Tom Peters is one business guru who does not mince words. I remember attending his seminar many years ago when I saw him and heard him rants about the need to “Innovate or Evaporate.” His background is engineering and therefore logic, analysis, synthesis, mathematics and measurement are important to him. And to read his latest orange colored thick and pricy hard bound book entitled: “Little Big Things” becomes quite of a shocker to me.
Peters says that the one of the most important things for business people to know today is that “Soft is hard and hard is soft.”
For so long soft skills training has been undermined and undervalued by many hard-nosed business executives who stick to hard skills training. And as I have been saying all along, how could anyone invest on training that covers subject matters branded as “soft?”
As I attended the latest World Business Forum held in Radio Music Hall in New York Tuesday and Wednesday of this week, every single speaker extols the virtue of leadership, innovation, teamwork and team play as highest need for business organizations to survive the current atmosphere.
Jim Collins, author of best selling books like Built to Last, Good to Great and his latest “How the Mighty Falls” worked on empirical data and pointed out to the audience that one of the main reasons why businesses fail is that the leader exhibits arrogance due to his successes. The same Collins also mentioned that what his date revealed is that successful companies that have stayed successful through the years exhibited the irrefutable fact that the leader demonstrated humility and that the same virtue carried the companies through prosperous as well as difficult times.
The Illustrious former chairman of GE Jack Welch, evidently older now is like good wine becoming even better with age. Welch is feisty. Welch speaks his mind maybe because he has nothing to prove. Welch says “My main job as a CEO is to develop talent.” He says just like a baseball team, the team with the best players win.
At one point he became serious and quiet and then with a pathos I can identify with, looked straight at the four thousand leaders and executives gathered from 126 countries all over the world and said: It is unbelievable that leadership development is still very low in many company’s priority even today.” And then he cited cases after cases of businesses that are failing and pointed straight to the fact that the same companies do not invest in leadership training on their people.
Rio de Janeiro born Carlo Brito of Anheuser-Busch Indev was emphatic when he said that the success of his companies even after going through five major mergers is to develop and build a performance culture. He says something simple yet profound. “Companies are built by people and he has never heard of great performing companies say, “We are here to hire average people.”
And I have been doing leadership training all over the country and some abroad but what I heard from him made a lot of sense for me. Brito says: “When you have complacent people in your organization, great people walk out of the door.”
Charlene Li, author of the famous book “Ground Swell” talked about the impact of Social Networks today and its effect on business. Li lamented the fact that most businesses still do not know how to mine the potential of social networks while those who do are reaping in the profits.
Martin Lindstrom made a pitch for his book “buyology,” came up with slides after slides and film after film that are cleverly and expensively produced emphasizing the need to understand how the human brain responds to buying and marketing. Bill McDermott, Joseph Grenny, David Gergen completed the line up of the speakers for the first day.
The second day featured Steve Levitt of “Freakonomics” fame, Joseph Stiglitz, former US vice president Al Gore, A.G. Lafley of P&G, Renee Mauborgne, Vijay Govindarajan, Luca Majocchi, Nando Parrado and James Cameron of Avatar fame. I don’t even have enough space to share what I learned from the second day of the seminar.
Filled with fresh and new information and my mind spinning with new ideas, I walked back to my hotel in Manhattan and realized that the money invested in the learning is just too little compared to the benefits of what I have learned. And I just can’t wait to work on the information, process them and apply them to my trainings back home.
Soft is hard and Hard is soft. Things like values, attitude, behavioral, motivation, inspiration and other “soul” issues do count these days and guess what my conclusion is? They have always mattered through the ages.