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Ariel Szuch, November 21, 2014

jed morley.jpg

Strategy. Ambiguity. Creativity. These elements blend seamlessly in the unique services of Jump Associates, a strategy firm that combines the analytical rigor of management consulting firms, like McKinsey, and the creativity of design firms, like IDEO, to create new businesses for their clients. The Creativity, Innovation, and Design team caught up with Jed Morley, BYU alum and vice president of strategy at Jump Associates, to get a glimpse into his world and what he’s learned from working for companies like Jump and IDEO.

Q: What is Jump Associates, and what do you do?

A: We’re a strategy firm that helps Fortune 500 companies grow billion-dollar businesses by answering two key questions: where to play and how to win. The folks at Jump are hybrid thinkers: part business strategist, part humanist, and part technologist. Seeing the world through all three of these lenses at the same time helps us see opportunities for our clients that others might miss. More than being “cool,” we’re interested in doing impactful work that creates lasting value for our clients and their customers. As vice president of strategy, I’m responsible for introducing new clients to Jump and aligning their needs to the right resources of our firm.

Q: What would you say is the need for your field?

A: Management consulting firms excel at convergent thinking, which requires gathering and analyzing all of the known facts, while design firms are gifted at divergent thinking – creating new possibilities for the way things could be. Jump Associates combines both ways of thinking to create new business concepts that drive growth in the face of disruptive changes. We thrive in situations that are ambiguous, where it’s difficult to even know the right questions to ask to find your way forward. We thrive on solving ambiguous problems.

For example, we helped Nike move beyond shoes and into sunglasses, watches and MP3 players. And Target worked with Jump back in 2001 to create a rich portfolio of new Back to School products for college students that spurred double-digit revenue growth in year one and set the stage for Target’s reinvention as Tar-zhay. Business-to-business examples include helping FedEx figure out the market for their new global shipment tracking service and we helped GE create a new textiles business while eliminating the need to create a billion-dollar production facility.

Q: How did your BYU education help you get to where you are today?

A: Studying design as a BYU undergrad gave me flexible principles to build upon, including graphic design, information design, industrial design, and editorial design. When I went to grad school at Northwestern University, I stumbled onto the Chicago studio of IDEO; they were looking for someone to head up business development and marketing. I was able combine my knowledge of design and marketing to speak their language. Also, the BYU community has a surprisingly diverse appreciation for people of other cultures because of the collective global missionary experience of its students. This shared sense of appreciation for different kinds of people is a core value of the university and an essential skill for innovation. At its core, innovation requires having a sense of empathy for people who are different from you. Many of the students at BYU have a heightened sense of empathy because they have served church missions. Missionaries have to get outside of themselves and learn how to see the world through the eyes of others. They have the opportunity to go into a wide variety of people’s homes and break bread with them and understand where those people are coming from and why they do the things they do. These skills translate really well into creating innovative solutions for people.

Q: What advice would you give to someone who wants to pursue a career in this field?

  • Read “Wired to Care” by Dev Patnaik, Jump’s co-founder and CEO. This book teaches principles for developing organizational empathy.
  • Read “Playing to Win” by A.G. Lafley and Roger Martin. It’s the most straightforward book about strategy and it has a lot of practical examples and applications you can put to work right away. It shares some great ideas for identifying and addressing assumptions and how to test them in a way that builds alignment.
  • Take an anthropology class: learn how to do ethnographic research and how to discover someone’s unmet needs – the kind of needs they can’t even articulate.
  • Distinguish between needs and solutions: needs are verbs, solutions are nouns.
  • Volunteer your time to help nonprofits or startups figure out what the needs of their would-be donors, beneficiaries and customers are. Observe and interview people in situations and environments where they experience the kinds of problems that your organization intends to solve.
  • Practice giving the perfect gift to friends and family members by being observant about their wants and needs throughout the year.
  • Learn to appreciate the complementary gifts of your team members. In a training meeting about the importance of councils, Elder Neil L. Andersen said, “Revelation is scattered among us.” The innovative teams at Jump put this idea into practice by helping team members actively foster good intent toward one another so they feel safe being vulnerable and openly sharing their ideas.

We live in a world where disruptive changes are happening more rapidly than ever before, so the problems facing individuals, businesses, and society as a whole are much more ambiguous. The good news is that everyone, be it a freshman who is just starting out or a seasoned Jump executive, can learn to solve these types of problems. As Morley points out, “These are principles that can be applied in all aspects of life.” So take the jump; exercise your empathy. Be the active designer of your own life. What will you do to make a change for the better?