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John  Brandt

John Brandt

CEO of the MPI Group & Author of NINCOMPOOPERY: Why Your Customers Hate You—and How to Fix It

John Brandt

CEO of the MPI Group & Author of NINCOMPOOPERY: Why Your Customers Hate You—and How to Fix It


An experienced executive, entrepreneur, journalist, author, and researcher, John R. Brandt is the founder and CEO of The MPI Group and the former editor-in-chief and publisher of both Chief Executive and IndustryWeek magazines. His newest award-winning book—NINCOMPOOPERY: Why Your Customers Hate You—and How to Fix It (HarperCollins, 2019)—is based on groundbreaking research into leadership and performance excellence across more than 50,000 organizations. Nincompoopery is a 21st Century primer on how leaders can create more value for customers, employees and shareholders—while having more fun.

“Nincompoopery was penned by the funniest business writer I know—and has completely changed the way I look at leadership, strategy and the frustrations I encounter working in and covering the business world.” —Travis Hessman, Editor-in-Chief, IndustryWeek

At MPI, Brandt has led more than 1,000 research and thought leadership projects for clients including SAP, Infor, SAS, Microsoft, McKinsey, Grant Thornton, Ernst & Young, the Italian Trade Commission, and hundreds of others. Most recently he directed the creation of a cloud-based Supply Chain Maturity Model/Improvement Program for the ASCM Global Health Supply Chain Initiative (funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation), which seeks to improve access to life-saving medicines in Africa. He is currently directing the creation of a cloud-based Digital Maturity Acceleration program to boost performance at manufacturing companies (funded by the U.S. Department of Commerce).

“In elegant prose supported by practical examples and case studies, readers learn how to elevate employee morale, inspiration, and performance at companies large and small. Nincompoopery will help you become a wiser, humbler, and more confident leader.”—Dr. Lance Secretan, best-selling author of The Bellwether Effect: Stop Following Start Inspiring! and Reclaiming Higher Ground: Creating Organizations That Inspire

Before founding The MPI Group in 2003, Brandt followed a unique career path that combined experience in marketing, management, and consulting with a passion for journalism that has earned him more than 20 awards for reporting, writing, and editing. He was publisher and editor-in-chief of IndustryWeek (IW) magazine, which garnered more than 70 editorial awards for excellence and doubled its revenues under his leadership. Brandt later served as president, publisher, and editorial director of the Chief Executive Group, publisher of Chief Executive, where his leadership transformed the magazine into one of publishing’s most surprising comebacks.

“Nincompoopery is a must read to understand where you are today and—more importantly—where you want to be tomorrow.” —Phil McIntyre, Managing Director, Performance Solutions by Milliken.

An expert on how effective, purpose-driven organizations can adapt themselves to the realities of new markets and customer expectations, Brandt maintains a busy lecture schedule, speaking worldwide on topics including leadership; operational strategies; supply chain and omnichannel optimization; digitization; Industry 4.0/Internet of Things; manufacturing; and technology.

A recipient of the prestigious Neal Award in 1998, Brandt has also served as a Neal Awards judge. He has also served as a member of the Manufacturing Extension Partnership National Advisory Board; judge for the National Association of Manufacturers Awards for Workforce Excellence; advisory board member of SupplierInsight.com and Ken-Tool Manufacturing; and president of The Press Club of Cleveland. Brandt is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Case Western Reserve University, where he received the James Dysart Magee Award in economics.

Speaker Videos

Creating Value in an Era of Uncertainty

Where Can You Innovate?

Industrial Internet of Things Deeper Dive

How New Customer Value Leads to New Innovation

The New Ways Clients Are Connecting

Speech Topics


Terrible customer service, idiotic business processes, and soul-crushing management practices — surrounds us. We lose time, patience, and profits as stuck-in-the-past organizations actively prevent us (and our customers) from getting the value we (and they) deserve.

Can’t anybody change this?

Drawing from his new book Nincompoopery, CEO and award-winning business writer John R. Brandt says we can. Leveraging research across thousands of companies to show leaders how to find and kill the corporate stupidity that drives customers crazy, he offers concrete examples of how any organization — large or small, regardless of industry — can innovate in ways that delight customers and attract top-level talent.

