Industrial Age Cancer: 20th Century Practices Kill Off Business

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Many companies these days, both large or small, face a huge problem: stagnation. Business practices are not keeping up with the times or innovating along with the demands of the 21st century. We’re facing entirely new challenges, but ill-equipped to react, and just like the dinosaurs… going extinct.

Here at Next Jump, we focus on creating agile decision makers who are able to quickly adjust to the environment around them. Our cutting-edge structures have been recognized by leaders in the field such as An Everyone Culture, by Harvard Professors Bob Keegan and Lisa Lahey, and in TedX talks – both ones we’ve hosted and talks by household names such as Simon Sinek.

Many businesses work on models developed in the 20th century, but industrial age processes now equal industrial age cancer.

THEN the #1 job was to follow instruction -> NOW #1 job now is decision making, building adaptive learning teams

This is an issue affecting businesses across all spheres – from the military, fintech, to education and non-profits. We’re determined not to let this Industrial-Age cancer take hold. So, we’ve been doing in-depth research across multiple industries into how to identify and solve key symptoms across any corporation.

The root cause? Organizational silence – everyone is too afraid to speak up and point out problems

The Solution? Feedback – creating an organization where people give feedback consistently to highlight and solve for issues.

We’ve pinpointed 8 signs – here’s a few sound bites from our co-CEO and founder, Charlie Kim during a Leadership Academy:


Low performing High performing
Fixed mindset (performance)

Short term

Focus on outcome and presentation

Everything mission critical

Growth mindset (learning)

Long term

Focus on sharing early & looking at potential

Room to practice and grow


Harvard research has shown that organizations that are not high performing, are performance obsessed – they’re focused on being the best today (short term goals). On the other hand, the highest performing organizations have a learning mindset and look towards achieving their potential in the long term.

The CIA suggests that people are stuck on ‘polished prototypes’, but when presenting these, most people see flaws. Instead, when you show people the rough prototype, people see potential.

Low performers – everything is mission critical. High performing teams give people space to practice.

Single vs Continuous Innovation

Cancer Growth
Fixated on one innovation/accident Constantly checking in and adapting


In his book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell studied the worst airline in the 20th century: Korea Airlines. This was due to not mechanical or technical faults, but human error. Nor was it just one error – but seven consecutive bad decisions. The accumulation of human errors led to crashes. It’s the same in sports – it’s not the fumble that loses the game, but the actions that follow.

Accidents happen, but one accident is not enough to kill off an organization – it’s the pile up.

On the flip side, the need to make 7 right calls requires you to be good at real time navigation.

Passive listening vs Experiential Learning

Passive listening is a common principle – instruction (a leftover from factory days when people did what they were told). This is even more common with the ease of access from the internet; TedX talks and online learning. Nowadays, we need experiential learning. You need to be ‘in the arena’, experiencing for yourself.

Business schools have created a hybrid solution: case studies. However, these are still not the same, as hindsight is 20/20… in retrospect, it’s obvious what should have been done.
It’s much more like parenting: there are  thousands of books out there telling us what we should do, but you won’t know how well you’ve raised your child until at least a decade into the future! We need to practice navigating in this VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous) environment.

Solo Star vs Team Player

The smallest unit is a pair, which we utilize at Next Jump: ‘Training Partners’ – just like a gym buddy. With them, your game elevates. Without them, on the worst days, you’ll just give up. It’s a social process where diversity of thinking matters.

As a solo leader, Charlie could get about 85% of his decisions correct. But he needed the help of a TP to get to the 95%: this is why he and Meghan co-lead the company.

He admits that it took a lot of trial and error to set this up, even nearly getting fired several times over his 24 years as the founder and CEO of the company. Solo stars, from doctors to sports players, are often one-hit wonders. They underestimate how they succeeded – the underlying team. You need everyone to be aligned and supporting one another.

Hidden vs exposed

When things don’t function well, it’s due to a hidden learning environment – ‘behind closed doors’. Anything wrong is only discussed in private. There’s no feedback sharing. However, hidden & suppressed problems can’t be worked on! It needs to be uncovered and shown to be worked out. With high performing teams, issues are discussed openly. It’s like having an open kitchen in a restaurant: they get real time feedback, they can see when customers dislike it. They need to adjust quickly, and everyone is able to see them do so. This ‘open kitchen’ concept is spreading to other industries.

Compliance vs Gamification

In games, sometimes you have to go backwards to win, but people are committed and want to win, no matter what. In comparion, most people live by ‘checklists’ – knowledge of what needs to be done, but with no passion or engagement. Applying gamification to life gets people to accomplish more in crazy, innovative and new ways.

logical thinking vs intuition

In Thinking Fast and Slow, by Daniel Kahneman, he outlines two systems of thinking. Slow = logical. Fast = intuitive. Decision making actually stems from intuition, even though we might think they’re logical, despite all the facts. When push comes to shove, we tend to make ‘gut instinct’ decisions, even though we try to approach things objectively.

Intensity vs Consistency

Things done just once or twice a year (intensity) have little effect – consistency is the key to creating good habits. It’s far better to run for 15 mins, twice a week, than it would be to run a marathon once a year, right? Consistent rituals will create long term change


We believe that these 8 points can help identify Industrial Age Cancer in any organization – have you noticed any of the symptoms or any good practices in your own business, or those around you?


Keep an eye on our blog for more thought leadership, or check out for more materials on how to structure your teams to make them agile, adaptable and able to take create learning opportunities in volatile situations.

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