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Poetry instead of PowerPoint in the boardroom

In art, business, China, culture, faith, familiy, Friends, leadership, poetry, Proverbs, quote, Spiritual, Technology, Theology on December 22, 2011 by mstevensrev

A friend and inspiration of mine and many other Nigel Goodwin has an encouraging idea he shares with those creatives in the boardroom.  While spending a few days with Nigel and a group of others at a Kindlings Hearth Event, we had been discussing slippers and lingerie…which is probably an entirely different blog post unless you know Nigel because I’m certain you have discussed similarly unique things with him.  At some point he stops and says, Michael when I do consulting with companies I want to see the humanity brought back into their existence so “When I go into the boardroom I start with poetry rather than PowerPoint.”

While Nigel’s words were inspirational, there was a good part of my heart that sank.  Of course Nigel with his experience and maturity is able to bring those worlds together, he is a uniquely gifted GIFT from God to the rest of us.  As a young, inexperienced, highly ambitious and motivated sales monkey I could not picture that reality, but in that there was hope.  In the short term I embraced bringing the humanity back into those rooms, and noticed results.  With clients such as Google who treat vendors as nameless faceless units and make rational decisions upon the data that has been thoroughly scrubbed for accuracy, it is not easy unless you are intentional.  Though I noticed the more human meetings became, the more laughter there was, the more people longed to have lunch together afterward and there was a small patch of green growing in this area.

That would have been a miracle in mind and the truth be told only God could be responsible for bringing life and humanity to a Google boardroom:)  And yet I had an even bigger surprise yesterday and am grateful that I had the eyes to see what I had stumbled into.  This year has been filled with job transition and the turmoil related to that change.  Thankfully I am celebrating two months with a new company that I am really enjoying and excited about.  Yesterday I found myself in Cupertino at our office with the head of a Business Unit discussing recent shifts within the company and how we are to move forward.  We were setting out a goal for the next three months and clearly came up with the foci and metrics to measure success, yet we had not named our goal.  So I ask the Business Unit head what is mantra for the group.

A grin came across his face and he said that he has a slide on that which he presented.  While finding it on his computer his demeanor shifted from the confident young leader to shy.  He said that often these are the hardest ideas and seem really good in private but are silly in public.  I felt like I was on holy ground.  Then he presented this image to us. Thankfully he did not have the English translation because he was able to share with us more context which made the word so much more than the translation expresses!  It is a quote from Confucius which most people from China know very well, roughly translated it means, “To put the world in order we must first set our hearts to right thing, to then focus on craftsmanship, to then care for family and team, and then the world.”  I have begin to read commentaries and other translations of this proverb and needless to say it is very profound.

After listening to the explanation I was asked what I thought.  I said it was amazing, the full extent of why I think it speaks to me will take an evening and a meal together but in short is universal and human, capturing and relating what it means for us to be ourselves.  How beautiful to have the opportunity to start with ‘getting our hearts right’ with my co-workers, I desperately need people around me who are concerned with that because it has a direct effect on everything in my life, including my ‘numbers’.  I said, “It is deeply human.”  Then on a level even more deep my coworker asked me with an amazing amount of vulnerability in his eyes and voice, “Is it too Chinese?”  The weight of that question would be hard for me to describe in this blog post, but in short it felt like through this poem/proverb I was being asked if we were all people in a shared struggle with what it means to live in this world.  Again I said it, “It is human, and with roots from China it is perfect for our company.”  There was some more discussion but one of the action items we took away was to send out an audio file of the poem so that the American’s on the team can learn how to say it…as it is mean to be said.

We took a break and before we started again, I told the team about Nigel.  This wonderful friend who brings poetry into boardrooms instead of PowerPoint, and I said he would be very proud of the discussion we had around a poem.  In this I cannot express my gratitude….

P.S. For those of you who haven’t seen the TED Talk related to dance and powerpoint please check it out, this is very dear to my heart.

Dance vs. powerpoint, a modest proposal: John Bohannon on TED.com


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One Response to “Poetry instead of PowerPoint in the boardroom”

  1. Wow!

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