Once again, we interrupt this blog and our discussion of deliberate practice to write a bit about the current events of my life. While I had planned to push further into the realms of talent, practice and mastery, my encounters of recent days and weeks have been simply too interesting to ignore, so I choose to write about them now.
On October 27, I left home in Switzerland for two weeks in the region around Boston and New York. Of course, and as many readers will realize, the initial days of this trip were colored by Hurricane Sandy, whose impact began on Monday 29 October. The house I was staying in near Boston lost all power for about 36 hours, which was inconvenient, but nothing compared with the devastation in southern Connecticut, New York or New Jersey. As I write this on November 7, vast regions of these states are still without power, and some have very limited supplies of gasoline.
As the university visits and teaching I had been scheduled for were cancelled, and much of the Connecticut area was at a standstill, I spent two days catching up on some reading. One of the books I received recently, Bounce by Matthew Syed, was of particular interest to me. Syed is a sports columnist for The Times of London, whose case studies weigh the value of innate talent against that of practice, hard work, and will. This book will provide fodder for further reflection and additional stories about talent, genius and practice.
Another swissnex event: By Thursday November 1, Massachusetts and parts of Connecticut had begun to function almost normally, though many houses remained without electricity. So, on November 2, I was able to speak, as I have often done in the past ten years, at one of my favorite places, the Swiss Consulate in Boston. At swissnex, as they call it, we had a nice crowd for breakfast, networking, and my presentation on “e-marketing, social media, and the art of storytelling”.
Since my long-time collaborator and friend, Pascal Marmier, has recently left Boston to run swissnex in China, this was my first meeting the the new consul, Felix Moesner, who came to Boston after many years in Japan. Felix has some interesting stories about Japanese culture, and our first contact was full of promise for our future work together.
Of course, old friends such as Sebastien and Pierre remain in Boston, and they did an excellent job of organizing the event, with Swiss precision. As always, it was fun for me to interact with an active audience at swissnex, and to promote my message about today’s possibilities for co-creating a brand message by tapping into the passion of the brand community.
I continue to find that people are fascinated by examples such as those in my book, of companies that sell everyday products such as pots and pans or bicycles, who also manage to use storytelling from the company and from their user community to market their brand on the internet.
At Harvard: That same afternoon, I had lunch with Al Decarvalho from Harvard Business Review Corporate Learning. After lunch, I introduced Al to the partners of Alta Gerencia, who had come from Uruguay for a short visit in Boston. Much of our conversation centered on the concept of combining live conferences with e-learning.
This entire discussion about how we can better use e-learning was extremely gratifying to me, as I am convinced that we need to find innovative solutions for future learning, solutions that optimize all the tools at our disposal. While I continue to believe that the best way to generate enthusiasm is face-to-face interaction between a presenter and an audience, we need to find ways to sustain that enthusiasm between meetings.
For example, if I give a leadership seminar in Quito or Lima, we invariably generate great enthusiasm and even inspirational moments with these face-to-face audiences. As such, numerous participants write afterward to ask how they can continue learning about some of the ideas from the conference. I am convinced that we can use e-learning, in the form of group exercises, webinars, and feedback from the seminar leaders, to guide participants as they seek to turn concepts into practices they can use in their everyday activities. As such, I was energized by these meetings with Harvard and Alta Gerencia, as it felt as if we were embarking on an exciting new future.