In 1975, Charles Kiefer had an insight that changed the course of his life. Earlier, he had left MIT with degrees in physics and management and had expected to have an exciting career as a management consultant helping high-technology organizations innovate. At the moment of that insight, however, he realized the nature and power of thought and how we create our experience of life. Over the course of the next year, dominoes of insights fell, one of which was the importance and function of vision, both to individuals and to teams and entire organizations. As these insights took hold in his daily life, he became increasingly ill-matched temperamentally to the needs of his employer and was invited to leave.
His first act as a necessity entrepreneur was to start Innovation Associates with a colleague to continue innovation consulting, but every day he was drawn more into improving the quality of people’s thinking and specifically employing vision. Initially, this took the form of developing a program to build high-performing teams. Then, it became apparent that a new vision-based model of leadership was needed. Peter Senge joined him at Innovation Associates, and together they wrote the first published article on the use of vision in organizations. Charlie, Peter, and others at Innovation Associates pressed on, ultimately developing a suite of consulting and training offerings that supported what Peter named a Learning Organization in his management best seller The Fifth Discipline. In 1995, they sold the firm to global consulting firm Arthur D. Little.
With vision and organizational learning assumed to be safely in ADL’s hands, Charlie turned his attention to insight. When ADL went bankrupt in 2002, he and Robin Charbit formed Charlie’s next company, Insight Management Partners, to pioneer the use of insight in large organizations. In 2008, Charlie rekindled a friendship with Len Schlesinger, who had just become president of Babson College, and together they began to explore and develop an understanding of how entrepreneurs think and therefore act. They, with Paul B. Brown, have written two books on this subject: Action Trumps Everything and Just Start. In 2010, Charlie restarted Innovation Associates as a base for his continued work in insight and entrepreneurial thinking.
He lives with his wife in Sudbury, Massachusetts.