CEO, entrepreneur offers pragmatic advice for decisiveness amid uncertainty

Everett Harper delivers a powerful and pragmatic take on problem-solving in new book

OAKLAND, California – In times of uncertainty, it can be incredibly challenging for organizations and teams to solve complex problems and find innovative solutions. In the new book, “Move to the Edge, Declare it Center,” author Everett Harper, an entrepreneur, strategist, the CEO and Co-Founder of Truss, shares effective methods for decision-making in situations where there may be a lack of complete information, ways to sustain teams during uncertain and stressful periods, and effective techniques for managing personal anxiety—a crucial leadership skill.

In “Move to the Edge, Declare it Center,” you’ll learn to discover insights quickly by experimenting, iterating, then building infrastructure to sustain your innovations in your teams and organizations. The author demonstrates a set of practices, processes, and infrastructure that addresses complex problems alongside a set of methods to systematize, scale, and share best practices throughout an organization. In the book, the author offers a new framework for leadership that’s perfectly suited to an increasingly volatile, uncertain, and unpredictable world. You’ll also get:

  • Effective ways to make decisions in situations without complete information
  • Strategies for sustaining your team through highly uncertain times
  • Techniques for managing personal anxiety—a key leadership skill for the next decade

Case studies of World Central Kitchen, COVID public health policymakers, and California wildfire responders illustrate the framework, while pragmatic playbooks about salary transparency, remote work, and diversity and inclusion will help leaders apply the framework in their own organizations. The author shares personal stories and winning strategies that help leaders maintain high performance, avoid burnout, and enable companies to thrive.

“Move to the Edge, Declare it Center” is perfect for business leaders facing complex problems that require immediate decisions in the face of uncertain outcomes. It’s also a must-read for anyone interested in modern leadership and looking for a way to help them make solid decisions with incomplete information.

“Move to the Edge, Declare it Center:
Practices and Processes for Creatively Solving Complex Problem”
Everett Harper | March 22, 2022 | Wiley | Leadership
Hardcover | ISBN 978-1119849889 | $25
Ebook | 978-1-119-84989-6 | $15

“Everett’s book “Move to the Edge, Declare it Center” captures both the spirit, practice, and aspiration of our work at CARE. We’ve evolved to be more agile, innovative, and creative to respond to the challenge of reducing global poverty amidst the complexity and uncertainty of COVID and climate change. I’m excited to share his book with our global teams, so we can continue to powerfully stand up for women and girls and families around the world.” – MICHELLE NUNN, CEO and President, CARE USA

“At World Central Kitchen, navigating through and adapting to complex environments is part of our core practice when providing nourishing meals to people around the world in times of crisis. I was excited to share our story in “Move to the Edge, Declare it Center” because Everett’s book illustrates a new practice of leadership that will be crucial and necessary in the coming decades. I think his framework has the potential to be professionally and personally transformational, so get started!” – NATE MOOK, CEO, World Central Kitchen

“Being on the edge is founder life. It takes curiosity, creativity, and persistence to define and iteratively build on that edge as a center that others cannot see. Turning that center into a sustainable company is the opportunity founders have. Everett has written about his journey on how to, “Move to the Edge, Declare it Center” I am honored to witness his growth and journey as a leader. Highly recommend it to founders and leaders in tech and beyond.” – SHAHEROSE CHARANIA, Founder, Women2.0; Nike Innovation Lab, Investor

About the Author

Everett Harper is the CEO and co-founder of Truss, a human-centered software development company, named as an Inc 5000 fastest-growing private company for 2020 and 2021. He is a rare combination of a Black entrepreneur, Silicon Valley pedigree, National Champion, and a proven record for solving complex problems with social impact.

He had the foresight to build a company that’s been remote-first since 2011, salary-transparent since 2017, anticipating the importance of hybrid work and diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) by a decade. Before Truss, Everett was at Linden Lab, maker of Second Life, a pioneering virtual world, and Bain and Company management consultants.

Though both his parents had pioneering careers as software programmers for IBM, Everett is the first in his family to attend college, as an A.B. Duke Scholar at Duke University. While majoring in biomedical and electrical engineering at Duke, he also won a NCAA National Championship in soccer. He was inducted into the North Carolina Soccer Hall of Fame in 2019. Everett graduated with an MBA and a M.Ed in Learning, Design and Technology from Stanford University.

