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Pepperdine | Graziadio Business School

About Jake Jacobs


I'm Jake Jacobs. I was in the Omicron class, which means way back in 1989 I graduated. I have my own consulting firm, Real Time Strategic Change, which is a global consulting firm based on large scale change practices, some of which I learned in the program.

I was quite fortunate when I started my career in OD, because I had great mentors. Kathy Dannemiller was a mentor of mine, Ron Lippitt was a mentor of mine. I learned at a very young age a lot about the field, and a lot about the practice, and was doing large group sessions with 300 managers at Ford when I was 23 years old.

I got into program when I was young, I was about 25, and I thought that I was coming for kind of like the book knowledge piece of it. What I discovered when I got here is that I actually knew a lot of what they were teaching already, because of the mentoring that I had.

What I didn't expect as much was that I was going to go through a two-year personal growth transformation. I know that the self is instrument, we talk a lot about that and needing to have a clean instrument, and know what your issues are and what your client's issues are, and make sure you're not working your issues on your client.

I knew all that coming in. What I didn't know was how directly I was going to experience this personal growth transformation. People talk a lot about learning group formation, and ours was tumultuous, as was everybody. I was kind of the instigator for what led to some of the, if it's a word, tumultany, or something.

Because of that, had a role that I learned in my class about being the youngest, and having in some ways the most work to do on myself, and what that meant, and who I was, and starting to get this definition of myself really in life. Because at 25, you're still very much figuring things out, and at 56 now, I am still very much figuring things out.

I think one of the best ways to describe what I'd like my legacy to be would be how people would talk about me, and what they would say about what I contributed to the field. I felt a very early commitment to giving back to the field, and I learned that, again, from my mentor, Kathy Dannemiller, who talked about going into the world with open arms.

When I think about my legacy, certainly the first word that comes to mind is generosity, that I would like for people to be able to say that that guy Jake was giving, that he was open, that he shared what he knew, that he was curious about what others knew, that he was always there for them.

That whole notion of generosity I learned early on, and has been really important to me to make sure that I give back as I received, because I believe I was really blessed early on in my career from people reaching out and helping me along to the next step. So, generosity would be at the top of the list.

I think another would be innovative. In terms of that, I also had the opportunity to write a book when I was 28, and that book Real Time Strategic Change has become the bedrock of my practice ever since then. The notion of innovation is really finding new and better ways to do things, or work, that needs to be done.

This innovation really has shown up in terms of how do you involve entire organizations in creating their collective future? And so, when people have a conversation about me, I would like them to be able to talk about RTSC, or Real Time Strategic Change, and the difference that it's been able to make for them in the work that they're doing.

I would like them to say that, "He gave me some new ideas and new ways of thinking about how do you create organizations of the future, and how do you really get people to claim the future that they deserve."

I guess the last one would be fun. I think that the work is hard. If it's done well, it's often hard, and it's challenging, and difficult, and confrontative just to yourself. The way you talk about holding the mirror up, and sometimes it's not the prettiest picture. And so, often the work gets to be very hard.

My work I like to do with large, complex, messy situations where change is needed very fast, and multiple stakeholders, different needs, competing needs and interests. So, they're difficult situations. Well, that's all on one hand. But on the other hand is enjoying the ride.

When I was in the program, we laughed a lot. We had a good time, and in fact, I think some of the rules that now exist in the program were made after us, because of our class, because of some of the fun that we had. I think fun would be the last adjective that I would like to be used.

The contribution that I would like to be making in the next 10 years, a great question, because I am in the process of creating a 10-year vision for myself, personally and professionally. It's great. Now, do I have that figured out? The answer is not quite, but I've started to get a sense of what that looks like, and part of it is really about giving back on a broader scale than I have.

I think that I've done a good job. I have this story that I learned, I was in Sunday school. I was seven years old, and I happen to be Jewish. The Rabbi was up on the pulpit, and he said, "When you die, God will not ask you, 'Why were you not as great as Moses?' God will not ask you, 'Why were you not as great as Abraham?' God will have one question for you, and it will be, 'Were you as great as you could be?'"

That has always sat on my shoulder as I've gone through my life and my work, and not as a guilty thing, but as something that's like ... half jokingly, do I want to sit down and have a conversation with God about? And would I be comfortable having this talk, or would I prefer to make a different choice, so I could have a better conversation?

For me, 10 years out, I really would like to up my game, and I would like to up my game in terms of what I contribute to the field. The work around Real Time Strategic Change, I really want to support there being a community of practice globally around that, and be able to help people think bigger about what's possible.

I think that I need to look at myself to have this conversation with God in a good way, and be able to really put out into the world what I believe to be most helpful and best for others. When I say that I'd like people to say that I was generous, it's taken place on a certain level, or a certain scale where there would be one on ones, or maybe some small groups that would say, "Yup, he was able to be helpful."

The clearest I've gotten so far is it's really about supporting people who are supporting people in creating organizations of their own choosing. That's got to be stepping back some, and really getting a broader perspective, a bigger picture of what I can do. I think it's a good ask of myself, and I think it's the right time in my life.

Coming to this conference is another piece of that in making sure that I punch my ticket every two years coming back to this conference, and reconnecting with people, and connecting with more people, and finding ways that I can learn from them, they can learn from me. And together, we really can create, as my publisher calls it in their mission, create a world that works for all.