Tag Archives: talent

Bread & Purpose

Aristotle said “Where your talents and the needs of the world cross; there lies your vocation.”

This statement applies just as much to one’s profession as to one’s purpose. It crosses real and perceived work and personal boundaries. It applies to organizations as well as people. It ties to a purpose where others can thrive and grow. What you produce has merit; has purpose; helps fulfill the needs of another.

A few months ago I met Sara an artisan bread mak7XXAWNH3SBer. She loves making bread and takes pride in her creations. She tests new processes, times, temperatures and ingredients. She is extremely good at what she does; making bread. She is extremely good at filling a need; making wholesome creations that help people feel special, loved and cared for. She makes bread that fills our bellies as much as our souls.

The “market” may be saying that people buy bread from factories and where and when it is convenient for them; or maybe that the business purpose of small ventures should be to be acquired and to grow. To sell as much as they can. To make a profit or to make a million more of something.

But there is a group of clients and friends that crave this particular bread maker’s creations. A tribe of people that don’t want to buy bread the “usual” way,  and that waits for the next iteration of the barley loaf or multigrain sourdough.

Her work, her art, her talent and her passion collide with an unwavering need. It may be a niche market, an unconventional need, but it exists and it is important.

When you find your talent and where it fits in the world, hold onto it; although it may take on many forms, locations and iterations, it is what truly makes us unique and human. It is your gift. Your bread. Your purpose.


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Savvy Saturday January 7th

“Originals are constructive contrarians. They’re not just pointing out that the emperor has no clothes; they’re also tailors.” – Adam Grant

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Why it Takes Humility to be a Sailor and a Leader

under sail
It took us almost four weeks to cross the Tasman Sea through the “roaring forties” – the strong winds found between the latitudes of 40 and 50 degrees- on our 111 foot schooner to New Zealand. We had rationed water, food and fuel as we battled headwinds ever since leaving Australia; winds were coming directly at us and forcing us to chart a zigzag course to our destination.

There were moments of angst, of confusion, of boredom and of impatience but what transpired over those four weeks until we made it safely into a little harbor on New Zealand’s North Island was a renewed sense of humility and of community that meant putting others – “the good of the ship” – before our own interests.

Decades ago, Peter Drucker wrote:

“No institution can possibly survive if it needs geniuses or supermen to manage it. It must be organized in such a way as to be able to get along under a leadership composed of average human beings.”

And that’s precisely what our sailing expedition taught us: that ordinary people led by ordinary people in a mission that inspires action, collaboration and problem solving is the key to success when faced with adversity.

Organizations face adversity every single day. Managers and leaders have to perform small miracles in order to overcome challenges, solve problems or deliver the results they think their shareholders want. When managers are good at this, they are compensated accordingly and the circle may be perpetuated as more “wins” bring greater prestige, honor and reward. It’s positive reinforcement at its best.

Is there a place for humility in leadership today? And can humility and prestige co-exist within a leader?

Humility is only a weakness in a system that values things like status over substance, personality over character, or performance over depth. Today, we have the option of moving away from the “either” “or” scenario to embrace humility – serving others – as well as prestige and reward. Jonathan Sacks wrote:

What a glorious revelation humility is of the human spirit … True humility is one of the most life-enhancing of all virtues. It does not mean undervaluing or underestimating yourself. It means valuing other people. It signals an openness to life’s grandeur and the willingness to be surprised, uplifted, by goodness wherever one finds it … False humility is the pretense that one is small. True humility is the consciousness of standing in the presence of greatness.

When we were four weeks at sea – we were standing in the presence of the power and greatness of the ocean. But there’s no need to enter into survival mode to experience greatness. Greatness can be achieved through humility by simply avoiding putting yourself before others and leading ordinary people to do extraordinary things.

Photo source: dreshetnikov, via thenowbook on Tumblr

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The Best Idea Wins

raised hand
Photo courtesy http://www.sincerelyjules.com

Today’s post is about an article of mine published in Forbes in Spanish a couple months’ ago. You can find the article here. I have pasted it below for reference.

For those English speakers following my blog, here is a summary of what the article is about and how I came to write it.

I was watching a presentation by Elon Musk, founder of Tesla, PayPal and Spacex. He was talking to a group at Stanford University on entrepreneurship and the business of making ideas work. During his one hour presentation he talked about how his management style is founded on “the best idea wins”. I love that expression because it shows how the idea – rather than the trappings, title or position of a person – is what is important in building relevant and innovative businesses.

