Simply Better

Strategy Facilitation

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

Innovation Coaching

I work closely with creative teams to turn design thinking into elegant innovations.

Lean Training

I teach the authentic Toyota lean thinking principles 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

Crafting a Winning Strategy

Crafting a Winning 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.

Mind of the Innovator

Mind of the Innovator

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.

The Zen of Innovation

The Zen of 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

The Art of Strategic Observation

I am nothing if not a consumerist. Meaning, I am constantly impressing upon companies I work with to make sure they have a deep and empathic understanding of their customers…past, present, and future, especially if they are contemplating a strategic shift that entails repositioning or refocusing their efforts to target new and different segments.

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Swat Your SWOT…Forever

The more strategy development work I do with organizations, the more I’m becoming aware of a prevalent pattern, a pattern which I find counterproductive, even detrimental. It concerns the starting point for their strategy work: in nearly every case, they begin with convergent thinking, the polar opposite of divergent thinking, which I believe is the kind of thinking true strategy demands.

To show just how embedded this pattern is in the corporate mind, take a moment to mentally fill in the blanks:

Strategic ______________

SWOT _________________

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Strategy vs. Execution: A Meaningless Distinction

Over at HBR blogs, there is a wonderful debate on the subject of strategy between Roger Martin, who authored the post Stop Distinguishing Between Strategy and Execution, and Don Sull, an MIT scholar who believes there’s a meaningful distinction between strategy and execution.

Normally, I don’t bother looking at comments to blogs because in today’s social media-driven world they generally add little if any valuable insight. At their best vanity metrics for the hosts (thumbs-up, likes, etc), and at worst they are simply a means for commenters to plug themselves (take a gander at how many commenters on HBR say something like, “I’ve posted my own thoughts on xyz-look-at-me-at-some-silly-url-dot-com.”)

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The Art of the Start 2.0: Interview With Guy Kawasaki

Coming from an author, you may find this strange: I have very few hardcover books adorning my office library any more. I’ve become an e-reader. The only books I keep are signed editions…they are meaningful gifts, and I’d never dream of donating them to my local library the way I have with all the others.

I have more signed Guy Kawasaki editions than I have from any other author, a testament to how prolific he is. But of all the bestsellers he’s penned, his 2004 The Art of the Start is my all-time favorite. It’s dog-eared, highlighted, and Post-It Noted all over the place. I read the original edition two years before I was fortunate to cross paths with the man. I read it as I was preparing and positioning myself to leave the long-term partnership with Toyota I was in at the time.

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State Your Strategy In A Sentence

Lately I’ve become fond of asking a deceptively simple question of senior leaders: “What’s your strategy?”

I ask it in a rather informal and nonchalant way, then brace myself to hear something that rarely answers my question. On one end of the spectrum, I get a medley of purpose, vision, and mission-like responses. On the other end I get blank stares, shoulder shrugs, and head scratches. Somewhere in the middle I’ll get a response akin to either “we have a detailed strategic plan” or “we don’t really have a strategy.”

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Why Beauty, Elegance, and Design Matter

If you want to change the world, you have to ask audacious, world-changing questions, then set your sights on answering them. Questions like, “How do we dignify disease?” and “Can death be designed?” and “How can we connect young people to the Jewish faith?”

These are the kinds of questions IDEO Chief Creative Officer Paul Bennett tees up in one of the more inspiring talks I’ve seen on the true power of design thinking, given at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management at month ago today. (Shout out to Avi Steinlauf, Edmunds.com CEO and Kellogg alum, for sharing!)

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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