Posted on Jan 4, 2020

The Power of Pull Summary

PDF, Chapters & Review of John Hagel III, John Seely Brown & Lang Davison’s Book

The Power of Pull: How Small Moves, Smartly Made, Can Set Big Things in Motion

Authors: John Hagel III, John Seely Brown, and Lang Davison

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Push” describes a method and means of organizing activities and actions. Push operates on a key assumption—that it is possible to forecast or anticipate demand. Based on this assumption, push works mightily to ensure that the right people and resources are delivered at the right place and the right time to serve the anticipated demand.

Chapter 1 – The Diminishing Power of Push

Understand the “Big Shift” – the things you’ve done to get here will no longer work to keep you here.

Push describes an outdated method of organizing activities and actions based on the assumption that you can anticipate demand.

Three phases of technological evolution:

  1. The technology itself is created
  2. Society rethinks infrastructures to deliver the technology to it’s members.
  3. Society figures out the best way to use professionally and personally

Three waves of the Big Shift:

  • First wave – Infrastructure

The CPU and along with it Moore’s law of rapid increases in processing power.  Packet-switched networks and along with them “fiber law” referencing little or no slowdown in improvement.  Lastly, storage law which mirrors the first two doubling every 12 months.

The key difference between this technology and previous ones is that it shows no signs of stabilization.

  • Second wave – Knowledge Flows

All knowledge represents a mix of tacit and explicit knowledge.  Tacit knowledge is rapidly becoming more valuable than explicit knowledge.

  • Third wave – Institutional innovations

The world that will be created by the forces driving the Big Shift.

As the Big Shift takes hold, companies are no longer places that exist to drive down costs by getting increasingly bigger. They’re places that support and organize talented individuals to get better faster by working with others. The rationale of the firm shifts from scalable efficiency to scalable learning—the ability to improve performance more rapidly and learn faster by effectively integrating more and more participants distributed across traditional institutional boundaries.

Chapter 2 – Access in an Unpredictable World

Find – Not just materials, products and services but people using search, recommendation engines, directories, etc.

Connect – The mobile internet allows us to connect wherever we are.

Innovate – Modify resources, cross-pollinate ideas from one domain of expertise and apply it to another to good effect.

Reflect –  Use quick feedback to reflect on performance and ideas in order to recombine and remix them.

Passion in this context refers to a sustained and deep commitment to achieving our full potential and greater capacity for self-expression in a domain that engages us on a personal level.

Chapter 3 – Attracting What We Need

Serendipity – Finding things we did not know we were looking for.

The definition has changed to mark the beginning rather than the end of a process.  When a serendipitous moment occurs it marks the creation of new avenues and possibilities.

Serendipity can and must be shaped in increase its likelihood of occurring.

Amplifiers and filters are the best way to increase serendipity’s potential.

  • Amplify your signal to attract attention
  • Filter attention to eliminate unwanted noise and distraction

Conferences are a great example of increasing the likelihood of serendipitous encounters.  First, they are self-filtered because people with similar passions attend.  Secondly, name tags act as beacons to initiate an exchange.

It is important to note that conference attendance is not a spectator sport. Deep listening and exchange is required to get the most out of them.

Manage Environments

Return to hunter-gatherer mentality even if it means traveling the globe in search of new relationships and knowledge

Manage Findability

Send out beacons by talking about passions, in person and online

Expose yourself to experts outside of your own expertise, with different expertise.  This helps cultivate the beginner’s mind and deep listening ability.

Enhance preparedness

The Serendipity funnel must be managed.

Institutional leaders will need to seek out “reverse mentors” among (often younger) individuals who can help them understand and master edge practices.


Chapter 4 – Achieving Our Potential

Our profession should be pursuing passions.

Create performance teams because groups get better faster.

Performance teams should be based on:

Participants – Interactions – Environment(creation spaces)


  • Many start by observing – “lurker”
  • Reputation built on contributions
  • Sometimes teams forming within teams


Team and individual level interaction is important and should create tacit knowledge

  • Creation Spaces
  • Foster team formation
  • Enhance peer to peer knowledge sharing
  • Ability to reach out to other organizations

Chapter 5 The Individual’s Path to Pull


If you want to innovate faster, you have to learn faster.

Define your destination is called trajectory – it allows focus

Leverage – connections and relationships, expand weak ties.


Passion and satisfaction in the workplace are not the same thing.

Workers at small companies are 60% more likely to be passionate about what they do.

Problem-solving atmospheres lead to passionate work.

Ask yourself, what’s preventing you from making your passion more visible?

Chapter 6 – Pulling from the Top of Institutions

Adaption is difficult because the changes sometimes go against what built the institution in the first place

Working hard, faster, even more efficiently is not the required change, it only masks the need.

Efforts to produce change fail often.  They assume passive employees from yesteryear waiting for instructions.

The challenge is to motivate employees to challenge firms rather than flee them.

  • Identify the employees (lynchpins)
  • Articulate a new rationale based on passion and rapid development

Why would anyone leave an organization that was helping them to develop faster than anywhere else?

The extra efforts to built talent also result in attracting talent. 

Be wary of the label “developing talent” because it notoriously does not occur.

Companies with a defensive posture around business models bleed talent to companies focused on growth.

Companies have to be on the offensive.

  • clear long-term growth aspirations
  • short term initiatives

The most fundamental question that the management team needs to ask “What business are we really in.”

Look for the passionate in the organization and give them a problem to solve.

Use reverse mentors to pull from the core to the edges.

IT-based on operational routines creates a ridged environment which can be made even more ridged if the code can’t be easily modified so in many cases it must be transformed.

Begin transforming IT by looking for “exceptions” that can’t be handled in the current system.

Typically exceptions are handed off from an automated system to an employee and are handled with a lot of time and limited visibility.

Developing a system that handles areas where needs fall outside the process not that deals with errors.

This approach provides near-term cost savings and targets innovation and growth opportunities.

IT has traditionally been approached from an inside-out architecture meaning from MIS to the desktop then tentatively connecting to key business partners.  The goal should be to switch to outside-in architectures focusing on crucial activities on the outside edge of firms.  Applications and hardware cannot be mandated in such a circumstance, heterogeneity must be embraced.

IT is evolving to support complex long-lived interactions across networks of diverse participants.

Mindset is Key – reward those with questing attitudes and mindsets.

Lead by example.


Chapter 7 – Using Pull to Change the World

The intelligence community had the information to thwart the 9/11 attacks but didn’t get it into the correct hands.

  • Shift focus from information stocks to information flows.

We tend to approach change with fear which discounts the potential rewards.

Shaping strategies are based on positive incentives for the shaper and participants and can focus on broad markets as well as single companies.

  • don’t focus on a company focus on the market or industry.

The basic component of a shaping view is as follows: tomorrow will be different and it will be better in this way:

Shaping elements:

  1. Shape mindsets, create trajectory
  2. Provide a platform for low-cost adoption that increases in value as it grows.
  3. Convince participants that the shaping entity they are joining is committed

We are developing the ability to change the world.  Have a mission, not a job.


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