Martin Lindstrom is a healer. Perhaps not in the sense of the word that he is a scientist working on the front lines of the pandemic, a physician, or teaching any type of Eastern medicine (that I know of). What he does for a living, however, is absolutely extraordinary, intentional and important.
As the chairman of Lindstrom Company, he transforms business culture one company at a time as a consultant and has helped many companies beyond that through his seven New York Times best-selling books. And when you throw that on top of his pile of accolades — he has the coveted TIME’s “World’s 100 Most Influential People” title, has been named one of the world’s top 50 business thinkers three times, among others — the way he stays so connected to humanness is really quite extraordinary.
Diving into Lindstrom’s newest book
But, that’s really the bulk of his work. Lindstrom’s latest book, THE MINISTRY OF COMMON SENSE: How to Eliminate Bureaucratic Red Tape, Bad Excuses, and Corporate BS, released this week, was two decades in the making. Of the initial spark for the book, some twenty-odd years later, Lindstrom explains:
“I think the first key was when the former CEO of McDonald’s, Charlie Bell, approached me and asked me if I was interested in creating the new Happy Meal. And I said, “Yes! Fantastic! As long as I can make it healthy.” He was a nice guy, so he said yes. So my goal was to make a 6-year-old eat broccoli. We created this amazing story [about the veggies in the meals]. [Our research found that] kids loved it, parents loved it, the franchisees loved it. Two years later, the new Happy Meal comes in a cardboard box, a bun with sugar on it, french fries, and now with an apple. That was the innovation.”
While most of us would read that anecdote and be offended that McDonald’s as a corporation wasn’t interested in the health of growing children, that isn’t the most chilling part about it all.
“My conclusion was very simple,” Lindstrom went on, “They had a really strong immune system, a defense mechanism for change. They did not want to adapt to the reality of consumer needs.”
And they weren’t alone. Over the years, Lindstrom noticed the same blocks with companies and corporations of all sizes as he continued to work with them, consulting on workplace bureaucracy and limitations. And one day, after a very insightful conversation about common sense at a bank he was working with, he found the second key to the creation of this book.
So, how does one of the most notable business experts of our era continue to dazzle company after company with insight that propels their business and streamlines their inner-office interactions? Empathy.
“I managed to find the old, deep-rooted issue which really is a lack of common sense in the workplace. And common sense = empathy. Because of the pandemic, empathy — the human glue making us connect with people and allowing us to see the world from multiple points-of-view — is fading away to a degree we’ve never before seen. That’s the evolution I went through to create the book.”
Lindstrom’s key to success, and what keeps him working with people so steadily, is that empathy can be learned.
“Empathy is like a muscle. You have to train it, you have to maintain it. When you drag yourself out of your comfort zone and force yourself to see another point of view, that you actually grow. You start to recognize weaknesses and strengths within yourself, you start to respect and appreciate other people, and you get ideas. The problem is that [workplace roles] do not encourage [people] to engage with others, a fact that is worse because of the pandemic. Companies are coming to the realization that empathy is the backbone of great culture.”
Let this book be your guide to upending workplace culture issues. Each chapter is packed with personal anecdotes, examples, and insight that will make you want to not only work to correct your own workplace ecosystem but drive you to help others do the same. Not only that, but Lindstrom’s stories pack a punch, whether you’ve encountered them in one of his previous books or are searching for inspiration in the new release.
“I always jump into the shoes of another perspective. Just recently I became blind for a week, following a blind person and turned blind myself. I became an air host on a plane for a week to understand how passengers are using the cabin crew. I’ve worked on an oil platform, I’ve been on a tanker, I’ve been kidnapped, there’s a lot of stuff going on.”
Normally, when discussing adrenaline-inducing kidnaps in an interview, there is a little more stress involved. But you can see the positive Lindstrom has pulled from all of it over the years, the perspective he’s chosen to go with after experiencing so many others’. It’s nothing short of inspiring.
When asked about advice he would give to job seekers in our current climate, Lindstrom seemed hopeful.
“I’ve believed that you need to be 100% yourself and not try to force yourself to mirror what the organization stands for. I do think increasingly companies are starting to appreciate that. If you really want to understand a company’s culture, look at the products they’re serving and what they’re doing. And if you can align yourself with that, that’s the place where you want to be.”