3. Think and behave like a conductor. Great conductors have the unique ability to hear the sound of each individual instrument—the fine strings of a violin and deep sounds of the base —and can weave this all together to hear the collective sound of the orchestra and the beautiful music it creates as a whole. Identifying, understanding and synthesizing nuances make us unique and successful, and provides an edge in any situation. How can we find out what is different if we don’t listen to differences of opinion, experiences and insights? People often come to the table with their ears oriented to, for example, the violin section; but to succeed, they have to listen to all the instruments that make the particular piece of music in their firm distinctive. In business, every person needs to act as a conductor and bring the ability to be an aggressive listener to the table. My mother’s people, the Yoruba, say that we have two ears and one mouth, so we should listen twice as much as we speak. This is one of the greatest and most difficult challenges we face in the workplace.
I try to embrace these three principles in all aspects of my business. When building teams, I look for staff that has a stellar record of experience and success, but are not captives of their experience. I look for individuals who are comfortable and eager to use their experience as a tool to create new ways—many of which are different from the ways they have used in the past—to achieve business objectives and create value.
My mother’s people also say that nature has shown us the perfect and most powerful team: the hand. Each finger is different, yet they are all held together by the palm, a larger element than each individual finger. When the hand is in its most powerful state, it is either clenched as a fist or open for a handshake. In either state, all the fingers, though different, must work closely together. In this sense, the Yoruba people see diversity, in all of its ramifications, as a strong tool for success. As such, I try to foster an environment where thinking differently, to achieve a given objective in a more efficient or elegant manner, is embraced, encouraged and rewarded.
I am driven to find a better way to achieve a given objective, without being tied to just one traditional path to this objective. I challenge others to think openly and feel passionately about their work and creativity. After all, whoever said there was a geometric box associated with thinking in the first place?
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