Brandt has worked with hundreds of companies to help them outwit competitors, and in this blunt (and funny) presentation, he shares his unique blueprint for success. It usually starts by asking a simple question, such as:

  • Why should our customers have to re-key their data multiple times to make a single purchase?
  • Why are there four levels of approval just to order basic supplies?
  • Why can’t we get qualified candidates for open positions, or provide new employees with decent training?
  • In short: How did we become such nincompoops? And when will we stop?

Offering leaders the answers they need — and the profits  they crave — with a scoop of humor on the side. Enjoy!

The Internet of Things Has Finally Arrived (Unfortunately, None of Us Are Ready)

The Internet of Things (IoT) – a superhighway to the future of work, home life, and business – has finally opened. Unfortunately, most of us don’t yet have a roadmap, and many can’t even find the on-ramp.  That’s a huge problem— because using the IoT wisely will be a key strategy for individuals and businesses to improve lives around the globe.

“Roughly two-thirds of executives think that the IoT will increase their companies’ profitability over the next five years,” says John R. Brandt, CEO of The MPI Group, which conducted the study. “Unfortunately, only one in 10 of these leaders have actually implemented an IoT strategy.” This IoT gap, says Brandt, could limit growth opportunities for individuals, organizations, and the economy over the next decade.

In his keynote address, The Internet of Things Has Finally Arrived (Unfortunately, None of Us Are Ready), Brandt shares the results of one of the largest-ever IoT corporate research studies to explain why we’re so unprepared for the digital revolution that is about to engulf us – and what we can do about.

Brandt says that IoT will lay the ground work for an oncoming wave of smart tech, including Artificial Intelligence, Autonomous Systems, and Remote Technologies.  While there is good news – a majority of companies will use or sell smart devices or products with embedded intelligence in the next two years – these companies face massive challenges.  For example, half of all of companies will require significant information technology upgrades or network overhauls to use the IoT within their facilities.

And that’s just the impact on the B2B sector. The B2C ramifications – on personal productivity, satisfaction, privacy, and a thousand other measures of happiness – will be even more profound.

“Today we’re still reasonably aware of how technology affects us,” says Brandt. “We know, for example, that we check our cell phones up to 150 times a day, and we laugh about it. But how does life change when everything we own, or wear, or touch, checks up on us thousands – or millions – of times a day?”

Fortunately, Brandt’s ground-breaking research offers a highlighted GPS fast lane to a happy and profitable IoT future. There are three broad groups of individuals and companies when it comes to their abilities to grasp, leverage, and profit from the IoT:

  • Innovators: These individuals and firms are leaders in using smart devices and embedded intelligence, and set the pace for best practices and performances.
  • Incipients: These individuals and firms have a vision of how they could leverage the IoT, but still have a long way to go.
  • Indifferents: These individuals and firms have no understanding of the IoT. Some are indifferent by design – willfully ignoring a future that will soon pass them by – while others lack the resources or ability to adopt IoT devices or strategies.

By following the examples of IoT Innovators, other firms and individuals – Incipients and Indifferents alike – can transform themselves into beneficiaries of the IoT revolution.

In his presentation, Brandt offers not just compelling data, but concrete examples of how IoT Innovators are enjoying the benefits of the IoT now – both in their companies, and in their personal lives.  Grab the power and control your future.

The Elements of Value: Building Trust, Loyalty & Engagement with Customers, Employees & Shareholders

Everything in our lives is made up of basic elements. Yet the ways in which these elements combine – the critical transformation of hydrogen and oxygen into water, for example —determine the function and value of each element. John Brandt’s research across more than 50,000 organizations and business units has led him to a similarly vital question:  What if each function of an organization was an element on the periodic table? More importantly, which elements are most important to leadership success in increasingly competitive world?

