Simply Better

Compass 75

Strategy Facilitation

I guide teams through the Roger Martin play-to-win cascade of strategic choices.

lightbulb 75

Innovation Coaching

I work with teams to transform design thinking ideas into elegant solutions.

Gears 75

Lean Training

I educate leaders on the Toyota lean thinking tenets of continuous innovation.

sessions

Strategy

Strategy

What is strategy? The best definition on the planet is the one given by mentor Roger Martin: strategy is an integrated cascade of five critical choices, at the heart of which are two key questions: Where will we play? and How will we win?

Strategy sessions produce the answers.

Ideation

Ideation

Winning ideas are rare. Asking people to "be creative" won't produce them. Neither will unfocused brainstorming. You need a sound method designed to let people see things in new ways, and break free from old thinking patterns.

Design thinking ideation does just that.

Experimentation

Experimentation

Even the best idea is just a guess, an hypothesis, to be quickly prototyped and tested through simple, frugal experiments that yield proof of concept and foster an ethos of lab-like curiosity.

Rapid experimentation sessions turn creativity into creation.

Lean

Lean

Lean is a method for banishing waste and radically simplifying your most valuable systems and processes. Built on tenets of the Toyota Production System, lean demands continuous innovation.

Lean sessions deliver an authentic Toyota experience.

books

Speaking

The Heart of Strategy

The Heart of Strategy

This keynote draws on my close study of strategy under the mentorship of Roger Martin, as well as my daily facilitation work. I deliver three key insights, a clear framework for making strategic choices, and a process for developing strategy that is simple, fun, and effective.

The Laws of Subtraction

The Laws of Subtraction

This keynote draws upon my book The Laws of Subtraction. I outline six simple rules for standing out and staying relevant, built on a single yet powerful idea: When you remove just the right things in just the right way, something good happens.

The 7 Fatal Thinking Flaws

The 7 Fatal Thinking Flaws

In this provocative and interactive session based on a chapter from my book In Pursuit of Elegance, I reveal the obstacles to innovative thinking, then illustrate how to neutralize them with the powerful creative method used by the world's best innovators.

TOYOTA ON INNOVATION

TOYOTA ON INNOVATION

This talk draws from my success in applying wisdom gleaned from nearly a decade of working with Toyota, as found in my books The Elegant Solution and The Shibumi Strategy. I offer the ten key practices critical for fostering a culture of continuous innovation.

Articles

Nomination Wanted: 2015 Thinkers50

Not until this year’s Thinkers50 nominations would I have ever given the possibility of being nominated a glancing thought. I consider myself to be more of a solid practitioner of others’ ideas than a high-concept thinker. My three areas of focus — strategy, innovation, and lean — are all founded on the ground-level, everyday application of Roger Martin’s Play-to-Win framework (strategy), IDEO/Stanford d school-originated design thinking (innovation), and Toyota-born systems thinking (lean).

That’s why I perked up when the guys at Thinkers50 announced some new categories, including “Ideas into Practice.” That just about sums me up in three simple words.

SO…I’d like your help in securing a nomination for that specific category of this year’s Thinkers50 awards. Here’s all you have to do:

1. Go to the Thinkers50 nomination page HERE.

2. Enter your name and email.

3. Enter my name and email: Matthew E. May, matthew.may@me.com

4. Click the “Ideas into Practice” box.

5. Enter any comments you want. Here’s a quick list of my qualifications which you can use as you see fit.

  • Practitioner, Roger L. Martin “Playing to Win” strategic choice framework
  • Designer, The Play-To-Win Canvas
  • Regular contributor: The Rotman Magazine; HBR Blogs; AMEX Open Forum; 99U
  • Contributor: The New York Times, Strategy+Business, Fast Company
  • Author, THE LAWS OF SUBTRACTION: 6 Simple Rules for Winning in the Age of Excess (McGraw, 2012)
  • Author, THE SHIBUMI STRATEGY: A Powerful Way to Create Meaningful Change (Jossey-Bass, 2010)
  • Author, IN PURSUIT OF ELEGANCE: Why The Best Ideas Have Something Missing (Crown Business, 2009)
  • Author, THE ELEGANT SOLUTION: Toyota’s Formula for Mastering Innovation (Free Press, 2007)

That’s it! 30 seconds, max.

