Monday, 16 December 2013


There are moments when you are so absorbed in something, be it sport or a film or a book, that you lose all sense of time, space and identity. You are, as it were lost in a dream or – to use that lovely old fashioned word – in a reverie.

Losing oneself happened to me at a new play, “Lizzie Siddal” at the Arcola. My goddaughter Emma West plays the lead so, of course, I’m biased and I was likely to be looking at her acting to see her technique, rather like watching a horse doing dressage. Hallo horse. Hallo footwork. But I got lost in the idea of the play, of the intelligent woman being absorbed by the power of Rossetti, only to be ultimately disillusioned as his passionate fire for her became a smouldering ember. As she observes, art in the end is about smudges on paper, just an illusion. Truth is not beauty… not as Keats meant it. Art like acting isn’t real. Emma West does not die. She goes home to a pizza and a glass of Chianti and an episode of "Game of Thrones” – she’s an actress.

The ability to live a part convincingly and to dream along with that performance may seem a far cry from the world of work yet even there I believe in the need to be able to visualise, to see what a scenario might play out like – not logically but emotionally too.

Our experience shows it’s easier to do something so long as people don’t get involved. Jack Welch of General Electric was desperate to eliminate the human interface in customer service. The problem with people he reckoned was they were erratic, subjective and unreliable.  And that’s precisely why we need to have unreasonable people dealing with unreasonable customers. That’s how magic is created. Not by drones serving clones.

Cognosis (a management consultancy) had what Stefan Stern who writes for the FT ironically noted was unusual for their breed. It was an original idea.

And it was this - that a strategy would within a business have a much greater chance of succeeding if the people in the business expected to make it work were excited by it. If in other words other than merely understanding it they got lost in its possibilities. A strategy that was a vision that was potentially and emotionally seen as a real prospect not just some numbers on a spread sheet.

Time, I think, for businessmen to have the odd reverie. Time to dream. Time to imagine.

It’s good to see that even the Scots get it

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