The resulting article (below) talks about how we need to focus on the value of the idea; how assets are finite but the value of assets is infinite. I also quote Bernadette Jiwa, author of The Fortune Cookie Principle and blogger of Storyoftelling.com, when she says “what we are interested in the fortune – not the fortune cookie itself.” As human beings, we are seeking the intangible that is suggested by a brand and not necessarily the tangible elements that get “pushed” by traditional advertising.

That’s why ideas are so important. Although they are intangible and potentially question the status quo, they can be the difference between a successful and a mediocre or failed venture.


“La mejor idea gana”
Por Esther Clark
Forbes Mexico

Hace algunos años Elon Musk, el fundador de PayPal, de SpaceX y de Tesla Motors, habló de su trayectoria empresarial por casi una hora en la Universidad de Stanford, como parte de una serie de conferencias sobre ideas emprendedoras. Dijo que cuando fundó la empresa que se transformó en PayPal tenía –y sigue teniendo– la filosofía de que “la mejor idea gana”. Es decir, la calidad y la novedad de la idea, en vez de los títulos del proponente o la jerarquía de las personas presentes, forman la base para decidir si esta idea vale la pena.

En negocios –sean nuevos emprendimientos o sean empresas tradicionales– es importante destacar el valor de la idea. Cuando decimos “la mejor idea gana”, estamos favoreciendo la idea por encima de los “adornos” de la idea. Claro que hay que estar bien preparados para exponer la idea y proponer cómo se la puede poner en práctica, pero también hay que recordar que las ideas tienen una conexión emocional más allá de ser simplemente una solución o una propuesta de valor.

Bernadette Jiwa, autora de The Fortune Cookie Principle y blogger de Storyoftelling.com, explica que el valor de los activos es finito, pero el valor de lo que representan los activos para uno es exponencial. Aunque el valor puede estar sugerido por una empresa o marca a través de la publicidad o una buena campaña de marketing, el valor real (que es lo que debe interesar a los empresarios), lo crea cada consumidor. Como dice Jiwa, lo que nos interesa es la fortuna y no la galleta china.

Las ideas nos llevan a tener mejores productos o servicios en nuestras organizaciones; sin embargo, las ideas –tal vez porque son intangibles y vienen de fuentes inesperadas– no son cómodas y suelen encontrarse, al menos al principio, con una reacción negativa porque implica un cambio del status quo.

Hay un sinnúmero de artículos, libros y presentaciones de cómo hacer un pitch o cómo presentar –de mejor manera– una idea con la intención de “venderla”. Vender el producto o servicio es fundamental, pero explorar el “por qué” de la compra –desde el punto de vista del cliente– también tiene su valor y puede representar aún más valor para la empresa que la venta en sí misma. Es decir, la razón por la que el cliente compra y la conexión emocional que tenga con la marca o la historia de la marca, dan pistas del comportamiento del cliente para futuras ventas y para desarrollar una comunidad alrededor de su marca.

Elon Musk es conocido como uno de los emprendedores destacados de nuestra época –uno que aboga por “la mejor idea”. Hay valor en los activos intangibles porque representan, como la fortuna de la galleta china, un vistazo de cómo pueden ser nuestras vidas; las soluciones a problemas se concretan y las barreras se superan porque alguien crea en lo intangible, la idea y el cambio del status quo.

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Why Latin America? 5 ways that opportunity knocks


Opportunity: we look for it every day. It’s what our organizations are built upon, it inspires us to create new products and it helps us set our sights and company vision on creating something of value; today’s best new ventures are those that act on an opportunity of changing (even just slightly) the status quo. But if there is opportunity at home, why consider expansion to a region like Latin America?

And that’s exactly the question posed to me this year by a group of executives in a stuffy office in downtown Quito, Ecuador. It’s an all too familiar question according to my colleagues in trade and investment promotion. Partners, clients and sponsors all want to know: “What’s the big deal about Latin America?”

