back to opinion

Max McKeown

Max McKeown

Max McKeown works as a strategic adviser for four of the five most admired companies in the world. He is a well-known speaker on subjects including innovation and competitive advantage. His latest book, #NOW: The Surprising Truth About the Power of Now, was published in July 2016.


Ideas are fragile (handle with care)

14 Dec 2020

If someone in your organisation has an idea, is it welcomed? Or does hierarchy, history and organisational politics make innovation impossible?

Old habits die hard, new habits die easy

30 Sep 2020

Habits are efficient. Without them, we would need to find a response to every situation no matter how many times we had experienced it before. But how do you change an old habit or create a new one?

All new ideas are made of old ideas

12 May 2019

In the same way nature has mixed and remixed matter to arrive at our current universe, mankind has mixed and remixed ideas to arrive at our current society. So if we want to make the future better, we need to look for new combinations of old ideas.

Swerve and swarm

23 Jul 2018

You want to know the secret to winning in an age of uncertainty? It's to keep your future open. Planning never guarantees success. Only adaptation guarantees success. Success comes from being confident in your human ability to see opportunity, understand opportunity and grab opportunities.

Quick fixes can lead to great innovations

19 Apr 2018

Most innovation is quick-and-dirty. But there's nothing wrong with quick fixes - they point to real customer needs much more accurately than focus groups and reflect new tastes and fashions.

Hire for how they learn, not what they know

11 Oct 2017

Learning new things is at the heart of innovation. That's why how a person learns is far more important than what they know. So you need to hire people not for what they know now, but because they can adapt to the future.

Ride your stress like a mule

05 Sep 2016

Pushing your limits is what allows you to grow stronger, so if you find yourself feeling passive, it can make sense to dial your stress up a little. Get moving. Accomplish something small. Do something you enjoy. Then start again.

The magic of early mornings

18 Aug 2016

Time is the same for everyone. Yet time is used and experienced very differently. Some people make time, others are crushed by it.

How #Nowist are you?

14 Jul 2016

We all live between the past and the future. And we all have two mindsets. The Nowist gives us the ability to take action and keep moving; the Thenist lets us imagine the past and the future. The secret is to get the two in balance.

So how the hell did that happen?

05 Feb 2016

It's often easy to identify the triggers for change with the benefit of hindsight. But most of us have a pretty fuzzy grasp of what needs to be done now if we want to accomplish change later.

If you want to succeed, get used to failure

06 Aug 2015

Failure is commonplace. Ninety-nine percent of all species and organisations that exist will eventually disappear. Once you accept this and understand that every innovation begins with a series of aberrations, you will be better placed to succeed now and in the future.

A is for Apathy

17 Jul 2015

If you're a manager, ask yourself this. Does your existence at work overcome apathy or add to it? Because what's the point of your job if it isn't to provide evidence that effort is worthwhile and that things can be better?

Fight the fear

20 Apr 2015

After every boom comes a bust. And when a bubble bursts, optimism is replaced by pessimism and fear. Fear makes bad decisions. It stops people working. It encourages short-termism, protectionism and hostility towards others. If we want growth, we need optimism. We need to fight the fear.

A beautiful idea is never perfect

07 Apr 2015

However great an idea, it will never be perfect. There will always be room for improvement, either in the detail of the idea or its implementation. And that's good news for anyone who wants to contribute and for any business that wants to grow.

Good change, bad change

20 Nov 2014

If the impact of change can't be simply defined, be on your guard. If it hasn't been created with the knowledge of those who are expected to implement it then fear for the worst. And if it reverses the best things about the organisation, then it's really time to start worrying.

Understand change to make changes

25 Apr 2014

To make improvements you have to make changes. But to make successful changes you need to understanding the nature of change, why it happens, how it starts, how it continues and how it affects people, as well as organizations.

If strategy is painful, you're doing it wrong

08 Jun 2012

Strategy involves change. People have to change something to bring strategy to life. But people can only help if they know what is expected. And they will only help if they feel engaged with the direction of the strategy.

All failure is failure to adapt

12 Mar 2012

The end seems nigh for ailing UK-based computer game retailer, Game. And as Max McKeown observes, the company's demise goes to prove that all success is successful adaptation, while all failure is failure to adapt.

You can't control the waves, so learn to surf

10 Jan 2012

Anyone living through 2011 has learned that the waves of change are bigger than any individual, company, or nation. They are also more complex. The trick is to learn to read the signs and then ride the surf all the way to shore.

Great innovations deserve great names

01 Sep 2011

The name given to an innovation matters. A great innovation may survive without a great name but the name helps - particularly if it is also a product, a service, something you will be trying to sell, something that needs a brand.

Sometimes you have to gamble everything

14 Feb 2011

Revolutionaries everywhere understand that sometimes incremental changes are not enough and you have to gamble everything to change the world. Hundreds of thousands of protesters in Egypt were prepared to do that Ė so perhaps you should, too.

Battle hymn of the tiger manager?

28 Jan 2011

Inspired by lively debate about parenting styles in the east and west, Max McKeown explores whether there is any evidence that managers in the West can learn anything from the 'Tiger Managers' who are leading China to greatness.

Reacting matters as much as planning

26 Nov 2010

Successful strategy is often about reacting to events. Planning only takes you so far because you can only guess what will happen in the future. The smart strategist allows strategy to be shaped by events. Good reactions can make great strategy. So being reactive is as important as being proactive.

Bully for you

24 Feb 2010

A sense of urgency is vital to an organization and sometimes it's impossible to get things done without jumping past politeness. That's why not all expressions of anger or impatience are examples of bullying - even if you're the British Prime Minister.