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353 Russia Could Have Been Legendary: Russia’s Turbulent Transition with Kevin Maney, NYT Bestselling Author of Red Bottom Line

Monday 15th July 2024
FYD EPISODE 353 Kevin Maney 2024

On this episode of Christopher Lochhead: Follow Your Different, we are joined again by a dear friend, Kevin Maney, as he shares stories about the missed opportunities for innovation after Soviet Union’s fall.

Kevin Maney has a new book out called Red Bottom Line, wherehe tells his firsthand experience as a young USA Today reporter in Russia during the time. From the optimism of Gorbachev’s era to the disillusionment under Putin, Christohper and Kevin also explore Russia’s technological transformation, societal issues and geopolitical impact.

You’re listening to Christopher Lochhead: Follow Your Different. We are the real dialogue podcast for people with a different mind. So get your mind in a different place, and hey ho, let’s go.

Kevin Maney on the Journalism in Russia during the late 80s and early 90s

Kevin starts off the conversation with a description of the conditions in Russia before, during, and after the fall of the Soviet Union. He describes when Mikhail Gorbachev started loosening restrictions and allowing more foreign correspondents into Russia, which allowed journalists like Kevin to make it to Russian soil as early as 88-88.

Though some restrictions were lifted, Kevin recalls that they still had to jump through so many hoops just to get there, as there aren’t exactly direct routes or flights going from America to Russia at the time.

At this point in time, a lot of Americans and other Westerners were flocking to Russia, as demand for common consumer products skyrocket. Things like toothpaste and deodorant were being sold left and right, things that weren’t originally available locally. Kevin observed this trend and proposed to his editor to let him cover this economic and financial phenomenon that is happening in the Soviet Union.

Kevin Maney on Life in Russia during Economic Hardship

As Kevin recalls the situation then, he saw a country that was on its last legs, and its people trying desperately to live as normal as they could. He observed certain stores that only allowed foreigners or people with non-local currencies to shop, as they know it had more buying power in the long run.

Local residents were crowding other stores, either to purchase clothing items or to replenish their essential supplies. In department stores, shelves were nearly bare, with only toys and luxury items remaining unsold. Everyone was scooping up anything they could find.

Seeing all that in contrast to people’s lives in America was disheartening, to say the least.

The Opening of the First McDonalds in Russia during the 90s

Given all that, Kevin still saw some hope for the country as they start rebuilding themselves from within. That, and all the companies that are now flooding into Russia to help supplies their needs and ideally, boost their economy.

One such company was McDonalds, who Kevin has a fond story to tell. He shares that on one of his trips back to Russia, he just happened to be on the same flight as George Kohan, the biggest McDonalds franchisee in Canada. George was on his way to Moscow to check his plans to build a branch there, which eventually became the first of many McDonalds built in Russia.

Kevin got to talk with George Kohan on how things were going with building a business on foreign soil, and the procedures and machinations he had to go through to finally get approved to open his business there.

To hear more from Kevin Maney and his stories from the redeveloping Russia in the 90s, download and listen to this episode.


Kevin Maney is cofounder of Category Design Advisors, where he works with CEOs and executive teams to develop and execute strategies to design and dominate markets. He is also a multi-time bestselling author and journalist who writes about technology and society.

His most recent book, UnHealthare: A Manifesto for Health Assurance, was co-authored with venture capitalist Hemant Taneja and Jefferson Health CEO Steve Klasko. It came out in 2020, and tees up how healthcare will evolve in the post-Covid era.

His previous book, Unscaled: How AI and a New Generation of Upstarts are Creating the Economy of the Future, was co-authored with Hemant Taneja and came out in 2018.

His book Play Bigger: How Pirates, Dreamers and Innovators Create and Dominate Markets (Harper Business, 2016), is a collaboration with Silicon Valley veterans Al Ramadan, Dave Peterson and Christopher Lochhead. The book introduces business to the idea of category design and gave birth to the advisory firm Category Design Advisors, where I’m now a partner.

Other Works

He co-authored, with TIBCO CEO Vivek Ranadive, The Two-Second Advantage: How We Succeed by Anticipating the Future…Just Enough. Merging brain science and computer science, it was a 2011 New York Times bestseller, and predicted much of the conversation we’re now having about artificial intelligence.

He also co-wrote Making the World Work Better, which marked IBM’s centennial in 2001. More than 600,000 copies are in print in a dozen languages.

His other books include Trade-Off: Why Some Things Catch On, and Others Don’t, The Maverick and His Machine: Thomas Watson Sr. and the Making of IBM and Megamedia Shakeout.

Over the years, he’s been a contributor to Fortune, The Atlantic, Fast Company and ABC News, among other media outlets. He was a contributing editor at Conde Nast Portfolio during its brief run from 2007 to 2009. For 22 years, he was a columnist, editor and reporter at USA Today.

He’s appeared frequently on television and radio, including CNN, CBS Sunday Morning and NPR, and lectured at conferences and universities, including New York University, UNC in Chapel Hill, and his alma mater, Rutgers.

Kevin also plays music with other New York rockers in a band called Total Blam Blam.


Follow Kevin Maney today!

Website: |

LinkedIn: in/KevinManey |  company/CategoryDesign


Twitter: @KManey | @CD_Advisors

Instagram: @CategoryDesign

Check out his new book: Red Bottom Line

We hope you enjoyed this episode of Christopher Lochhead: Follow Your Different™! Christopher loves hearing from his listeners. Feel free to email him, connect on FacebookTwitterInstagram, and subscribe on Apple Podcast / Spotify!