In his career, he’s leveraged his education and experience to help millions of others, from helping fix at Truss, fighting poverty worldwide as a Board Member of CARE, and helping low- and moderate-income homebuyers while at Self-Help, a community development finance institution.

Everett’s distinctive voice and unique history makes him a sought-after speaker on leadership, remote work, DEI, and social entrepreneurship. He has been featured at conferences such as Dent, Tugboat, TechStars and Velocity, podcasts like the Commonwealth Club and AfroTech, and writing for Forbes, Thrive Global, and TechCrunch. Move to the Edge, Declare it Center is his first book, to be published by Wiley in March 2022.

Everett grew up a small town kid in New York’s Hudson Valley. He currently lives in Oakland, CA, making limoncello when life hands him lemons.

Follow Everett Harper online:
Website: | Instagram: @everettharper
Twitter: @everettharper | LinkedIn: Everett Harper

In an interview, Everett Harper can discuss:

  • His experience of creating measurable and sustainable diversity, equity and inclusion processes – and how companies can begin to adopt them to achieve their business goals.
  • The value, insights and gifts of a lifetime of being on the edge – as a Black man, championship athlete, and entrepreneur – plus his experience as a founder and CEO of a fast-growing, successful tech company.
  • Winning strategies that help leaders maintain high performance, avoid burnout, and enable their companies to thrive.
  • Implementing salary transparency to solve the enduring pay gap between men and women, BIPOC, and other underrepresented groups.
  • How witnessing leaders falter in dealing with complex problems – from COVID to George Floyd’s murder – influenced his decision to write this book.
  • How being a pioneer in remote work, starting in 2012, can help leaders and companies make important decisions about moving to remote, hybrid or in office work.
  • Navigating tragedy and the unknown in his personal life, and how leaders can apply these life lessons to their organizations.
  • What it means to Move to the Edge (being on the boundary of your knowledge and the unknown) and Declare it Center (taking new insights and building operations to systematize, scale, and share these innovations so they deliver the desired outcome).

An Interview with Everett Harper

First thing’s first: what inspired you to write this book? Why is it so important to you?

I was moved to write in June 2020 because I saw experienced and successful leaders flummoxed by complex problems with no “right answer.” The last two years brought remote work and COVID, worldwide protests post-George Floyd, and massive wildfires accelerated by climate change. Privately, these leaders admitted feeling frozen about how to speak up, fearful of saying the wrong thing, much less what to do.

In response, my book shares the processes and methods of how companies like Truss, World Central Kitchen, fire responders and COVID policy makers navigate and overcome these complex problems. Along the way, the “Great Resignation” and burnout made it clear that there’s also an “inner practice” we’ll need to sustain ourselves – so I include these too.

Our most urgent problems are complex, and we need a new leadership and decision-making framework to respond. “Move to the Edge, Declare it Center” is my contribution to help solve these problems.

How would you describe your leadership style, and how has this evolved over time?

Adaptive: Context and situations change, and different leadership tools are necessary at different times.

Pragmatic: Outcomes and results matter, and taking action vs. talking about action is the model I strike to follow.

Pursuing Mastery: I try to lead 1% better every day.

Storyteller and Coach: Choosing the right anecdote or story to illustrate a solution or reinforce a critical value, or coach an employee about how to improve is a craft.

In general, my evolution has been learning what I’m great at, striving to improve those strengths, and building a squad around me to be great at the things that are blind spots or weak points.

Does being a Black CEO influence how you lead, solve problems and build teams?

Yes. I have developed the practice of leading “from the edge.” Most entrepreneurs have the quality of questioning assumptions, developing unique and pragmatic solutions to problems, and persevering through obstacles. I’ve developed these skills over a lifetime of being a Black person in the U.S., because those skills are literally survival skills, transformed into leadership skills.

I build diverse teams as a baseline – not just in terms of race or gender. Teams with diverse skills, personalities and backgrounds are proven to have higher rates of problem-solving, better innovations and deliver higher financial returns at the Board and Executive level. Further, I focus on creating the psychological safety for those teams so individual members can thrive and do their best work.

Tell us about the title of your book, “Move to the Edge, Declare it Center.” What does it mean?

There are two meanings to the title: as a metaphor and as a framework for making decisions.

As a metaphor, the title is an invitation to be courageous and bold in pursuing purpose-driven systemic change…and simultaneously pragmatic and methodical about solving problems so that the results – and the person – can be sustained.

