Rich Lesser
Chairman, North & South America, Boston Consulting Group

Goodbye Knowledge Workers, Hello Insight Workers!

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Rich Lesser

Rich Lesser is the Chairman of North and South America and a core member of the Health Care and Consumer practice areas at Boston Consulting Group, which was ranked #2 on Fortune's "Best Companies" list in 2011. He also heads BCG's relationship with a leading pharmaceutical company.

Lesser's project experience includes work on strategy and corporate development, as well as several major organizational—and operational—change efforts. He has recently worked on a large-scale postmerger integration, brand and channel strategies, alliance development, marketing and sales improvement, and e-business strategy.

Prior to joining BCG in 1988, Lesser worked as a process development engineer and group leader at Procter & Gamble, where he led several projects aimed at reducing product costs and introducing new products. He has also worked in synthetic fuels R&D at Westinghouse Electric and BP.

Lesser holds an M.B.A. with high distinction from Harvard Business School, where he was a Baker scholar. He earned a bachelor's degree summa cum laude in chemical engineering from the University of Michigan.



Rich Lesser:  In our pockets today sits more knowledge than any one individual could have ever hoped to have in their lifetimes 15 years ago.  We’re already aware that there's a knowledge revolution on: we see it with children and how they do their homework at school; we see it in how we think about issues.  But in many cases it hasn’t yet translated into the work environment because it’s still relatively costly to accumulate, because there are engrained patterns of behavior, because it’s a complex world.  And so still today many, many of our workers, our employees are on the knowledge side.  They’re entry levels in accounting or in legal or in marketing, and most of their job is not to come to the big decisions about where to drive the business.  It’s to be an assembler and synthesizer of facts, mostly to be able to leverage knowledge.   

And yet the rate of change in information technology and the speed that it’s happening really makes me question how long until we start to see some of those activities being replaced?  We already see computers being used to process massive amounts of data that no one person could ever do.  We see many things in all of these communities being captured in storehouses of knowledge, but that’s growing exponentially in terms of the processing powers that exist, our ability to both accumulate and synthesize knowledge.  

Increasingly the next thing that will be the hardest to replace is not the ability to have the knowledge or to figure out which pieces are important and package it effectively.  It’s the ability to solve problems, to look across the boundaries, to work collaboratively to drive change, to bring real insight into situations that doesn’t just arrive from staring at the facts and doing an analysis.  That means we need to educate our children differently.  We need to provide different apprenticeship models to the people that we bring in where we give them broader exposure, more ability to think laterally, more ability to analogize and to recognize that over time basic knowledge stuff will be less important.  The ability to generate that insight will be more important than ever. 

Directed / Produced by Jonathan Fowler & Elizabeth Rodd