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Imagine It Forward: Courage, Creativity, and the Power of Change

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From one of today’s foremost innovation leaders, an inspiring and practical guide to mastering change in the face of uncertainty. The world will never be slower than it is right now, says Beth Comstock, the former Vice Chair and head of marketing and innovation at GE. But confronting relentless change is hard. Companies get disrupted as challengers steal away customers; emp From one of today’s foremost innovation leaders, an inspiring and practical guide to mastering change in the face of uncertainty. The world will never be slower than it is right now, says Beth Comstock, the former Vice Chair and head of marketing and innovation at GE. But confronting relentless change is hard. Companies get disrupted as challengers steal away customers; employees have to move ahead without knowing the answers. To thrive in today’s world, every one of us has to make change part of our job. In Imagine It Forward, Comstock, in a candid and deeply personal narrative, shares lessons from a thirty year career as the change-maker in chief, navigating the space between the established and the unproven. As the woman who initiated GE's digital and clean-energy transformations, and its FastWorks methodology, she challenged a global organization to not wait for perfection but to spot trends, take smart risks and test new ideas more often. She shows how each one of us can—in fact, must -- become a “change maker.” “Ideas are rarely the problem,” writes Comstock. “What holds all of us back, really—is fear. It’s the attachment to the old, to ‘What We Know.’” Change is messy and fraught with tension, uncertainty and failure. Being “change ready” calls for the courage to defy convention, the resilience to overcome doubts, and the savvy to know when to go around corporate gatekeepers to reinvent what is possible. Among the practical takeaways Comstock offers: • The power of discovery—bringing the outside into your organization. It’is about turning the world into a classroom. • Find a spark—provocateurs who challenge established ways of thinking can be a powerful catalyst for change. • Give yourself permission—every change maker must learn to give herself permission to push outside expectations and boundaries. Confronting today’s accelerating change requires an extraordinary degree of problem-solving, collaboration, and forward-thinking leadership to unlock every person’s potential. Imagine It Forward masterfully points the way.


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From one of today’s foremost innovation leaders, an inspiring and practical guide to mastering change in the face of uncertainty. The world will never be slower than it is right now, says Beth Comstock, the former Vice Chair and head of marketing and innovation at GE. But confronting relentless change is hard. Companies get disrupted as challengers steal away customers; emp From one of today’s foremost innovation leaders, an inspiring and practical guide to mastering change in the face of uncertainty. The world will never be slower than it is right now, says Beth Comstock, the former Vice Chair and head of marketing and innovation at GE. But confronting relentless change is hard. Companies get disrupted as challengers steal away customers; employees have to move ahead without knowing the answers. To thrive in today’s world, every one of us has to make change part of our job. In Imagine It Forward, Comstock, in a candid and deeply personal narrative, shares lessons from a thirty year career as the change-maker in chief, navigating the space between the established and the unproven. As the woman who initiated GE's digital and clean-energy transformations, and its FastWorks methodology, she challenged a global organization to not wait for perfection but to spot trends, take smart risks and test new ideas more often. She shows how each one of us can—in fact, must -- become a “change maker.” “Ideas are rarely the problem,” writes Comstock. “What holds all of us back, really—is fear. It’s the attachment to the old, to ‘What We Know.’” Change is messy and fraught with tension, uncertainty and failure. Being “change ready” calls for the courage to defy convention, the resilience to overcome doubts, and the savvy to know when to go around corporate gatekeepers to reinvent what is possible. Among the practical takeaways Comstock offers: • The power of discovery—bringing the outside into your organization. It’is about turning the world into a classroom. • Find a spark—provocateurs who challenge established ways of thinking can be a powerful catalyst for change. • Give yourself permission—every change maker must learn to give herself permission to push outside expectations and boundaries. Confronting today’s accelerating change requires an extraordinary degree of problem-solving, collaboration, and forward-thinking leadership to unlock every person’s potential. Imagine It Forward masterfully points the way.

