Anything is possible…I have an interesting story to tell which I experienced recently during the two-day training cum orientation program which was conducted for mid to senior management teams of one of the leading engineering companies.
We all know that throughout the history of mankind, there are a number of events that stand out as ‘groundbreaking’. They come with the power to completely change our life as we know it. The Apollo moon landing of 1961 was one of those events. The invention of the Apple personal computer was another…Tim Berners-Lee created the World Wide Web, the internet suddenly became available to the rest of us and likewise, now there are many more events unfolding around us.
Interestingly, in the book entitled ‘Moonshot!’, John Sculley, the former CEO of Pepsi and subsequently of Apple, claims that we are all living in an era that is more than generous to support and give birth to plentiful of groundbreaking events, and called this phenomenon as ‘moonshot’…that is changing the way we live and work…and story of Apollo 11, Apple personal computer, World Wide Web are some of the examples of ‘moonshots’.
Let us see what ‘moonshot’ means in the simplest term. It is basically about the way of thinking that motivates teams to ‘Think Big’ by framing problems as solvable and encouraging “anything is possible” dialogues to solve the challenge and make a positive impact…and this is the crux of the story I am going to share…
My story is based on my participation as a faculty, corridor discussions with the participants, and some observations made during the two-day program, as mentioned earlier.
What I found was that the participants truly possessed the art of engaging in crucial dialogues around simple to complex problems discussed at the training platform. Interestingly, neither individually nor collectively they ever give up solving complex problems and addressing challenges.
One of the trainers gave a problem-solving exercise and this was about passing the whole body through A4 size paper. Yes, they struggled, tried and failed a few times. I personally moved from table to table to listen to the conversation they were having around the problem and possible solutions. To my delight, they worked on all permutations and combinations and never got into ‘giving up dialogue’…and finally they came up as a winner and solved the puzzle.
The participants brought some great thoughts and insights during the case study which was written more around the rise and fall of a family business when it changed hands…taken over by the daughter, who, unfortunately, was not groomed during the lifetime of her father.
The participants worked in a micro group and focused very well on the qualitative side of the case and came up with unique insights that resulted in the listing down of a few ‘Success drivers’. In the process, they also owned a few points from the list which was relevant and inspirational from the point of their business transformation journey.
When we read closely the list of key drivers, we discovered that ‘Relationship’ appeared as one of the prime organizational values driving their business...and together they proved what Richard Bach had said once-‘True love stories never have endings’. The other drivers were Respect for people, Appreciation, People involvement & engagement, Collaboration, Seeking advice and Hand holding (Mentoring & Coaching).
What I noticed from my close interaction and distant observation that these participants were not the ordinary citizens of their company, rather they had come with the mind to pick up the best shots from the program and back home, work towards building a ‘Billion $’ business.
My interaction with the participants also reminded me what Julia Hartz, Co-founder, and President, Eventbrite, once said ‘We never sat around and theorized. We just started building’. They (participants) in true sense demonstrated and lived the spirit of Julia Hartz and it was so heartening to see and experience the momentous and historic time…
(Eventbrite, a San Fransisco based event management and ticketing website. The company was launched in 2006 and it went public on the New York Stock Exchange in September, 2018 under the ticker symbol EB. In August 2018, the company had filed for a $200 million IPO.)
The story is not ending here… during one of the sessions which dealt with the ‘Situational leadership’ model, the participants drove the fact to the forefront that leaders will have to ‘think and act differently in different situations’… and brought to the reality what Albert Einstein had once said…‘we cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them’. They gave life to this saying in the context of leadership styles in managing work, relationship and people…they imbibed the spirit of ‘there has to be a better way’…every leader has to exhibit and inculcate this value consistently while leading the team.
What I liked most was the discussion around business, competitors, and customers. Let me quote Jeff Bezos, Founder, and CEO, Amazon –“If you are competitors focused, you have to wait until there is a competitor doing something. Being customer-focused, allow you to be more pioneering.” I loved the common language flowing around the room. I could see a common thread binding all the participants throughout the program…the language was all about ‘customers’ and ‘building relationships’ through ‘transparent collaboration’…customers come first and must be served well. For them, nothing is more important than creating a lights-out customer experience. Again it speaks about the organizational values which they cherish!
And in this context, it would be appropriate for me to recollect the name of some of the leading brands that truly impress us for the stellar experiences and the top of the mind recall they create for their customers: Apple, Google, Amazon, Starbucks, Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, Virgin Group companies, BMW etc.
I loved the collective thinking of the participants around creating customer experience which matches well with what John Sculley has quoted in this book ‘Moonshot!’:
“Do everything to support an exceptional customer experience – from the design of the product or service to how you supply that product or service, how you treat the customers after they have bought or used your product or service.”
“The goal is to engage customers in an experience journey: Getting customers to buy the product or service is only the beginning of a RELATIONSHIP. The transaction is not the destination, but the launching point of a long journey.”
Besides many other things I have mentioned above, two important observations I cannot omit: (b) Zooming out and Zooming in…anything is possible! (b) Be curious: Ask the right questions…anything is possible!
I saw during various problem-solving exercises/discussions that participants took a few minutes of break in between, but not to freak around…it was more like ‘taking a walk ‘Zooming out’ which was one of the most powerful thinking tools of Steve Jobs.
I observed during the catapult making exercise that they came up with an outstanding, yet SIMPLE SOLUTION. I personally enjoyed seeing participants’ involvement and their ability to focus on a single purpose and work out the best solution.
Here it is important to talk about what John Scully has mentioned in his book, as referred above, that “Zooming is to create a better way to solve a billion-dollar problem. After Zooming out and connecting the dots as Steve Jobs did when he conceptualized the Mac, one then has to Zoom in and SIMPLIFY EVERYTHING”. John Scully further added that Steve would always point out to him that the hardest decisions are not what to put in, but what to leave out.
No doubt, all the participants practiced the famous saying, in and off the classroom by asking several insightful questions – ‘Be curious’ and ‘Ask the right question’. It was quite obvious during the two-day program that the trait of ‘Intense curiosity’ was equally distributed among them (participants). They believed that curiosity is not a recreational pastime, but it is deeply rooted in gaining and building a strategic advantage for them and ultimately for their company so dear to them.
To conclude and let me repeat…those who think and commit to building billion-dollar businesses always promote the culture of ‘Thinking Big’…they believe in ‘anything is possible’…their dialogues are around how to solve the challenges and make a positive impact on business, people and society as a whole.
- Built to Last by Jim Collins & Jerry Porras
- Moonshot! by John Sculley