It was originally inspired by the story of Andy Warhol, and how he overcame the art establishment’s bias for abstract expressionism in early 1960s New York City, but as I was writing, I found similar declarations from Toni Morrison and bell hooks, and of course, it’s the lifeblood of entrepreneurs!

As a framework for making decisions, the title summarizes two skills that are necessary to solve complex, systemic problems.

Move to the Edge is about being on the boundary of your knowledge and the unknown. Move to the Edge involves methods for discovering insights by creating experiments, iterating quickly, and identifying levers of change. It involves intersecting with other boundaries and overlapping with other people’s mental models, networks, or schools of thought. It can open up different perspectives and insights that cannot be viewed from the center.

Declare It Center is about taking new information and insights and building operations to systematize, scale, and share these innovations so that they deliver the desired outcome.

The infrastructure that supports Declare It Center enables individuals, teams, and companies to sustain their work with less individual effort.

Why is diversity, equity and inclusion important for companies? What advice would you give to companies that aren’t currently diverse, but want to start addressing the issue?

Creating a diverse and inclusive company creates value in problem-solving, innovation and market returns. These results are well-documented and repeated across many studies, reports and books like “The Business of Race” where I was a contributor.

To companies that aren’t currently diverse:

  1. Congratulations! Acknowledging you have an issue and committing to solve this issue is the most important step.
  2. The CEO or Executive Director MUST be the leader of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives, and accountable for results. The organizational change that is required needs to be driven and reinforced by the leader.
  3. Connect DEI to your core business model and company values. It is an important moral issue, but you must connect it to how you operate – or else it will become a side issue that gets dropped when sales slow or budgets are tight.
  4. Start with the outcome you want to achieve, then work backwards to figure out what you can measure on a weekly or monthly basis. Make sure your measures are transparent to the company in order to hold yourself accountable for results.
  5. Engage all of your employees to contribute to the solution, but don’t make your diverse new hires shoulder the burden of the work.
  6. As a leader, you will make mistakes, say the wrong thing, feel awkward and learn how much you don’t know. Embrace it all – you are modeling for the rest of the company and the more you acknowledge your experience, the more you build trust with your employees.

How does your book relate to other current social and political issues the world is facing?

Sustainable cities. I have a chapter on Jane Jacobs, a pioneer in sustainable urban development, and how she overcame the powerful urban planner Robert Moses to save Greenwich Village from being paved over for highways. Her actions, which embody the “Move to the Edge, Declare it Center” framework, ushered in a new vision for sustainable cities. Many organizations are currently applying the same model to address the worldwide migration to urban areas around the world.

Disaster relief and humanitarian crises. My book features interviews with Nate Mook, CEO of World Central Kitchen. They are currently on the ground on the border of Ukraine providing nourishment to millions of refugees. Their model of navigating unknown, intense, and dangerous crises, and responding with systematic delivery of nourishment through a worldwide network of food providers is extraordinary – and it is a vivid example of the “Move to the Edge, Declare it Center” framework. is another organization that delivers locally led, globally scaled humanitarian relief, and their model also embodies the core practices in the book.

How do mental health and well-being play a role in leadership?

A leadership framework is only good if the leader can implement it. Too many management and leadership books provide ABC-123 prescriptions that sound simple but ignore that leaders are human. The grief, fatigue, and depletion that most of us feel after 2+ years of COVID, and the evidence of the “Great Resignation” make it clear that leadership books must take into account the psychology and physiology of the leader.

The good news is there are abundant mental health tools, methods and resources that we all can use to practice – and the operative word is practice – to build the well-being we need to solve our urgent challenges.

You have been very ahead of the curve in quite a few ways. For example, you first did remote work a decade ago, and you also decided to make salaries transparent. How did you decide to make these moves and implement them?

We’re all aware that women and BIPOC employees are still paid less than men for the same work. This is true even for well-intentioned companies because there are several systemic, fundamental biases embedded in ordinary processes that preserve and even amplify inequality in compensation. For example, if two people are hired on the same day, but one negotiated 5% higher salary, after 5 years of equal performance increases, the salary gap increases exponentially. Now imagine the first employee learns of the difference after 5 years of high performance. Guarantee that the employee leaves, and the organization loses a valuable team member and breaks the trust of other employees.

After some research, we believed the best way to address equity in pay was to make all salaries internally transparent for all employees. We weren’t naive – we know salaries can be a hot button. So, we used a series of Move to the Edge methods, from internal surveys, retrospectives,

You write about a significant personal tragedy in 2012. Can you tell us about that briefly? Looking back, what were the seeds of this book that were planted back then?