30 review for Imagine It Forward: Courage, Creativity, and the Power of Change

  1. 5 out of 5

    Linda

    This reads like a whole new genre—a new kind of business book for a new era in big business. Candid, personal, and bombast-free, “Imagine it Forward” is a change-agent’s true story from the inner sanctums of a few of the world’s biggest pre-digital companies. And whether or not they admit it, all companies “of a certain age” are writhing as they sort out how to compete in this transformational era. For a decade, Reality TV and social media have been dissolving the polished exteriors that hid the t This reads like a whole new genre—a new kind of business book for a new era in big business. Candid, personal, and bombast-free, “Imagine it Forward” is a change-agent’s true story from the inner sanctums of a few of the world’s biggest pre-digital companies. And whether or not they admit it, all companies “of a certain age” are writhing as they sort out how to compete in this transformational era. For a decade, Reality TV and social media have been dissolving the polished exteriors that hid the truths inside so many of our institutions, including our families. In “Imagine it Forward,” Beth (and you’ll want to call her Beth too) brings that new, sometimes uncomfortable, transparency to the inner workings of the Fortune 100 C-Suite. The truth needed to be personal, because what is change in a 100-year-old company but individual intra-preneurs battling legions of executives in cultures built for yesterday? And these days, it’s a battle to the death. (See rest of business books) The bureaucrats have the incumbent’s advantages— wallet, Street, inertia, but all the entrepreneurs have is each other and The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come. And sometimes the CEO’s support. (The value of which is greatly overestimated. As Martin Sorrell remarked; “You think I say something and my people do it?”) If the change agents are gifted, like Beth, they have gobs of vision and grit and have grown a very thick skin. But that still doesn’t guarantee success. Business has faced challenging eras before—but not the likes of this one. Exponential accelerators in tech and globalization are rapidly converging. The Fortune 100 old-growth forest is being culled quarterly. As are the good jobs. “Change Agents,” as Beth characterizes her people, are the only hope. They take constant arrows, front and back, and like Beth, have probably closed their doors and cried. For all those women and men struggling for change— often in isolation without role models, sufficient support or recognition— this book is a gold mine of advice and a triple espresso of encouragement. Read it and please, carry on! “Imagine it Forward” is deceiving because it’s a good, enjoyable read, but it’s also the most powerful, instructive user’s manual on Change Management I’ve read--specifically because it’s so authentic. Changing established cultures is by necessity personal and conflict-ridden and it’s time to admit out loud. Of course change agents should read this book— but really, so should the rest of the folks in legacy companies who wittingly or unwittingly create the punishing headwinds that make adapting too hard. Everyone needs to be a change agent or change advocate if our companies are going to thrive or even survive. I hope this book encourages other practitioners to come forward with candid stories and advice. I hope journalists dig under the PR to the real challenges in these companies, and I hope everyone starts to appreciate the importance and difficulty, particularly around culture, that’s been silently holding back all the talent and imagination locked in many fine organizations. It seems like everybody in New York, including me, knows Beth. She is active in social media, conferences, and has a seemingly limitless capacity to help almost everyone who asks her. Still, I was unaware of so many of her accomplishments and her personal challenges. I’m especially grateful for her rare confidence and her generosity. She let people see behind the curtain and acquire a bit more of their own confidence and thick skin—knowing that even the biggest and the best are also human.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Brian

    Imagine it Forward by Beth Comstock tracks her rise through the ranks of NBC and General Electric (GE) to focus on innovation and how to bring entrepreneurship to the epitome of corporate drudger and bureaucracy. She focuses on the traits and tactics necessary to bring about innovation and how to have an entrepreneurs spirit within a big organization. GE faced a tremendous challenge after the departure of Jack Welch and the subsequent demise of GE Capital that had fueled the growth of GE making Imagine it Forward by Beth Comstock tracks her rise through the ranks of NBC and General Electric (GE) to focus on innovation and how to bring entrepreneurship to the epitome of corporate drudger and bureaucracy. She focuses on the traits and tactics necessary to bring about innovation and how to have an entrepreneurs spirit within a big organization. GE faced a tremendous challenge after the departure of Jack Welch and the subsequent demise of GE Capital that had fueled the growth of GE making Jack Welch one of the most successful CEO’s in the history of corporate America. The new GE had to innovate and find new business that it had never dreamed of entering before unlocking the innovation that had started the company under Edison and blossomed throughout its 140 year history. It had to overcome a corporate ethos of “checking the checkers” and fiefdoms carved out of CEO’s within business units that only could see the P&L of their area. Comstock covers the numerous entrepreneurial initiatives including some outside ventures like Hulu in her book and looks at what it takes to drive change and imagine a business in a future state. Her career which would culminate with being vice chair of GE was about brining the innovative spark to GE that would hep it grown and get ahead of the problems that an industrial giant would face in a world focused on software and consume businesses. Ultimately the book does read more as a memoir then a corporate strategy book but there are great lessons to be gleamed here and plenty of information about GE that often gets forgotten after the Jack Welch era. A very enjoyable read with the right mix of personal stories coupled with lessons learned and an outline of key takeaways helpful to those trying to drive change in large organizations or those starting out on their own about the pitfalls of growing to fast.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

    This is the best book on leadership and innovation that I've ever read. Beth Comstock is a badass.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Jessica

