1975. A famous pianist had a concert in Cologne Opera House. But one thing happened, which made him very upset and he almost gave up: the piano wasn’t the one he asked. And the problem was worse than he thought: it was out of tune and some of the keys weren’t even working. But the girl who invited him promised to get a fine tune for the instrument. The night has come, he barely had time to eat and the time spent in his car driving for 6 hours obligated him to wear a collar because of the back pain. It was 11:30pm, after another concert. The auditorium was packed with 1.400 people. Then he started playing in the so called “abomination” piano. First, a soothe rhythm, using the middle keys of piano, avoiding the lateral highest and low notes, which were really bad. The piano pedals were not working too. He had to stood up to pound very hard the keys in search for the sound and give reverberance do the whole theater. Forty-three years after the fact, The Köln Concert remains Keith Jarrett’s solo masterpiece and stands as the major highlight of both his and ECM’s recorded output. This concert became the best-selling piano recording in history. Why he was there? Because the girl who invited him to play stood in the rain begging for him (while inside his car, ready to leave) to stay.
“I have a PhD of being poor, hungry and determined, says Richard Montañez. He was working in the 70’s as a janitor in a company when a bunch of biscuits fell from the assembly line. As the main process tells to throw it away, he asked the person in charge to take that food and eat later. He took it home and powdered it with chilli. He learned that the CEO of the company was asking everyone to take ownership of the company and decided to pitch his idea. With a step-by-step provided by a book from a library, a $3 tie he didn’t know how to use, he entered the room of executives and turned his idea into a cultural phenomena and billion dollar business. This is the story of the flaming hot Cheetos.
What these stories have in common with companies that are trying to innovate? Most of the time, companies struggle to innovate. As Peter Drucker says, there are ideas that really come from a flash of genius, but many of them are a result of a conscious and purposeful search for innovation opportunities in few areas. Although the complexities of innovation process are mostly related to the focus, knowledge and talent, it cannot be done without grit, commitment, which are tailored in the minds and hearts of people.
Companies are eager to engage with innovative thinking because many of them raised heavy walls of bureaucracy, rules and culture. Technology has been used as a tool to break those heavy walls, especially because it gives a competitive advantage and it’s good to the cash flow. People are afraid of using technology tools because it changes behaviour and the routines at the very basic level. When it comes to protect their jobs, salaries and reputation, most people will function as immune systems to innovative actions.
What the pianist learned from his weird piano is that the effort to survive such mess would pay off if he applies passion mixed with knowledge. What must have passed in Jarret’s mind? An oblique path, never navigated. The then-janitor-now-VP crossed a bridge without asking for permission and established a way of serving the client’s taste with a different product. It skyrocket sales and created an unexpected culture.
Turns out that the obvious path is a bloodbath ocean full of sharks. Thousands of companies are afraid to look in the eyes of their markets because the competition is at their heels. The courageous ones are now looking into communities and their struggles. Many of the “left behinders” are waiting for the government which may not come; kids are suffering and struggling with education. Climate change is off the charts. There’s an oblique path that can be taken. And these new rules have been warned by Larry Fink, the CEOs of the biggest investment firm of the world, who is cheering for a new way of doing business. Hamdi-Ulukaya, an entrepreneur, has been doing this before this warning. He shared some of his anti-CEO playbook hints. In his words, here are the rules: “Instead of asking “What kind of tax breaks and incentives can you give me?” The reality is, businesses should go to the struggling communities and ask, “How can I help you?” The new way of business: communities. Go search for communities that you can be a part of. Ask for permission. And be with them, open the walls and succeed together. It is about accountability. Today’s playbook says: “the CEO reports to the corporate boards”. In my opinion, CEO reports to consumer.
And this is the difference between the return on investment and return on kindness. This is the difference between profit and true wealth. And it can happen everywhere.” It’s time for the chief executive officer to step down and open up to a new CEO, the Community Exciting Officer.
Drucker, Peter. 1985. The Discipline of Innovation. Harvard Business Review, 2002.
The Flamin’ Hot Cheetos movie: How a Frito-Lay janitor created one of America’s most popular snacks, as seen in May 29th, 2019
How Keith Jarrett Defied The Odds To Record His Solo Masterpiece, ‘The Köln Concert’, as seen in May 29th, 2019
Hamdi-Ulukaya, as seen in May 29th, 2019
Larry Fink 2019 Letter to CEOS
Saiani, Edmour. As transformações organizacionais e o novo modelo de CEO que vai fazer acontecer. As seen in May 28th, 2019
Schawbel, Dan. Nov 2017. As seen in May 26th, 2019