NOMINATIONS CLOSE JULY 31, 2015.

THANK YOU IN ADVANCE!!

What Apple Can Learn From Tires

I am happy to see more and more companies providing product information in a form that is actually meaningful to people. I’m not sure why so many companies delight in listing the technical specs of their products, as if they relate to anything remotely useful to human beings trying to make a decision in the real world.

Take, for example, Apple. Nearly all of the information they provide requires at least one step to translate into something meaningful. And by meaningful, I’m referring to a useful and actionable answer to the question of “so what?” In still other words, I want to know why a certain spec matters to me. 

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A Strategy Test: Does It Nest?

A few days ago, as I was waiting for an item I purchased in my local Apple store to be brought out to me from the back of the store, I had the opportunity to observe Apple’s frontline strategy be played out in front of me. It revolved around another floor associate assisting a gentleman considering the purchase of an Apple watch.

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The Gremlin Strategy, or How to Ward Off Disruption

It takes a special kind of person to be inspired by a mandate riddled with risk and having little margin for error, such as the one issued in the early 1990s by NASA to its Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California: “Take risks but don’t fail.”

Such a person is Brian Muirhead, who at age 41 in 1993 accepted the job as flight systems manager of the Mars Pathfinder project and with it the NASA challenge to land a cutting-edge, remote-controlled robotic all-terrain rover on Mars that would reliably beam back images, collect samples, and return scientific data on the red planet.

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Toyota Needs A Strategist

No, this is not an opinion piece or in any way a critique. It’s more like a public service announcement for business professionals in the job market, looking for a strategy position with market leader.

Like most regular users of LinkedIn, I constantly get pushed notices about “Jobs I Might Be Interested In.” Even though I’m not looking for a job, I do find these notices interesting. Sometimes they’re even insightful, from the perspective of giving me a look at how companies are thinking about strategy. The words they use to describe roles and responsibilities tell me a lot about whether a particular organization “gets” strategy.

Which is the exactly the case with a notice I received about Toyota needing a “Senior Foresight & Innovation Strategist.

Read More

Boot Your Root (Cause)

Process improvers the world over rally around root cause analysis as if it were the Holy Grail of all things organizational. But is it?

Understanding the root cause of a problem certainly makes sense in the context of a present day situation carrying the potential for a correct answer or solution. In the process improvement world, problems center on reducing some form of excess, which comes in several traditional flavors…all of which center on something not working as well as it should be in a perfect world.

But the one critical place in business where root cause analysis has no real place is in strategy formulation.

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"I would not give a fig for simplicity this side of complexity, but I would give my life for simplicity on the other side of complexity."

OLIVER WENDELL HOLMES JR.

milestones

Winning Strategies
Elegant Innovations
Lean Improvements

me

I coach companies on matters of strategy, innovation, and lean. I’ve been at it for over 25 years, nearly a third of which were spent as a fully-retained creative advisor to Toyota, an experience which culminated in my first book. I now have four, and I’m working on my fifth. Meantime, I write and speak widely to audiences interested in rethinking their businesses.

Winning The New Yorker cartoon caption contest is my favorite achievement.

Matthew E. May

Matthew E. May

Author
50%
Speaker
75%
Coach
100%

Longer Story

I was the only member of the Wharton Graduate School of Business’ graduating class of 1985 to decline lucrative investment banking, management consulting, and corporate strategy job offers in favor of starting my own educational consulting company.

Crazy, right?!

As a solopreneur, I worked for the next thirteen years, first in New York City and then Los Angeles, for companies looking to build effective performance improvement programs and initiatives: companies like Lehman Brothers, Pfizer, J.D. Power & Associates, Sandy Corporation, Maritz Performance Improvement, Nissan Motor Corporation, Infiniti, Harley Davidson, Mitsubishi, and Hyundai Motor America.