In The Elements of Value, John Brandt definitively answers this question. Based on 12 years of research across 50,000 organizations and business units, Brandt found three critical elements to long-term organizational success: Innovation (In), Talent (Ta), and Process (Pr). Yet while each of these basic elements of value is important in its own right, John also found a common formula that transforms the elements of value into greatness. The catalyst required for this transformation is Next Generation Leadership – a radically new way of approaching value for leaders and employees alike.

Best of all, the elements of value – and the formula that combines them into a recipe for improved performance – don’t change, regardless of or a firm’s sector, size, or experience.

This presentation is available as a keynote or workshop. It can also be customized to focus on one of the three elements – Innovation (In), Talent (Ta), or Process (Pr) – and its relationship to Next Generation Leadership. In each presentation John Brandt helps leaders and employees to answer vital questions, including:

Innovation (In):

  • What do your customers really want? (Hint: It’s probably different than what you think)
  • With whom do your customers believe you compete?
  • From what organizations do your customers get great value they wish they could get from you?
  • Do all of your employees feel the responsibility and authority to innovate?
  • Where will your customers look for innovation next year?

Talent (Ta):

  • What matters most to your employees? (Hint: You’re probably not managing it well right now)
  • Have you created the space and time for creativity to breathe?
  • How do you train, empower and develop new innovators?
  • How do you reward employee (and leader) success?
  • How will you find, leverage and retain the best talent next year?

Process (Pr):

  • Which processes matter most to your success? (Hint: You’re probably focused on the wrong things)
  • Have you conducted a thorough review of all functions at your organization?
  • Which functions are ripe for innovation? For outsourcing?
  • Does innovation cross departments and functions at your organization?

How will you deliver one great process improvement next year?

Creating Value in an Age of Uncertainty: Managing Into the Next Decade

One of John Brandt's most popular presentation focuses on single question: Where is the hidden value in your business today – and where will it migrate in the next 10 years?

John Brandt tackles this essential business question from several complementary angles:

  • Brand: What does your brand really mean?
  • Customers: What do they really want?
  • Innovation: How do you create value beyond your product or service?
  • Future: Where will customer seek new value in 10 years?
  • Commoditization: How do you avoid pressures to commoditize your offering?

Strategies for a Livable Community: How Winning Regions Transform People & Passion into Productivity & Profits

John Brandt has studied performance in people, organizations, and regions for more than two decades, first as editor-in-chief of both Chief Executive and IndustryWeek magazines, and now as CEO of The MPI Group, a global research firm. He is particularly interested in the intersection of corporate and community interests, with emphasis on how businesses and community stakeholders – including universities, schools, non-profit organizations, unions, and public officials – can benefit through intelligent regional planning.

Available as a presentation, a daylong moderated community forum, or as part of a facilitated regional planning process, Strategies for a Livable Community offers corporate and civic leaders an opportunity to work together in creating the community of the future – by understanding how other communities around the world became economic and lifestyle champions. The Strategies include:

  • Focused economic development
  • Investment in education
  • Taking advantage of location
  • Intelligent taxation
  • Work ethic and skills development
  • Managing for quality of life
  • Building business-civic partnerships

Fast Adaptation to a Remote Workplace: Managing Tomorrow’s Employees Today - Embracing Technology and the New Workforce

There’s no precedent for the disruption in daily life and organizations driven by the COVID-19 pandemic. Millions of workers and tens of thousands of executives and managers find themselves isolated, worried, and alone as they try to protect their health and that of loved ones and colleagues — not to mention society at large. At the same time, they’re trying to be productive for their organizations while working alone at home or in restricted conditions at work.

It's no wonder that stress and anxiety levels can seem overwhelming.

Fortunately, there are proven ways that leaders can reassure their teams and keep productivity on track at work — even remotely. In Fast Adaptation to a Remote Workplace: Managing Tomorrow’s Employees Today: Embracing Technology and the New Workforce, Leadership Expert and Author John Brandt draws on research across more than 50,000 organizations and business units to detail specific strategies and tactics — the 3 Ps of Remote Productivity— that keep dispersed teams on track. This is vital because many leaders make the mistake of focusing solely on the practical aspects of remote productivity (e.g., conference software, VPNs), while ignoring the far more important aspects of PURPOSE, PEOPLE, and PROCESS.