Based on ten years of working in Latin America and conversations with hundreds of investors, entrepreneurs, employees and corporate executives, there are 5 reasons that seem to resurface when we talk about the “why” behind business expansion and opportunities in the region:

1) Heterogeneous
The fact that Latin America is a heterogeneous region gives companies a wide range of possibilities for market entry, collaboration and how they manage their operations. Countries in the region vary in their acceptance of foreign investment and ease of setting up a business representing opportunities for innovation, partnerships, and use of local resources. I have collaborated with international brands that have been wildly successful in this dynamic region – mainly because they didn’t try a monolithic approach to market entry and expansion in the region. BMW Group and their country specific local partnership strategy (usually allowing one well established business group to manage the brand in each country) is one example of a successful approach tailored to specific markets in the Latin American region.

2) Economic Powerhouse
Latin America represents a $4.8 trillion economy with about 600 million citizens. Brazil is seen as an economic powerhouse but there is no denying that rapidly growing Mexico and resource-rich countries like Chile, Colombia and Peru (the Andean Region) also have tremendous buying power. Buying power and growing number of consumers represents an opportunity for new ventures as well as entrenched players.

3) Burgeoning Middle Class
In the last 10 years, 50 Million Latin Americans have joined the middle class and present an opportunity for foreign companies not just as consumers but also as sources of talent from an increasingly well-educated and globally savvy middle class.

Apple is aiming to launch its first retail store in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil by March 2014 in time for the 2014 FIFA World Cup; the rising middle class is driving demand for consumer products and electronics and, in the future, may be a factor in the establishment of more manufacturing plants if public and private sector are able to convince the manufacturing side of business that the talent and opportunity exist in the region.

4) Connected
Mobile penetration in the region is above 100% and Latin America will have nearly 300 million Internet users by the end of 2013 and nearly 400 million by 2017. Public and private sector organizations in Latin American countries are bringing most of their service and product offerings on line making the dynamic region more connected and transparent for doing business. This also brings ample opportunity for brands – from startups to large corporations- to engage with their customers, suppliers and stakeholders.

5) People
Latin American countries have high context cultures meaning there is a real focus on relationship- building and the “context” associated with doing business. While international companies studying their market entry strategy may find these nuances daunting – such as how connected you are – it is an opportunity for foreign firms to start with a clean slate and connect with the right people – and make the right impression – from the very start.

The risk-reward argument in favor of doing business in Latin America doesn’t quite cut it anymore; Latin America used to be touted as an opportunity for brave companies to make large amounts of money: “high risk brings high reward” people would say. But after helping organizations understand, engage and grow their market in Latin America in the last ten years, I have learnt that risk-reward is not the answer to why companies should “bother” with Latin America. Ventures that want to take advantage of opportunities in the region will likely enjoy monetary rewards as well as foster innovation and learning in their organization by diversifying their market, accessing new talent and resources, building a loyal following and creating a strategic contact network.


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Visual Business Inspiration


It is not the ship so much as the skillful sailing that assures the prosperous voyage.
George William Curtis

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The biggest factor in entrepreneurial success is…


Entrepreneurs naturally have a strong belief in their business idea and how they will make an impact on the world; they are driven to find solutions to the problems (inefficiencies, conveniences, why can’t it work this way?) around them. But it’s only when that belief is translated into action and into a product or service that we can use does it become real and successful.

The biggest factor in entrepreneurial success is belief. Of course there are ways – quantitative and qualitative – to predict failure or success of new business ideas but it is belief behind the idea and behind the entrepreneur that gets the idea noticed, funded and adopted by society.

Business plans identify and describe the opportunity and talent behind an idea but it is belief that brings entrepreneurs, investors and market together.

Making the idea work = belief.

Get funded = belief.

Get noticed = belief.

Be successful = belief.

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“Know Thyself”

I am researching “know thyself” for an upcoming project and wanted to share with you why I think this phrase is important in business and in life in general. Why? Because when you know yourself: you know your strengths and weaknesses, you know your likes and dislikes, you know your goals and your dreams; with this knowledge you are able to overcome the day to day, see more strategically, seize opportunities, negotiate better, mitigate risks and make decisions that mean something to the people around you – be it your customers, your family, your friends, your competitors or your nemeses!

Doing meaningful work is associated with knowing yourself. Creation of value comes when knowledge and talent intersects with opportunity to solve a problem that may otherwise not have been solved.

know thyself (knowledge + talent) + opportunity = value

It means that all of us have the opportunity to create something of value; the most difficult part could be knowing thyself.


Know your enemy and know yourself and you can fight a hundred battles without disaster.

~Sun Tzu



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