“Think About A Book As A Career Summary Of The Last 3–5 Years, Start By Capturing What You Have Learned In That Time”

A Conversation With Best Selling Author Michael Nir


“I was having a discussion about this recently with a colleague. Think about a book as a life-career summary of the last 3–5 years — start by capturing what you have learned in that time frame. How did you become a better, smarter, wiser person? Use that thinking as a base for the content.”

I had the pleasure of interviewing Michael Nir, a Keynote Speaker, Best Selling Author and Lean Agile Inspiration Expert; known for his passion, creativity and innovation. The author of nine books on influence, consumer experience, and Agile project management, Michael delivers practical skills gained from eighteen years of experience leading change at global organizations in diverse industries such as: Intel, Philips Healthcare, United Healthcare, DnB, Volvo, JPMorgan Chase, Citi, Unilever and many others. He is masterful at connecting the dots between human behavior, business systems and work environment to drive highly productive teams and lead individuals to communicate effectively. Michael’s initiatives with one Fortune 100 company are saving over $12 million in program costs, with completion dates more than a year ahead of schedule.

Thank you so much for joining us! What is your “backstory”?

If you’d told me 10 years ago that I would write not one but ten books (my latest was published by Springer / Apress last month), I would have told you, you’re mad! There’s just no way I’ll write books.

Actually going even further back in time, I decided to study civil engineering because I disliked physics and was under the impression that civil engineers don’t study a lot of physics…well, that didn’t pan out as I planned and I spent four years studying all possible courses in the physical behaviours of structures; During that Bachelors degree I swore I’d never write a thesis; and guess what, a few years later I was writing a thesis as part of my Masters in industrial engineering.

I conceptually dislike writing — any way that’s what I’ve always told myself, and yet, my tenth book is out — it’s all very perplexing :-)

So there’s definitely a recurring pattern in play and one that I’ve observed in others as well. It’s very hard to plan and follow a career trajectory; difficult to predict in advance how decisions and paths will play out. Naturally in hindsight it all makes perfect sense.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your career?

Once on a hike in Denali Alaska I had to face down a 250 lb Grizzly Bear — we were waving our hands, and talking to the bear — in Hebrew mind you — not to eat us. Actually there’s a specific protocol to follow when encountering a bear in the wild, it’s based on whether it’s a black or Grizzly bear; but some adolescent female Grizzlies can be blackish, so you really have to check the gender. Lucky for us though, the bear understood Hebrew or thought we weren’t Kosher…this incident later became a narrative to one of my best selling keynote — persuading the bear — how to influence without authority. But it could all have ended differently, had the bear been inclined to nibble on my feet.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

I have been speaking on business agility and connecting it to my other passion — body language and silent influencing. Apart from my technical engineering background, I was always drawn to human interaction and what is termed soft skills. I studied Gestalt therapy and over the years integrated Gestalt thinking in my business and work. My latest keynote — how to beat Google, Amazon, Facebook and Netflix in their own game — draws on Gestalt elements and integrates them into business agility.

Which people in history inspire you the most? Why?

Ernest Shackleton — his diary of the Endurance and the amazing story of perseverance, camaraderie and leadership is unmatched in history.

Scientists who endured the ridicule of society while pressing on to provide evidence to their observations inspire my lean agile work in business.

Which literature do you draw inspiration from? Why?

Behavioral economics is a favourite of mine — work by Nobel prize laureate Daniel Kahneman (Thinking fast and slow) as well as Daniel Gilbert (Stumbling upon happiness) and others. It provides us a glimpse into the psychology of judgment and decision-making and our fallacies and failures as decision makers in business. Luck plays a much bigger role than we’d like to admit

How do you think your writing makes an impact in the world?

I connect and integrate concepts from various fields of thought.

My writing takes abstract ideas and presents them in an easy to understand, example-rich format. I offer many examples and practical how to in my books.

What advice would you give to someone considering becoming an author like you?

I was having a discussion about that recently with a colleague. Think about a book as a life-career summary of the last 3–5 years — start by capturing what you have learned in that time frame. How did you become a better, smarter, wiser person? Use that thinking as a base for the content.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

My success provides me with a platform to help individuals and organizations to focus on what’s important to them in their business and personal life. People often approach me after a keynote and share how the ideas I present are giving them courage to take a step towards something they’ve been afraid off.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

1. Have a plan, but know it’s probably not going to work — I was working in the European market for 8 years, I chose Boston as a hub so I can travel to Europe often — however in 3 months I stopped travelling to Europe since local business was lucrative

2. Luck plays a bigger role than we assume, increase the opportunities to ‘find’ luck — the more opportunities you explore the higher the chance something will fall into place

3. Challenge what you hear and read, chart your own course — you have to follow your own path and choose what works for you. I’ve been sold on growing email lists for 15 years — and I’ve never found the benefit of having one; instead I’ve build networks of professionals to support one another

4. Books are still the best business card — I’ve blogged, sent newsletters, posted on many portals, but nothing stands out as a good book! Invest your limited discretionary time in writing a book

5. Plan a budget and stick to it

6. Take time off

7. Enjoy what you’re doing

Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this. :-)

I can think of numerous — however the following two are finalists: Daniel Gilbert who has a unique view on happiness and children, what’s his take on the digital revolution and happiness of humanity;

Sundar Pichai — Google’s CEO — I want to get his perspective on technology, ethics in an AI world and the future of humanity under the role of Google