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Refining the Power of Pull: Interview with John Hagel III, John Seely Brown, and Lang Davison

How small moves, smartly made, can set big things in motion

An interview with The Power of Pull authors,  John Hagel III, John Seely Brown and Lang Davison.

What is “pull”? 

Pull is the ability to draw out people and resources as needed to address opportunities and challenges. Pull gives us unprecedented access to what we need, when we need it, even when we’re not quite sure what “it” is. 

Pull allows us to harness and unleash the forces of attraction, influence and serendipity. Using pull, we can create the conditions by which individuals, teams and even institutions can achieve their potential in less time with more impact than has ever been possible. 

What is the “power of pull”?  

The power of pull provides a key to how all of us-individually and collectively-can turn challenge and stress into opportunity and reward as digital technology remakes our lives. 

If you want to succeed personally, if you want your company to succeed, if you have grand ambitions about what the world ought to look like, we think we’ve identified the keys to success that you will need in a world that’s changing almost too fast to keep track of. 

By understanding these fundamental changes, and by grasping how pull works, we think you can be happier working at something you love, build institutions that can act as platforms to catapult change (and create real value while doing it), and maybe even transform the world in necessary and far-reaching ways. 

Discuss what you call The Big Shift. What is it?  

The Big Shift is a world in which citizens gain political power relative to political institutions. It is a world in which talented employees capture economic value relative to the firm, a world in which consumers have increased market power relative to vendors and a world in which corporate performance is in decline.

The Big Shift captures the fundamental shift from a world of push to a world of pull that has been playing out for decades and will continue to unfold for decades more. In a profound way, it enables far more robust and scalable pull techniques to come into play while at the same time generating pressures that will make pull an imperative, rather than an option. 

What form will the Big Shift take as it plays out in our economy and lives?

Our research suggests that The Big Shift is emerging in three waves, each with distinctive characteristics. These waves capture the focus of action at any point in time, but they are not strictly sequential. 

We can see the evidence of the second and third waves beginning to gather force even as the first wave is still washing across the globe, leaving rapidly evolving infrastructures in its wake.  

Waves of The Big Shift:  

First wave involves the rapid, unflagging evolution of a new digital infrastructure and parallel shifts in global public policy.

  • If the first wave is all about lowering barriers to entry and movement, the second wave shows what happens when those barriers go away: capital, talent and knowledge start flowing increasingly rapidly across geographical and institutional boundaries
  • The third wave is the world that will be created by the forces driving the evolution of the Big Shift

As we all adopt pull techniques, as individuals and institutions we’re going to start radically transforming the way the world works.   

How can we shape serendipity?  

Shaping serendipity requires bringing together three elements:

  • Environments
  • Practices
  • Preparedness

Appropriately orchestrated to control the interactions between them, these elements can yield a much higher productivity of attraction than we can achieve without them, especially if we focus on the following goals:

  • Choosing environments that increase our likelihood of encountering people who share our passions; becoming and staying visible to the people who matter most
  • Influencing their endeavors so they amplify our own
  • Discovering and interacting with the right people at the right time (timeliness)
  • Making the most of every serendipitous encounter (relevance)

These approaches suggest a serendipity funnel that can be managed to make a diverse group of potentially relevant parties aware of one’s efforts while simultaneously filtering the actual encounters, so that the probability of a high-quality serendipitous encounter goes way up.  

What effect can Pull have on employee satisfaction and pursuing our passions?  

Actually, we see a clear distinction between satisfaction and passion. 

Satisfaction is a measure of how content people are with their jobs. Are they feeling secure and reasonably rewarded? Do they feel they are making an impact? 

Satisfaction need not be correlated with passion and in fact often it is not. 

Often the most passionate workers are quite frustrated with their employers and bosses. They can see so much more that can be done. They are not satisfied. Far from it. Yet, if we don’t have passion for our work, we will have a very hard time enduring the growing pressures that we encounter.  

An interesting thing happens when we pursue our passions: we actually seek out more challenges. Rather than viewing them as sources of stress, we view them as opportunities to get better faster.  

Explain how we can use Pull to change the world. 

The notion of “shaping” the world isn’t new. Throughout history, in commercial, religious, and civic arenas, other people have shaped and reshaped their local areas or their regions, and even the world, as they pursued their visions. 

But today’s digital infrastructure can strengthen the hand of shapers while reducing their exposure to risk. The digital infrastructure enhances the ability of aspiring shapers to reach out to, connect with and coordinate the actions of very large numbers of participants, increasing the potential leverage and for rapid and sustained distributed innovation.  

These relatively recent developments take the prospects for shaping success from the realms of the improbable and rare into the zone of the merely difficult.

As used in this document, ‘Deloitte’ means Deloitte LLP (and its subsidiaries). Please see for a detailed description of the legal structure of Deloitte LLP and its subsidiaries.

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