Aviv Shahar is president of Aviv Consulting, a strategic innovation consultancy. Fortune 500 companies hire him to help their senior teams create purpose-inspired visions and innovative strategies that drive growth.
Aviv’s clients include executives at Alcoa, Cisco, Chevron, Emeritus, General Mills, Hewlett Packard, Lufthansa, Marvell, Procter & Gamble, WebEx, and the United States Department of Defense. He’s worked with clients in Brazil, Canada, Germany, Great Britain, Holland, India, Israel, Mexico, Singapore, Spain, Taiwan, and the United States.
Aviv grew up in Israel on a kibbutz, where he worked in an avocado orchard and internalized a can-do idealism. When he was 8 years old, Aviv was told by a heart specialist that, because of a mild heart condition, he shouldn’t exert himself. He defied the doctor’s orders, took up running, and at the age of 13 won Israel’s cross-country long-distance running championship. Later, doctors tested his heart and discovered that his condition was fully healed.
After graduating school, Aviv spent a year in northern Israel, leading youth movement activities and designing learning experiences. He then enrolled in the Israeli Air Force, where he completed the fighter pilot training course with distinction, and flew an A4 Skyhawk.
Aviv’s air force training discipline and missions taught him about thorough planning, flawless execution and the discipline of debrief; it was during these years that he adopted his life motto for continual learning: An un-debriefed action is a wasted action.
In the early 1990s, Aviv and his family came to live in America, where his work shifted to focus on leadership development. He taught the Executive Effectiveness course for the American Management Association, and developed both the Blue Belt Top Talent program for Hewlett Packard and the Emerald Keys program for WebEx.
During the course of his leadership work, clients asked Aviv to help them innovate and grow. In response Aviv developed Strategic Innovation—a multi-functional approach that brings together all assets, capabilities and disciplines of an organization, so they can be used to create exciting new futures.
Aviv is a member of The Million Dollar Consulting® Hall of Fame. His work has been published in magazines, like T+D and The Futurist, as well as in books like “The AMA Best of the Best” and the Pfeiffer Annuals.
AVIV ON AVIV
I help organizations create new futures.
Now, since the future, by definition, doesn’t yet exist, thinking about it and working towards it might not seem like an obvious or pressing matter. That’s the ‘Horizon Zero Trap.’”
Looking ahead and building future readiness is tremendously urgent, there are windows of opportunity that if you’re not ready to take advantage of, will close in an instant. And you’ll be left behind.
It’s 1978, I’m 19 years old, and I’m sitting in the briefing room of a fighter pilot course on an airport base in the south of Israel. Thirty-five colleagues and I are a few weeks into the flying practice. We feel confident about ourselves. Just a month earlier we were a much larger group; but half of our friends didn’t make the cut. They were sent back to serve as infantry soldiers. Naturally, we feel lucky. We are about to fly multi-million-dollar machines.
In walks our chief instructor, right in the middle of our banter. The briefing room becomes dead silent. He is a stern colonel and a good pilot himself. His first words are ‘Listen up everybody.’ It is clear an important message is coming.
Now I know exactly what you are all feeling. I’ve seen guys like you before. I know what you are thinking. You’re thinking now that you’re about to be fighter pilots, you’re the masters of the sky. You think you’re better than everyone else, and you’ll get all the glory, and the women will come flocking to you.
Now get this. Flying is not difficult. Teaching someone to fly is not a big deal. Learning to fly a plane is nothing. Anyone can do it. Understand, right there where you’re sitting, we could have 35 monkeys sitting in these same chairs. And we could probably teach them to fly. That’s right. We can replace you with monkeys.
So why didn’t we just train monkeys? I’ll tell you why.
This is the Israeli Air Force, and here we need to produce a sufficient number of good pilots within a narrowly defined window of time and budget. We need new pilots flying missions soon.
If we trained monkeys, they would have taken longer to learn than you, and they likely would have crashed a plane or two on the way to learning. Crashing planes would have cost us money.
So you 35 were the best option for us . . . given the allotted time and budget.
You have a better chance of delivering the necessary and critical level of performance within the window of flying hours and budget determined by the air force. If you learn to land safely in the next couple of weeks, you will qualify for your solo flight and you will then move on to the next training phase.
Now you may think I was offended or upset that our chief instructor compared us to monkeys. But in fact, I was mesmerized. For the first time, somebody connected all the dots. For the first time, I realized that opportunity is predicated on economics.
The colonel explained that learning was more than just learning. What he made clear was that learning meant delivering a desired level of performance within a narrowly defined window. Unless you could deliver the needed performance inside that narrowly defined window of opportunity, you’ve failed and wasted your time.
If you’re too slow in going after the opportunity, there won’t be any opportunity.
That talk by the colonel has stayed with me my whole life. It influences my work every day.
Opportunity shows up within a narrowly defined window. You must design a future that’s compelling and dramatic, and you have to understand that reaching it—sooner rather than later—is so urgent, that you’ll move heaven and earth to get there.
You have to understand that if you don’t pursue it like it matters, it may not be there at all when you’re ready. It is about speed. It’s about the speed of learning and the velocity of innovation and application.