delivered exactly what
groundbreaking innovations always deliver: something new, something
powerfully effective, and—most important—something unexpected.
And that rather straightforward concept led almost immediately to an–
other. But this second insight was a lot harder for me to quantify and
articulate, which is why it took me an entire book to do so.
Here’s a preview. Surprise is not just something that differen–
tiates breakthrough products and services. The unexpected is also
a key ingredient in creating those delightfully surprising break–
throughs. In fact, as I’ll show, the single most important factor in
fostering true game changers isn’t the classic lightbulb-above-the–
head big idea. It’s the way leaders and organizations handle the dis–
comfort, the disorientation, and the thrill (and pain) of living with
uncertainty, finding clarity from ambiguity, and being surprised.
Before that morning at Caféotheque, I had witnessed this dy–
namic time and time again as an executive, a consultant, and an aca–
demic. But it took a little café in Paris to crystallize just how critical
the concept really is. That’s right—I had to be surprised by surprise
itself. The power of surprise, it turns out, is as robust as the coffee at
Surprises Are the Most PredictableThing in Business
My experience at Caféotheque provided me with a new lens through
which to view my previous twenty years of working in the fields
of strategy, innovation, and organizational change. As I said, my
insight was quite simple—that most business breakthroughs surprise
us when we first experience them. From there, the concept of surprise
as an important driver of breakthroughs became firmly implanted in
my mind. I reflected on my career, researched the underlying dynam–
ics of breakthroughs, and spoke with some seriously successful people
across many different types of organizations using my new lens. Time
and again, unexpected events and sometimes even big surprises sur–
faced as playing essential roles in how ideas initially arose and espe–
cially throughout the process of making them real.
At first, I wasn’t completely ready to acknowledge this notion.
I was hesitant, even resistant to writing about it. Could it really be
true that unanticipated events and surprising experiences themselves
were key factors in the larger process of achieving breakthrough
business success? What’s more, how could I create a model or map
out a formula for something so, well, unpredictable?
The more I explored the topic, the more I saw surprise cropping
up in various places during the process of creating breakthroughs—
and the more important, even critical, it seemed. Here’s a brief ex–
ample of the type of thing I kept finding that shows the relationship
between being surprised and creating the type of breakthrough that
delivers “surprise” to the market.
Scott Cook, the founder of Intuit, once said, “I’m a big be–
liever—and this is something I’ve come to learn—in savoring
surprises. If there’s something that’s really a big surprise,
upside or downside, that’s generally the real world speaking to
you, say– ing there’s something you don’t yet understand.”
Cookcredits the power of surprise for providing the impetus for a whole
host of In– tuit’s successes.
Intuit’s flagship product was Quicken, which rapidly became
the leading software program for managing home finances. But8 Leapfrogging
all of them are focused on how to avoid, minimize, prevent, or re–
duce the likelihood of experiencing the dreaded phenomenon.
When I ran the corporate innovation group at Hewlett-Packard
(HP) during the roaring 1990s in Silicon Valley, my entire life
revolved around big ideas. Everything I did focused on defining
compelling visions, formulating goals, and creating concrete plans to
help the company get from A to B. Uncertainty was the enemy, and
we did everything we could to avoid it. Following my stint wading
through the bureaucracy of a global enterprise, I went in the other
direction and founded and ran a start-up. I jumped into that new
world at the height of the dot-com era and left it shortly after the
low. But even in that freewheeling environment, I still did
everything I could to minimize uncertainty.
Whether we’re in a large corporation or a start-up, just about
everything we’re told about the right way to lead our organizations
involves increasing predictability and maximizing control—from
planning, forecasting, and managing human resources, to train–
ing and even managing innovation. Certainty is good. Uncertainty,
ambiguity, and surprises are bad. We’re told that business success
comes from analyzing opportunities, carefully crafting strategies,
and executing flawless action plans to achieve well-defined goals.
But there’s a problem with this pervasive mindset. In our quest for
con– trol, we’ve demonized some of the most natural aspects of life
and essential elements that are an inherent part of the process of
achiev– ing breakthrough business success.
When it comes to the implications of all this for business, I
think Gary Hamel said it best: “New problems demand new prin–
ciples. Put bluntly, there’s simply no way to build tomorrow’s essen–
tial organizational capabilities—resilience, innovation and employee
engagement—atop the scaffolding of 20th century managementIntroduction 9
principles.” In the same book he says, “In an age of wrenching
change and hyper-competition, the most valuable human capabili–
ties are precisely those that are least manageable.” These two
brief quotations propose something revolutionary: that we must
embrace counterintuitive ideas that go against the grain of
management and leadership as we know it if we are going to succeed
in today’s whirl– wind world.
Our control-at-all-costs attitude may indeed be softening. In
their book Great by Choice, Jim Collins and Morten Hansen found
that how leaders respond to “luck events” plays a big role in their
The best leaders, they say, capitalize on good
luck when it happens and are the most prepared when they
experience bad luck. These same leaders credit their luck in
retrospect as a sig– nificant contributor to their longer-term
achievements. Our mind– sets seem to be evolving as we look for
the deeper secrets of business success. Events beyond our control—
yes, even good and bad luck!— are slowly being recognized as key
elements of the formula.
It’s one thing to recognize retrospectively that
unplanned events affect our lives and our business decisions. It’s
another thing altogether to develop the awareness and the tools to
deal with our surprises proactively in real time. That’s what I hope
this book can help you accomplish, so that you can turn whatever is
thrown at you (good or bad) into something productive for
yourself, your team, and your organization.
