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Berlin Brief

Taking Risks Takes Practice

April 30, 2015
Cynthia Young EMBA Participant Article

It has been said that when we are brought into a new environment we somehow discover a new perspective.

In attaining this perspective it is also said that you gain a wider frame of vision and an expanded conscious. But in order to do so you need to do a number of things to occur. You need to get there; you need to be at a place in which that vision can be expanded, and not chemically. You require a moment in time from which you can also look back from where you came and hence the perspective is focused.

As I departed today from my first two weeks at The Berlin School of Creative Leadership I attempted to look back and see if I had a new perspective, to reflect on what I had accomplished during those two weeks and to see from where I had come from. This proved challenging as the early hour of my departure combined with the fuzzy mind of my last pints with my comrades clouded my head. Maintaining focus was going to be a workout.

These thoughts came to me as I began to read the FTWeekend edition. I scanned the headlines and avoided the horrifying hyper analysis of the Germanwings airliner disaster and found myself in the heart of a Commentary & Analysis piece by their Sao Paulo correspondent, Samantha Pearson on the man behind the latest merger between Kraft & Heinz purchase. Immediately, my case study enabled mind began to read in eagerness.

A sense of awareness for the flow in the article came over me. I read and re-read paragraphs trying to see what the author was leading me towards Jorge Paulo’s leadership style. What had he done that inspired creative leadership I asked myself? What value had he brought to his ongoing success? I found myself wanting to validate the P/E ratio of Kraft, perhaps scan their latest balance sheet to see if they had hidden assets or millions held up in ‘goodwill’. The writer spoke of his brutal efficiency being his key to success. His financial efficiencies exemplified by a ritual of shaving, a daily habit that cannot be undone. I assumed it was his financial geniuses that got him in the position he was in. Would Professor Olivier Tabatoni raise his hands in disgust at my simplified view or would I be commended for getting to the heart of the story? And it struck me as I questioned these facts. I had come from a place that didn’t seek these answers about leadership styles and financial facts. I had questioned little about the raison d’etre of leadership. I had aspired and dreamed of the opportunities it would deliver but never had I reflected on the question of “how” one lead. Is this the new perspective I have gained? The newfound perspective to question, to seek answers, to want for a better understanding of why something happened.

The last line in the article quotes Jorge Paulo Lemann as saying; “In life you have to take risks and the only way is to practise,” he has said. “I practised in the waves, in tennis and then in business.” and it is this quote that gave me the greatest perspective of what I had learned.

So my dear classmates, this is what I learned in school these last two weeks. That the markets are not the markets, that learning begets learning…and that it is really just the practice of learning that we must do everyday. Learning seems like the practice of asking ‘how’ combined with the curiosity to find out why. The simple reminder that the brain is a muscle and that the practice of learning is a healthy practice to take on for that muscle to remain fit. Like, Mr. Lemann we must also see what we’ve been practicing for in our lives all along. Perhaps to gather our own strengths by learning what we practice daily in order to see how we grow stronger and wiser. I learned a tremendous about in those two weeks but the perspective I gained was remarkable. I fully realized that it doesn’t come easily to anyone even the Balkan King of Saachti and Saachti taught us that even when you get to the top of Everest, climbing back down is just as challenging. You have to work at it, daily like Michael Keller’s extreme dedication to remaining unplugged in a plugged in world. I realize that it isn’t a game of perfecting a craft, that I hadn’t gone to school in order to hit some lofty goal. I know those of you exercise fanatics likely understand this lesson far better than I do but for me this was a mind expanding two weeks and I will never have the same perspective as I had arriving as I do leaving. Life will go forward and I will likely forget to question, reluctantly fall creature to the daily habits of getting shit done but I am ‘nudged’ by the two weeks. A fellow classmate captured this ‘nudge’ in life spectacularly in our group presentation. These nudges don’t necessarily change our directions, sometimes they gently push us back on course and other times they stretch us further from the everyday to discover a new perspective. The practice of risk taking, the practice of asking ‘how’, the practice of letting go of control and the practice of being open to learn.

Practice on fellow classmates we are in for a fabulous ride!


Cynthia Young

Professor and Program Coordinator
Humber School of Media and Creative Arts