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Writing the Story of Innovation with Jonathan Littman
Episode 3127th January 2022 • Before It Happened • Donna Loughlin
00:00:00 00:35:02

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Few people have managed to document the modern history of technology as Jonathan Littman has. Jonathan is a prominent author and journalist known for the bestselling book The Art of Innovation that he collaborated on with IDEO co-founder David Kelley and his brother Tom Kelley. In this episode of Before IT Happened, we talk about Jonathan’s most recent book, The Entrepreneur’s Faces, the different categories of entrepreneur personalities and his experience inside the fast-growing tech hub of Lisbon, Portugal. Listen now and try to guess which entrepreneur archetype matches your personality!

Before any world-changing innovation, there was a moment, an event, a realization that sparked the idea before it happened. This is a podcast about that moment — about that idea. Before IT Happened takes you on a journey with the innovators who imagined — and are still imagining — our future. Join host Donna Loughlin as her guests tell their stories of how they brought their visions to life. 


(01:18) - Jonathan Littman’s successful career as an author and journalist - “I had a fantastic job and then suddenly saw an opportunity for my first real startup, which was a book.”

(08:04) - Documenting the origin of innovation: Working with brothers Tom and David Kelly inside IDEO - “The success of Apple and Samsung are hugely dependent on this relationship. Samsung had like 20 designers live at IDEO, and that's really the reason they jumped ahead.”

(14:06) - Beyond the visionary: Defining the different categories of entrepreneurs outlined in The Entrepreneur’s Faces - “There are all these blanket statements: ‘It's all about the team’. But then you actually never hear the archetypes of the team… You don't really want to have four visionaries.”

(21:01) - On influential leaders and companies’ archetypes - “With Bezos, it was all about performance. It was all about making revenue and changing fast. He had no interest really in design, beauty or elegance.”

(22:58) - The new California Dream is in Portugal: Do these archetypes have cultural or physical barriers? - “We can sell nothing right here in San Francisco, we can sell a promise… And most people from the rest of the world really struggle with that.”

(27:01) - Unraveling the different phases within innovation - “The most important thing you can do as a mentor or an advisor is to help people make a shift.”

(31:10) - Tough times and opportunities - “When the rules change, when habits change, when behaviors change, it's the ideal time to start.”


Connect with Jonathan on Twitter and LinkedIn

Read Jonathan’s most recent book: The Entrepreneur’s Faces

Read Jonathan’s LA Magazine story: The New California Dream Is in Portugal 

Learn more about innovation hub and Jonathan’s Snowball Narrative

Watch: Jonathan Littman & Susanna Camp The Entrepreneur's Faces: How Makers Visionaries & Outsiders Succeed

Thank you for listening! Follow Before IT Happened on Instagram and Twitter, and don’t forget to subscribe, rate and share the show wherever you listen to podcasts! 

Before IT Happened is produced by Donna Loughlin and StudioPod Media with additional editing and sound design by nodalab. The Executive Producer is Katie Sunku Wood and all episodes are written by Jack Buehrer.