In The Power of One, David recounts attending a graduation where Tom Wolfe gave the commencement address. Wolfe’s theme was that “that the world has frequently been changed profoundly through words, offered by an individual without an institution to back them up.” As an individual who lives in the world of words who does not have an institution to back him up, David inspired by this concept. David also was reminded ”of Peter Drucker’s often quoted message that, in business and elsewhere, nothing ever happens except when it is created by ‘a monomaniac on a mission’.”
Alone this is a powerful message. But the next post, The Keynote Speech Charade, drove the point home. David explains that he receives many offers to be a keynote speaker, but that many of the organizations requesting him want him to be “entertaining, informative, stimulating and motivating.” Effective, however, is another issue entirely. According to David:
What they don’t seem to want is anything that specifically addresses the way they run their firm or the real-world changes they are really trying to make. They don’t, it seems, want anything that appears challenging, provocative, controversial or potentially divisive. They don’t REALLY want to address the topics they ask their speakers to talk about.
For example, I recently received an enquiry asking me to speak about the topic of a book of mine, TRUE PROFESSIONALISM, and convey to the audience the importance of living up to the organization’s “sacred values.” They wanted me to be inspiring. However, when I asked if I could take votes at the meeting as to how well everyone thought the organization was currently living it’s values, the organizers were terrified – “No, that would stir up things too much!” they said.
David uses this story to discuss the value that organizations miss out on because they lack the courage to make their meetings effective. I was reminded of the story about the couple who was discussing therapy. She wanted it to be effective, knowing that it would be painful along the way. He only wanted it to be painless. Because they couldn’t agree on the goal, the lowest common denominator trumped.
After reading these two posts, I was left to wonder how many organizations are willing to confront the discomfort the one must endure to move forward. How do you instill a willingness to embrace change as a welcome and necessary, indeed critical, part of an organization’s soul? Can Drucker’s Monomaniac On A Mission succeed in changing a staid culture? And if so, at what price?