It’s Ultimately about Leapfrogging
One of the goals of this book is to uncover and share the deeper lead–
ership experiences and dynamics that are success factors during the
often “messy” process of creating business breakthroughs. I define10 Leapfrogging
leapfrogging as the process of overcoming limiting mindsets and
barri– ers to create business breakthroughs. I named this book
Leapfrogging because when it comes down to it, that’s exactly what
achieving busi– ness breakthroughs is all about. It’s about
leapfrogging our mindsets so we can overcome the hidden
assumptions and barriers that con– strain us. It’s about leapfrogging
the expectations of customers, part– ners, employees, and the rest of
the world so we can surprise them with a dramatic increase in value
over what they’re getting today. It’s about leapfrogging the
competition so that we can create a remark– able difference between
ourselves and what others are doing. This transformation in
value—whether through a product, service, busi– ness model, or
process—is what I refer to as a business breakthrough throughout
the book. Admittedly, the word business is a relative term. As I’ll
show through a variety of examples beginning in the first chapter,
these types of breakthroughs are equally applicable to nonbusiness
My messages are simple:
Business breakthroughs deliver surprise. Our brains are
wired to appreciate positive surprise. Great ideas surprise us
with a strong dose of remarkable newness in ways that add
value to our lives and challenge our assumptions about what
we thought possible.
Surprises are strategic tools that drive breakthroughs. By
proactively seeking out and using surprises as “guideposts”
when they occur, we can gain new insights, generate ideas, and
discover new directions for ourselves and our organizations.
Business breakthroughs transform people and organizations.
Breakthrough business success doesn’t simply result fromIntroduction 11
a great idea. It involves a challenging and transformative
journey through deep ambiguity, unforeseen events, and
inevitable failures in order to come out on the other side to
achieve business breakthroughs.
Leapfrogging isn’t easy. When we’re in the process of
challenging the status quo, people take notice. At first they can be
critical, telling us that what we’re doing is impossible, unimportant, or
even wrong. But if we persist and start to succeed, eventually
criticism can give way to recognition and praise. Leapfrogging is
about the journey of traversing ambiguity to find clarity. It’s about
finding direction in our– selves as leaders, which in turn creates new
opportunities for our or– ganizations. It’s about revealing new
possibilities to customers, clients, business partners, or others so they
see themselves in our own hopes and aspirations, and then jump on
board to join us on our journeys.
This book is the result of hard research and soft insight. It
draws upon my twenty years of hands-on experience, research stud–
ies from universities around the world, and case examples from
diverse organizations including global companies, start-ups, and
nonprofits. I spoke to many people while writing this book. Some
were clients and colleagues. Others were referred to me because they
had achieved an undeniable breakthrough, or were currently in–
volved in the process of doing so. Some were running multi-billion–
dollar businesses with tens of thousands of employees. Others were
in much smaller organizations with only several people.
Most of the book’s examples come directly from my work or
discussions with these leaders who possess track records and sto–
ries of breakthrough success from organizations including Gato–
rade, OpenTable, Intuit, Four Seasons, Philips, Colgate-Palmolive,12 Leapfrogging
Kimberly-Clark, and numerous others. And I don’t focus only on
organizations that have created breakthrough products. I intention–
ally include examples from outside of the traditional mold, since to–
day’s world is much more about services, business models,
processes, brands, and global collaboration. A number of examples
also dem– onstrate how breakthroughs can relate to specific business
functions, like finance, information technology, and marketing.
Many leaders have confidentially admitted to me that they have
questioned themselves, their strategies, and the abilities of their teams
and organizations during their journeys to their breakthroughs. On the
exterior they portray themselves as confident, self-assured, and ready
to take the world by storm. In the privacy of their corner of– fices,
however, they acknowledge feelings of doubt, fear, and surprise, but
they adamantly believe that they need to keep these experiences
hidden away like skeletons in a closet. Massimo d’Amore, President
of PepsiCo’s Global Beverages Group, shed light on this dynamic
when he said to me, “If anyone who’s led a breakthrough says they
didn’t have a single doubt, you know they are lying. The challenge is
to deal with ambiguity and doubt while balancing it with the
determination leaders must show to their own teams. When we were
reinventing Ga– torade, I had many doubts during the difficult days
but I always man– aged to keep them away from the team so they
wouldn’t be distracted from their journey. Deep-down I always knew
it was the right journey to take, but when everyone’s telling you what
you’re doing is crazy, it’s hard not to have doubts.” Discussions like
this one reveal that some of the most important underlying leadership
dynamics and secrets to breakthrough success are systematically
hidden, since the very nature of creating business breakthroughs
involves experiences that are per– vasively considered to reveal
weakness—including admitting to being surprised.Introduction 13
No Surprises Just Yet—Here’s What’s Next
This book is for all those who believe that the best way to leapfrog
our mindsets and achieve breakthrough success is to push beyond
our day-to-day thinking and begin living outside our comfort zones.
It’s for those who have a hunch that business—like life—is
chock– full of serendipitous surprises that all hold hidden answers
But here’s a warning before we get started. We’re going to ex–
plore a side of business that usually flies under the radar. In fact,
most leaders and organizations typically avoid the essential prin–
ciples and practices that I describe. So, if you’re willing to open
yourself up in order to learn how to tackle your biggest challenges
and capitalize on new opportunities in some pretty simple yet very
unconventional ways, then welcome aboard.
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