Brains Is All You Need… Or was that Love?

“The scene was memorable. I was sitting in a Singapore ballroom when the British head of a global oil company told his top managers worldwide about what they needed to succeed in their company in the future. Like the other people listening, I squirmed in anticipation of the usual cliches about audacious goals, working in teams, and putting customers first.

“Brains,” he said. “You need brains.” And he sat down. How unexpected. How refreshing. How appropriate.”

Excerpt from “Kaleidoscope Thinking : Turning Brainpower Into Business Innovation” by Rosabeth Moss Kanter, a Harvard Professor who also just published the Laughing Your Way to the Bank article on HBR.

I worked for this oil company. And I was fortunate enough to personally meet John Browne, the former CEO of BP, at Stanford over thirteen years ago. He was bold,  ran a tight ship, made some risky bets in Russia that created a colossal new venture, and on his watch the company did great until it started slipping. Unavoidably (or perhaps not so) the fact of the matter is that his reign ended. His “brains” imperative alone was not enough to keep him or the company going as strong.

One thing alone is never enough. And one shoe never fits all. People perceive, think, feel, react and communicate differently. But, we all know that. So, what is the point of all the “stuff” we are studying, the expert advice we pay for, the lectures, the academics, the counseling, the consulting and – yes, coaching is  included in this list – so many of us crave? Can I be presumptuous enough to give an answer?

Sure I can, but you have to make your own mind in the end. And in my opinion, this is what it is all about. It is about possibilities, different points of view, opening of the mind and acceptance of the divergent, the different, the peculiar. Conversations produce ideas. Exchanges generate depth and digging and explorations of all sorts. And through stimulation the brain gets its fuel – maybe that’s what John Browne meant when he said that brains is all you need to succeed…

Or not?

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