Benoit, a good friend of mine was kind enough to send me a book he said would provide food for thought. The title is Closework and I found it incredibly engaging and definitely interesting. It's a business book that is woven into a novel or perhaps the opposite. The authors wanted to write a different business book that would not be "damn academic". Well, this one is not and it certainly feels like very practical stuff from the real world out there.
The authors argue that what ultimately makes a difference in business is the willingness to be in the field with the people who actually do the work and to facilitate their activity. What Closework is about is the absolute opposite of what big strategy consulting houses do for a living, i.e. engaging with Boards and senior management on consulting projects based on apparently flawless thinking. Flawless but not necessarily right in the real world out there, because at the end of the day it is people actually doing the work who hold the keys to sustainable competitive advantage.
Well, I kind of like that! I believe in the importance of people as key contributors to lasting success. And you know what? The places and "big names" for which one decides to work (or not) are not good predictors of one's ability to contribute. So much for old-world criteria for selecting talent.
I agree with most of what Closework asserts and I can say that working with people in the field has been the common characteristic of every single successful endeavor of mine. At the same time, I feel it is important to keep watching the world, to keep learning (and unlearning) "theoretical stuff" and see how they can be actually applied and to be building actionable visions of the future. The combination of sound thinking and effective action is a key to lasting success in business in my opinion. I have not found my ideal mix yet, but I am working on it... in field conditions!