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Mark Bonchek      

Founder of SHIFT Academy, Social Media & Digital Marketing Expert

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.


Speech Topics

Shift Thinking

Updating our mental maps for a new business landscape.

Today’s rapidly changing landscape of business and society has made our mental maps obsolete. In the 20th century, value was created by mass production, and engagement by mass communication. In the 21st century, value is created by mass collaboration, and engagement by network communication. Leaders need to shift their thinking: from product to platform, hierarchy to network, audience to community, and push to pull.

Strategy, Change, Innovation, Communication, Digital Trends, Learning

Brand Orbits

Generating gravity to pull in customers, employees, and partners.

Digital technology is forcing marketers to rethink brand relationships and reinvent customer engagement. Market leaders like Nike, Sephora, Apple, and Adobe are making a shift from push to pull, creating gravity fields that pull customers, employees and partners into orbit around their brands. Learn how to create your own brand orbits with a shared purpose, strategic narrative, social currency, peer connections and little data.

Marketing, Engagement, Branding, Customer Relationships, Loyalty

Network Leadership

Letting go without losing control.

Leaders today face a dilemma in how to manage and govern their organizations. They want to empower their people to innovate and adapt, but fear too much autonomy will cause confusion or chaos. Is there a way to transcend the tradeoff between alignment and autonomy? Organizations as diverse as U.S. Special Forces, Google, and Wikipedia provide a roadmap for distributing power and aligning effort. The secret is a set of principles that guide decision-making under changing circumstances.

Leadership, Governance, Management, Networks, Holacracy

Gutenberg to Zuckerberg

Unleashing the potential of the social revolution.

Social media like Facebook and Twitter have changed the way we connect, communicate, and stay informed. But what does it all mean? And where is it all going? This talk will reveal why digital technology is so disruptive, and why the biggest changes may lie ahead. You will learn the power of many-to-many communication and gain insight into the next digital revolution, as the "Internet of Things" becomes the social network of things. If you have people who still don’t “get social,” this is the talk for them.

Social Media, Data, Technology, Internet of Things, Co-Creation


To change how you work, first change how you think.

Albert Einstein once said, "We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them." The essence of innovation is therefore as much about unlearning as learning. In this talk, you will learn to recognize your own mental models, identity those that stand in your way, and create new ones for yourself and others. The ability to unlearn is relevant for anyone involved in innovation, from salespeople selling innovative products to leaders fostering innovation in their companies.

Learning, Change, Growth, Innovation, Co-Creation, Transformation

Digital Transformation

Co-creating value with platforms, ecosystems, and communities.

We’ve all heard the cautionary tales of Blockbuster, Polaroid, and Borders as examples of digital disruption. And we’ve seen startups like Uber, Instagram, and Airbnb achieve billion-dollar market valuations before turning a profit. What’s really going on? Is there any hope for incumbents? In this talk, you will learn that the secret to digital success is not the use of technology, but rather a new model of value creation in which platforms enable an ecosystem of customers and partners to co-create around a shared purpose.

Growth, Platforms, Networks, Community, Purpose

Co-Creating Health

The new relationship between physicians and patients

Health care is in the midst of a profound transformation. Business models are shifting from fee-for-service to population health. Behavior change is now vital to profitable growth. Technology is empowering and connecting patients who expect to participate in their diagnosis and treatment. The relationship between physician and patient is shifting from compliance to co-creation. Everyone in health care needs new thinking to survive and thrive in the new world created by regulatory and technological change.

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