Brandt will explore case studies that illustrate how to deploy this remote leadership strategy at organizations of every size in every industry. Key themes and topics include:

  • P1: PURPOSE: Even the best of times, employees look to leaders for guidance — not just strategy, but the meaning behind strategy. This includes why an organization exists; what its greater purpose is; and how each employee's contribution to that PURPOSE makes customers’ lives — and society in general — better. In a time of unprecedented fear and worry, this is more important than ever; start by investing 20% of your time into reinforcing the importance of each individual's contribution — and how they can make a difference.
  • P2: PEOPLE: After meaning, leaders must focus on relationships — not just between themselves and workers, but also on those connections among colleagues and with customers and suppliers. This requires more than just arranging conference calls or checking in on individuals; leaders must also think deeply about how changes in work and work circumstances affect employees’ perceptions of their own status and relationships in regards to the firm and to their peers. If you don't manage this, you may see resistance to the changes your organization needs to survive — even if those changes are in employee's best interests “The key to the problem is to understand the true nature of resistance,” wrote Paul Lawrence, a sociologist and professor at the Harvard Business School. “Actually, what employees resist is usually not technical change but social change—the change in their human relationships that generally accompanies technical change.” Invest 50% of your time on your people and their relationships.
  • P3: PROCESS: Now that you’ve built a foundation for success by investing in PURPOSE (meaning) and PEOPLE (relationships), you can focus on productivity (process). Leading a remote workforce requires radical innovations in how goals are set and how teams collaborate. Done well, this reinvention of work can boost productivity and employee satisfaction — but requires abandoning legacy procedures that no longer makes sense. More importantly, leaders can’t do this alone; they must share authority with their teams in new ways. Invest 30% of your time here.

The New Economics of Manufacturing, Distribution & the Supply Chain

Rapid changes in technology, logistics, and strategy are changing how manufacturing and supply-chain executives make decisions. The emergence of the Internet of Things (IoT) – in which machines, devices and sensors devices share information across factories and supply chains – means that executives now have real-time data about operations and financial performance. But taking advantage of this data via analytics to make intelligent decisions about where, when and how to make product also involves nuanced strategic thinking that accounts for human factors, supply-chain risks, and political considerations.

In this presentation, John Brandt advises manufacturing and distribution executives on:

  • How leading manufacturers are boosting margins by incorporating intelligence and intellectual property into their product.
  • Finding manufacturing talent in a post-digital world.
  • Opportunities to explore where production and warehousing should take place (e.g., reshoring and nearshoring analysis).
  • The risks and realities of supply-chain integration.
  • How to manage IT risks with the IoT.

The Healthcare Supply-Chain Puzzle

A well-functioning supply chain is a crucial part of any successful business, but especially in healthcare. It’s no wonder that Amazon and others are eyeing the healthcare supply chain as a major opportunity — but it’s unclear how quickly real change will arrive, or which current companies in the healthcare supply chain will remain standing.

John Brandt — CEO of the MPI Group — has been studying healthcare and supply chain issues for more than 20 years. In fact, MPI and APICS — the world’s largest association of supply chain professionals – partnered this year on the MPI-APICS Distribution and Logistics Study (MPI is APICS’ global research partner). Brandt himself worked in both pharma and the hospital sector before founding MPI in 2003; MPI engagements since then have included studies of improvement methodologies in hospitals, analyses of costs of dispensing in pharmacies nationwide, and implementation of EHS systems, among others.

Key points that Brandt addresses in The Healthcare Supply-Chain Puzzle include:
• How the healthcare supply chain new model might improve efficiency and cost
• An overview of competing healthcare supply chain players, including potential new entrants
• The impact of new technologies — drones, the Internet of Things, artificial intelligence, etc. — on healthcare supply chain over the next 10 years
• Case studies and best practices of healthcare supply chains reinventing themselves

“Healthcare providers can leapfrog competitors by adopting best practices and technologies common in other industries,” says Brandt. “Executives who exploit this window of opportunity will put their organizations on the path to long-term competitive advantage.”