In the first four months of 2012, I launched my first product with my company. At the same time, I got divorced, moved to a new home, became a single coparent to a 5-year-old, had my national championship ring stolen, and my father passed away of stomach cancer. I think I hit all of the five major life stressors in four months.

Ten years later, I see that experience as the seeds of how to navigate through unknowns, learning to be resilient, seeking and receiving support from others, and relying on practices like meditation to help me move through that difficult situation. In the intervening years, I built those practices into habits, encoded them in our company values, and now I’ve shared them in the book.

Thich Nhat Hahn just passed away this year, and he seems to be a significant influence on you and your leadership style. What can business leaders learn from a Vietnamese monk?

I learned about Thich Nhat Hahn, and began practicing his framework of meditation in 1993, after reading the “Miracle of Mindfulness.” I had the privilege of attending one full day silent retreat, and a five-day silent retreat with him and his team, and I feel deeply grateful that I was able to be in his presence before he died last year.

There are many things leaders can learn from Vietnamese monks.

  • Be present: The phrase “wash the dishes to wash the dishes” is an invitation to recognize mindfulness can be practiced anywhere, anytime. With this practice, leaders start to become more focused, whether it’s on a task or a person. From my experience, people feel the difference when leaders are present with them.
  • Responding is more powerful than reacting. In Thich Nhat Hahn’s teachings, a key skill is to watch your own reaction to events. Becoming aware of one’s own emotions in real time – and letting them pass – is an incredibly powerful tool when faced with adversity. It develops the confidence to “get comfortable with being uncomfortable,” and step into difficult situations with less fear and more clarity.

What are some topics you didn’t get to explore in depth in this book? In other words, what would you like to write about next?

That was one of the major challenges of this book! There’s so many wonderful writers, scholars, practitioners, and leaders whose work I uncovered during the process of writing this book. But because the challenges we face are urgent – pandemic, wildfires, and now war in Ukraine – I wanted to add this book to the conversation so people can use it and we can collectively navigate problems.

However, a few areas I’d love to have explored first.

  • Modernizing software practices or transformational change. At Truss, we continue to develop our own systems, methods and processes internally and with our clients. They’ve had tremendous impact on shifting the practices of the Dept. of Defense, for example, where we are building the system to manage the moves of servicemen and women – 15% of all United States moves – and we’re doing it using principles I describe in the book. It was a huge shift for the military, but now USTRANSCOM has officially adopted that practice. We’re really close to publishing them, but I could only include a few in the book.
  • Artificial intelligence. There are scholars like Timnit Gebru and experts featured in the Netflix show “Coded Bias” who have done amazing work to highlight how artificial intelligence is not neutral. In fact, it can replicate and amplify the bias we see in society. In the book, I briefly touched on how facial recognition systems that do not recognize dark skin can be lethal. But they have explored that in greater depth and I would love to engage with their work.
  • Humanitarian development and sustainability have incredible opportunities for greater study. I was able to interview World Central Kitchen, which is now on the ground in Ukraine. But organizations like have demonstrated how large organizations can innovate, shift to being locally led and globally scaled. That means there’s a diversity of thought and experimentation (Move to the Edge) and the most useful of those experiments can be globally scaled (Declare it Center). I’m particularly curious about the analogy between government procurement and humanitarian funding. Rigid procurement systems were no match for a complex problem like, and reforming it has unleashed a transformation in government technology practices. Reforming rigid funding cycles for humanitarian aid and economic development may have similar transformational potential for delivering timely aid in the regions that need it most.
  • Learning from the body in decision making. As an athlete, I understand how much my body can be a guide for good decision making as my cognition. There is a deep body of work by scholars in neuroscience, physiology, as well as with practitioners like NASA, NAVY Seals and top athletes that can be applied to everyday decision making – especially under stress, uncertainty and unknowns.
  • The Gift of Being on the Edge. A major discovery for me is how the title evokes strong response from some readers. In particular, that “Move to the Edge, Declare it Center” creates a valuable space for people who are on the edge without “othering” them. There’s a body of work, from Toni Morrison, bell hooks to BIPOC, Latina/o/x and South Asian entrepreneurs that reflect the valuable insights, perspective and skill that come from being on the edge. Instead of the words “marginalized” or “underrepresented,” I’d like to explore this aspect of leadership.

Download press kit and photos