Mark Bonchek is on a mission to update leaders’ thinking in a digital age. As the founder and CEO of SHIFT Academy, Mark helps companies become unlearning organizations. With new mental maps, leaders better navigate the ever-changing landscape of business. SHIFT Academy gives teams a shared understanding, a shared language, and a shared purpose through online Expeditions, in-person Summits, and guided Journeys. Mark Bonchek’s journey began at MIT in the early 1990s where he led a research project on digital engagement, leading to Harvard University’s first doctorate on the topic of social media in 1997. Mark then became the first director of research at the Strategos Institute, where Mark explored the strategies that enable companies to reinvent themselves and transform their business models.
In the early 2000s, Mark began to put his research into practice. He left Strategos to lead the strategy practice in Boston for iXL, then served as COO of TomorrowLab for McKinsey & Company. At McKinsey, Mark designed a new offering using digital media and collaborative community to help leaders create digital strategy. When McKinsey went back to its traditional business model, Mark left to begin his entrepreneurial journey at the crossroads of leadership, strategy, and learning.
As the founder and CEO of Truman Company, Mark created a new model for strategy development and executive engagement based on co-creation and peer exchange. Working with market leaders including IBM, Avaya, The Economist, Manpower, and Gerson Lehrman Group, Mark’s team reinvented advisory boards, conferences, and online communities as vehicles for customer advocacy, organizational alignment, and transformative change.
In 2006, Mark led the merger of Truman Company with Fifty Lessons, a pioneer in the use of storytelling and digital video for leadership development and executive education. The combined company demonstrated the power of combining digital media, online community, and in-person events. But Mark’s vision for fusing marketing and learning was ahead of its time, and the Fifty Lessons library was sold to Skillsoft in 2010.
To understand the internal dynamics of transformative change, Mark accepted a position as the SVP of Communities and Networks for Sears Holdings, where he was responsible for creating a strategic narrative for the company’s transformation and the SHOP framework for multi-channel retail.
Mark’s experience at Sears Holdings revealed that it wasn’t enough to do digital. You also had to think digital. And this new kind of thinking wasn’t about how to use technology. It was about the core insight that Mark discovered in his original research: digital technology fundamentally changes the flow of communication and the relationship between individuals and organizations. Engagement is no longer about pushing messages through channels to drive transactions, it’s about creating ORBITs (Ongoing Relationship Beyond Individual Transactions).
In 2012, Mark left Sears to start the consultancy thinkORBIT, helping companies develop engagement strategies that pull customers, employees, and partners into orbit around their brand. Clients of thinkORBIT have included Kaiser Permanente, Staples, Adobe, Briggs & Stratton, Jive Software, and the American Heart Association.
Mark’s work with thinkORBIT clients revealed that the shift from push to pull is only one of the mental shifts required to succeed in our digital age. There are many other as well, including product to platform, audience to community, decision to habit, and hierarchy to network. But there is nowhere for leaders to go to update their thinking in these areas, and more importantly, no mechanism to bring these ideas back to their teams.
To address this gap, Mark founded SHIFT Academy in 2014. His team is actively underway developing a next-generation platform that combines mobile apps, in-person events, and consultative journeys to help leaders unlearn the old models and apply the new models in the context of their own organizations.
To accelerate the adoption of SHIFT thinking, Mark is a frequent speaker and regular columnist for Harvard Business Review. As recognition for his insight and contribution, Mark was also recently named to the Agenda Digital 50 list of board candidates by the Financial Times.
Mark lives in Weston, MA with his wife and three sons.
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