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Hills, Mountains and the Leader’s Long View


Alps beyond the distant hills of Affoltern

From the window of our new flat, we look out on a hill covered with trees in the changing colors of autumn. Tempted outside by unseasonably warm weather, I hiked to the top of the hill and was surprised to see that in the far distance the Alps were in plain sight.
I’ve been looking at that lovely hill for months now without realizing that it was hiding beautiful mountains from my sight.

Often in business, we get focused on our own “hills” – not all of them lovely – and fail to realize that even bigger mountains just might lie beyond them. What are your hills? What mountains might be hidden behind those hills? Are you standing too close to your own hills to see those mountains? Ask, assess, then act. Contact us – we’re here to help.

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From TedX Zurich: Should you re-evaluate your values?

An esoteric presentation by a neuroscientist, Molly Crockett, at TedX Zurich on 4 October, opened with questions about how we don’t object when our neighbors and friends have different opinions about the taste of blue cheese, but we view them differently when their opinions on moral values don’t align with our own.

She emphasized that we need to distinguish fact from opinion and avoid believing the “My facts trump your facts.” It’s better, she said, to at least try to change a person’s attachment to a set of values, even if it’s not possible to change the values themselves.

That presentation brought to mind some critical business questions for thought leaders: Are the professionals in your organization attached to your set of values? Are they the right values? Does your organization’s commitment to those values need a “refresh”? Should the renewal of those “value vows” start top down or bottom up?

It’s great to ask the questions but it’s more important to answer them honestly – to really look at the facts – and then to take the action needed. Ask, assess, then act. Contact us – we’re here to help.


Google’s Seefeld at TedX Zurich: The business “treasure map”

Bernhard Seefeld of Google Maps Switzerland talked about the history of maps during his TedX Zurich presentation on 4 October. In the distant past, he explained, maps were based on rumor and speculation – was the world flat or was there really a monster beyond that hill? He described the evolution of maps and mentioned how map-making was really just a matter of filling in the gaps with facts.

In business, good strategic plans are like treasure maps. The route – and the destination – should be so well defined that nobody in the organization gets lost along the way. If no roadmap is provided, rumor and speculation fill any gaps in understanding so it’s important to clearly communicate all the facts along the way.

Ask yourself – are you communicating your organization’s map as clearly as possible? If not, then take action to do so. Ask, assess, then act. Contact us – we’re here to help.

Daum at TedX Zurich: The tie between planning and freedom

In his TedX Zurich presentation on 4 October, Matthias Daum compared urban sprawl in Switzerland to a cancer metastasizing but admitted it is the future whether we like it or not. That’s because the country is rich, full of lawyers and a direct democracy with federalism. “Each society gets the landscape it deserves,” he said. “Planning gives us freedom.”

Similarly, planning in the business sphere must be rigorous, but it should give the organization the freedom to be agile enough to adapt to a changing environment. How agile is your organization? Ask yourself this question and then take the necessary action to improve that key competency. Ask, assess, then act. Contact us – we’re here to help.


Getting Underway at TedX Zurich

On 4 October I took what’s been called an “intellectual vacation day” and attended TedX Zurich. Eclectic and sometimes electric, the event drew about 450 to the SRF television studios and hundreds more to the virtual conference streamed online.

I wouldn’t say the live event drew together people from all walks of life as the audience didn’t appear to be too diverse – most seemed to be young, creative types, or at least folks who were interested enough in creativity and the world of ideas to spend their day at a TedX event.

The diversity of presenters, however, was carefully planned by the legendary Swiss “ideas man” Peter Hogenkamp and his team. A magician, a musician, an experimental particle physicist, a neuroscientist, an asset manager, an anthropologist – oh, and a business consultant – were among the featured speakers.

In typical Swiss fashion, the event started precisely on time – on the hundredth of a second, in fact, someone pointed out. During the 20 sessions, audience-fed Twitter streams (#tedxzh) provided live commentary. Most of that instant feedback was positive but sometimes the Tweets were just clever, like the one sent following a too-brief introduction of one of the presenters: Worst intro you can get ever anywhere—“Our next speaker is a consultant.”

Over the next few days, I’ll write about some other quotable quotes and intellectually stimulating ideas from the thought leaders on stage that, I believe, loosely apply to the business world, too. I’ll ask some rhetorical questions for you to think about and then encourage you to assess the necessary actions based on your answers. The thought-leadership model introduced here is “Ask, assess, then act.” Contact us – we’re here to help.

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