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The Necessity of Strangers: The Intriguing Truth About Insight, Innovation, and Success

Author: Alan Gregerman
Publisher: Jossey-Bass, 2013
January 31 2014
Private Event

About the Author - Dr. Alan S. Gregerman is a Georgetown University adjunct professor and President and Chief Innovation Officer of Venture Works Inc., a consulting firm based in the Washington, D.C. area. His customers are a wide range of Fortune 500 corporations, growing firms, start-ups and nonprofits. He is an internationally-known expert on strategy and innovation, and an award-winning teacher, author, and keynote speaker. He is the author of Lessons from the Sandbox and Surrounded by Geniuses, which won the Axiom Award as one of the best leadership books of 2008.

Previously, Gregerman was Director of Entrepreneurial Services for a national consulting firm, Special Assistant for Operations at the U.S. Department of Commerce and the first Visiting Scholar in Entrepreneurship and Innovation at the Library of Congress. He earned his B.A. in geography from Northwestern University, and his M.A. in economic geography and Ph.D. in urban and technological planning from the University of Michigan.

He is founder and President of Passion for Learning, Inc., where he is involved in efforts to build innovative partnerships between the business community and low-income schools to make curriculum come alive for at-risk children. Alan is also an active member of Leadership Greater Washington, serves on the boards of the Primary Care Coalition and the Promise of Good Sports, and is math and writing tutor in the public schools. He and his wife Lisa have three children.

About the Book - We live in a world filled with strangers, and most of us are conditioned to fear or at least avoid people we don’t know or understand, who might pose a threat, force us out of our comfort zones, or challenge us to question the beliefs and habits we hold dear. Most of us assume that strangers are a problem rather than an opportunity to learn, grow, and reach our full potential, and this view translates to our belief that the people we know best are the real keys to our success. But what if this isn’t the case?  What if strangers are actually more important than friends, and what if in order to succeed in anything worth doing, we must engage, learn from, and collaborate with strangers in new and compelling ways?

The Necessity of Strangers makes the case for the simple, profound and counter-intuitive idea that strangers are a necessity for both our personal success and the success of our organizations, precisely because of strangers' differences and their ability to challenge us to think differently about ourselves, the problems we face and the very nature of what is possible. Engaging the right strangers makes us--and our organizations--more complete, compelling, innovative, and successful. Any organization striving to innovate and grow can unlock a key competitive advantage--and provide greater value for customers--by developing a clear understanding of strangers and their perspectives. The book does not focus only on people from other cultures, countries, races, or religions, but also our coworkers and people we already work with, whose training, expertise, and outlook are different from our own.

Crucially, the book includes a framework for maximizing encounters with strangers, as well as 7 key principles for developing a "stranger-centric" mindset. The book then goes on to explain how to apply those priniciples to engaging strangers in 5 key areas where strangers are vital to success:

  • Driving greater innovation
  • Building more collaborative and capable enterprises and initiatives
  • Finding and getting the best out of people
  • Developing new markets and customer relationships
  • Unlocking the real potential of mergers, acquisitions and partnerships

Ultimately, The Necessity of Strangers is about the future of innovation and personal and business success, in a world in which all of us and all of our companies and organizations can--and must--access more new ideas, insights, perspectives and relationships than ever before.