Then in 1998…

…I met Toyota. Specifically, the University of Toyota, one of Toyota’s seven “New Era” strategies designed to accommodate the unprecedented global growth the company was experiencing, charged with keeping sacrosanct the principles, tenets, and practices of “the Toyota way.” From an initial project involving the design and facilitation of the new organization’s first strategic offsite, my involvement grew to a full-time engagement, a journey of over eight years, during which I gained mastery of kaizen (continuous innovation) and kaikaku (radical change). During my last two years with Toyota, I led the University of Toyota’s external Lean Thinking program, which taught other organizations Toyota’s winning ways, and caught the eye of The Wall Street Journal.

My partnership lasted until 2006, when I decided to take the show on the road. I took what I had learned from my Toyota experience and published my first book, The Elegant Solution: Toyota’s Formula for Mastering Innovation. Thanks to Simon & Schuster, it was a 2006 Wall Street Journal bestseller and the recipient of the Shingo Prize for Excellence.

Cool beans!

At the heart of my worldview is the concept of elegance, which I think of as a 3-word mantra: less is best. Elegance is the special breed of simplicity that Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. referred to when he wrote, “I would not give a fig for simplicity on this side of complexity, but I would give my life for simplicity on the other side complexity.” It’s the ability to achieve the maximum effect through minimum means.

And it ain’t easy.

It took me a while to “get it,” and I almost gave up. I wrote about the turning point in the Preoccupations column of the Sunday edition of The New York Times in an article entitled The Art of Adding By Taking Away

I’m still chasing elegance.

Thank you, Toyota, for rewiring my brain.

 

EDUCATION

I hold an MBA in Organizational Design and Marketing from The Wharton School (1985) and a BA from Johns Hopkins University (1981). I received my training in design thinking from The Stanford d school (2010).

Writing & Media

WRITING

I’ve published four books:

THE ELEGANT SOLUTION: Toyota’s Formula for Mastering Innovation (Free Press, ©2006). Wall Street Journal bestseller. Winner, Shingo Prize for Research.

IN PURSUIT OF ELEGANCE: Why the Best Ideas Have Something Missing (Crown Business  ©2009, 2010). Named to 2009 BusinessWeek Best Books in Design and Innovation list.

THE SHIBUMI STRATEGY: A Powerful Way to Create Meaningful Change (Jossey-Bass,  ©2011). Gold medal winner, Axiom Award for Best Business Fable.

THE LAWS OF SUBTRACTION: 6 Simple Rules for Winning in the Age of Excess Everything (McGraw-Hill, ©2013). 800CEORead bestseller.

I’m a regular contributor to Harvard Business Review blogs, Fast Company Design, ChangeThis.com, Strategy+Business, AMEX OPEN Forum, and University of Toronto’s The Rotman Magazine.

There are dozens of other contributions out there, and you can view my writing portfolio on the very cool site CONTENTLY.

MEDIA

In addition to my editorial contributions, my work has been featured or mentioned in Harvard Business Review, The Globe & MailThe New Yorker, Huffington Post, The Wall Street Journal, Business Insider, LDRLB, Fortune, USA Today, 99U, Bloomberg BusinessWeek, The Dallas News, Time, Forbes, INC magazine, Fast Company, Wharton Leadership Digest, CIO Insight, American Enterprise Institute, The Miami Herald, and The Los Angeles Times.

I have appeared on numerous radio shows, television, and online shows, including MSNBC, NPR, CNBC, and ESPN.

Speaking

SpeakerMedley

I don’t fancy myself a “motivational speaker” or “business guru,” but rather a practitioner of business strategy, innovation, and lean thinking with powerful lessons learned and war stories to tell from years in the trenches with companies ranging from small startups to companies as large and multinational as Toyota.

I try to blend my frontline experience as a creative catalyst and innovation strategist with case studies and stories I’ve researched and written about in books and articles, in order to deliver useful concepts with immediate application.

I aim to achieve four things in every address:

  1. 1. inspire new thinking
  2. 2. share a unique perspective
  3. 3. tell compelling stories
  4. 4. deliver practical takeaways

 

I am exclusively represented by Katrina Smith, President of Keynote Speakers, Inc., headquartered in San Francisco.

New Yorker Contest

NewYorkerCartoon

March 2008

reviews

CONTACT