“My hobbies are bird watching”, says Pir, “and PokémonGo”. You are interviewing Pir, the co-founder of a highly successful startup for multi-purpose rattles, for the position of head of your newly established laboratory of useless creative knowledge (l.u.c.k.). “My last catch was a Skarmory”, Pir continues. You reply: “Isn’t Skarmory a rather useless Pokémon?”. “Aren’t you looking for useless knowledge?”, counters Pir. You smile.
“Right – so can you define ‘useless’ for me?”, you ask. “I can’t”, says Pir. “But I have a quote for you: ‘It’s something useless, sudden, violent; something that costs a life; red, blue, purple; a spirit; a splash … free from taint, dependence, soilure of humanity or care for one’s kind; something rash, ridiculous…”. “Ecstasy”, you say, “it’s ecstasy that matters. Virginia Woolf”. Pir nods and looks at you with a broad grin.
You look at the coffee cup on the table, and your mind goes off on a tangent: “How much better is silence; the coffee cup, the table. How much better to sit by myself like the solitary sea-bird that opens its wings on the stake. Let me sit here for ever with bare things, this coffee cup, this knife, this fork, things in themselves, myself being myself”.
Many leaders underestimate the influence they have on their organizations, even when they do nothing. In a way, leaders are never by themselves – and the things surrounding them are never just bare things. People watch their leaders closely: What food do they like? Does the sound of chewing gum make them nervous? What apps do they praise? Do they find bird watching useless? What makes them ecstatic? How do they like their coffee? Or do they drink tea? And when they think they’ve understood what you like (and what you dislike), they shamelessly copy, use, and spread your assumed sensory preferences.
But: The fact that you both know Virginia Woolf by heart says nothing about whether you and Pir are going to be a good working team when it comes to making l.u.c.k. successful. As a matter of fact, differences in taste, smell, hearing, feeling, or seeing the world are probably more robust bases for good problem solving, solution finding, and decision making than surprising similarities.
So: Listening to your senses, you need to ensure that your own business choices are not clouded by what feels pleasant (or unpleasant) – and you need to give others the freedom to pursue their own likes (and dislikes), so you all reap maximum benefits from diverse flavors blending into magic potions.
You notice the empty vase on the table. “Thank you”, you say to Pir, “I’ll let you know next week whether we want to work with you – and you let me know whether you want to work with us. In the meantime, maybe you should move on to playing Wizards Unite”. As Pir leaves the room, you whisper: “And I’ll buy the flowers myself”.
* This is the sixth of a series of blog posts exploring some uniquely motivating mindfully elaborated ramblings (s.u.m.m.e.r.) of mine, written during my summer vacation in 2019, investigating topics and trends relevant for leaders in today’s multilayered world. All persons, situations, and dialogues quoted are purely fictional, albeit informed by what I see happening in companies I work with. If you want to know what I do when I work, read more here and here [retrieved July 9, 2019].