You might recall that I am not a fan of, or believer in, business guru’s. Sure, the Druckers, Gladwells, Sandbergs and Tapscott’s have added great value to ‘the’ great discussion, but for me none have provided any definitive insights that really Mattered. Until now.
Enter the second character (of two) who shaped my new mission, my raison d’etre – Christian Madsbjerg – co-founder of New York-based (by way of Copenhagen) ReD Associates. Last year a friend of mine introduced me to Christian, with the understated observation that Christian had something important to say. To me and you it turns out.
By way of background, ReD is an “innovation and strategy” practice whose clients include Adidas, Intel and Samsung – to name but a few not-unimpressive clients. They are credited with significantly recalibrating their clients with a process called sense making. Having perused ReD’s website prior to sitting down to breakfast with Christian in New York I must say I was intrigued.
To say the least, Christian is an imposing intellect. While I had considered myself capable of cognitively keeping up with most people, I soon realized that Christian was going to make me work for my breakfast. Two things were instantly made clear. Christian and ReD brought a remarkably fresh and powerful POV to the ‘innovation and strategy’ game, and they believed that the ‘human sciences’ were the much-maligned elements that could – or rather should – constitute the scaffolding on which business problem solving should be based. Actually a third thing was made clear as well – don’t get him started on Heidegger.
At the end of the whirlwind 60 minutes, Christian invited me to read the manuscript for his upcoming book – The Moment of Clarity: Using the Human Sciences to Solve Your Toughest Business Challenge, to be published by Harvard Business School Press. So I dutifully undertook to read the manuscript with a view to offering some perspective or insight that at that moment had remained unmade. It proved an unfair trade – for Christian received little in the way of piercing insight from me, but I had discovered sense making – or at least his (and his co-author and business partner Mikkel B. Rasmussen’s) version of it.
Having just concluded that this time of exponential disruption – the Pre-Singularity – demanded (capital D) a new leadership approach, I found with growing excitement that Madsbjerg and Rasmussen might just possibly have revealed such an approach.
Now, to be clear, they weren’t out to save mankind – rather, they more modestly saw sensemaking as a superior approach for businesses to understand their customers, and to answer the existential questions – what business are we (or should we) be in, and how can we best satisfy our customers needs? My spirit soared and my heart was lightened as they told me that the answer to such questions is a non-answer. The imperfect yet very powerful ‘outcome’ that awaits lies within you/me/we, and is arrived at by opening ourselves up to a creative process that looks and feels, well, a lot like a creative process – where inspiration can be found in the genius of Shakespeare, Mozart and yes, even Heidegger. For figuring out what ERP system to use, feel free to hire consultants, but don’t outsource the process that defines your business soul – that is something only you/me/we can do for ourselves. That means being open to an utterly new way of being honest with ourselves in how we define ‘problems’ and explore ‘solutions’ – to better understand our environment, and how we engage with it. For a more substantive review of the Harvard Business School publication, click here.
And lest this all start to sound flaky, bear in mind that they cut their sense making teeth on clients like Adidas, Intel and Samsung to happy effect.
However, as I read The Moment of Clarity, I became convinced that their approach, and quite possibly the (or at least my) newly discovered field of sensemaking as a whole, was a POV/methodology that should be employed at all levels – corporate, personal, societal – as a leadership development toolset to prepare all of us and our stakeholders for exponential disruption.
In February the book launched, and is today consistently appearing on Amazon’s business best seller list.
For moi, my next step was to make sense of this whole sense making thing…