    I will say that I received a galley copy, so there may be things that were changed with the publication of the book in mass production. I really enjoyed Beth's journey through corporate America--what she was thinking as she fought for change in a large machine-like company, knowing when to stand down, and looking back on her mistakes with clarity and compassion. I think that the writing could have had a stronger point of view--in my copy, it wasn't clear if this was an advice book or memoir, or I will say that I received a galley copy, so there may be things that were changed with the publication of the book in mass production. I really enjoyed Beth's journey through corporate America--what she was thinking as she fought for change in a large machine-like company, knowing when to stand down, and looking back on her mistakes with clarity and compassion. I think that the writing could have had a stronger point of view--in my copy, it wasn't clear if this was an advice book or memoir, or who the target audience was. Sometimes she had some reflections that felt unfinished, but the story getting there was good. I did not like the excerpts of the book that was advice column, it felt like it should have been a companion booklet or in the back of the book that one would review when reflecting on their own journey and planning forward. I ended up just skipping those sections because they would take up 2/3 of a page and cut off the narrative if I would stop to read them. The beginning of the book was strong, but dragged on quite a bit at the end. I think the last two chapters could have been tightened and combined. All in all, I like the bulk of the book, and think with some more editing it could be a really solid career advice book for change-makers.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Erica Eastman

    This is a very thick book that I felt could’ve been edited down considerably to the more relevant and useful information. Much of the book is memoir and describes many colleagues who Beth assesses in great detail, which I found boring and I frankly don’t care who she did or didn’t like working with and her assessment of their personality and business acumen. Towards the end she got more focused on what the book’s title says it will deliver, and I found it more readable and moving along better. O This is a very thick book that I felt could’ve been edited down considerably to the more relevant and useful information. Much of the book is memoir and describes many colleagues who Beth assesses in great detail, which I found boring and I frankly don’t care who she did or didn’t like working with and her assessment of their personality and business acumen. Towards the end she got more focused on what the book’s title says it will deliver, and I found it more readable and moving along better. Overall, I came away with some good quotes but I think the content should’ve been edited better to be more focused to make a stronger and more clear impact in terms of understanding change and how to manage it. If you are looking for more of a memoir you will probably enjoy this but I was expecting more of a business toolkit and overall found it too long and lacking in the real insights I was after.

  6. 5 out of 5

    BMR, MSW, LSW

    I got this book from the publisher, for helping to pick out the title. This was an engaging book, but I thought Beth missed some opportunities to call out the mansplaining she was subjected to during her career w/GE and NBC. Also, more than once, she had to bring in a man from the outside as a consultant to have the men in upper level mgmt listen to her ideas and plans. Even when she was their peer or their boss! Anyway, this is good for anyone who has a corporate job in an old industry...or anyon I got this book from the publisher, for helping to pick out the title. This was an engaging book, but I thought Beth missed some opportunities to call out the mansplaining she was subjected to during her career w/GE and NBC. Also, more than once, she had to bring in a man from the outside as a consultant to have the men in upper level mgmt listen to her ideas and plans. Even when she was their peer or their boss! Anyway, this is good for anyone who has a corporate job in an old industry...or anyone that wants to innovate but is too risk averse to try and fail.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Erin

    Shocked by the positive response. Found this book to be a mediocre memoir with infuriating commentary like “YouTube was built on the back of [SNL’s] Lazy Sunday” and watered down advice on innovation and disruption. The book also glorifies GE culture and leadership which seems outdated reading it in 2018.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Lauren

    Great to read about these principles as they applied to Beth's experience at GE. It's a great story and the actionable takeaways remind the reader to take emergent and innovative principles to their own organizations or personal life. I'd really love to grab a drink with Beth and ask her more questions about some of these stories, off the record.

  9. 5 out of 5

    John Malley

    Must Read for Anyone Who Wants to be a Changemaker Great read, this book is a great balance of practical advise and real life examples/stories. Co-oping at GE with 3-different businesses from 2011-2013, I witnessed the impact of what Beth was doing first hand.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Uday

    Shares Insights from her journey at GE. An insider walking you through the challenges of instigating change and seeding innovation at a B2B industrial conglomerate.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Do Ha

    This book has many lessons to help me develop thinking and intelligence

  12. 5 out of 5

    Lloyd Fassett

    8/7/18 My Goodreads friend, Brian Regan, had a nice write up about it. I'm mostly interested because I worked in a joint venture with GE. The podcast with the author is good. Commonwealth Of California Podcast: A Guide to Innovation with Beth Comstock http://www.podtrac.com/pts/redirect.m...

  13. 5 out of 5

    Alexandra

    A business type book, that looks at her career at different television companies. It is more of a personal story, but there are take away points from them.there are challenges in a gray background - something to do. Tips to be more successful and do better.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Kimberly

  15. 5 out of 5

    Cornel

  16. 5 out of 5

    Dasle

  17. 5 out of 5

    Garrio

  18. 5 out of 5

    Steven Zachary

  19. 4 out of 5

    Abigail Mallick

  20. 4 out of 5

    Jill

  21. 5 out of 5

    Caitlin

  22. 5 out of 5

    Chris Travers

  23. 5 out of 5

    J Casual

  24. 5 out of 5

    Louisa Wong

  25. 4 out of 5

    Katrina Craigwell

  26. 5 out of 5

    Christine

  27. 4 out of 5

    Jelena Leovac

  28. 5 out of 5

    Nicole Boren

  29. 4 out of 5

    Lauren

  30. 5 out of 5

    Iuliana

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