A Conversation with Jean Gomes
Stay Open When Everyone is Closed
Roundtable discussion: September 17, 2020
Jean Gomes joined us for a small roundtable discussion on 17th September to share his insights and chat to our guests about his boxset episode, “Stay Open When Everyone is Closed.”
He asked, ‘why is it that some organisations are able to remain open to new possibilities and innovate through times of market disruption, when others double down on their existing value propositions in a frenzy of denial?’ In other words, why do most organisations become defensive when they should be open?
Most successful organisations go through a progression to maturity where they build a singular culture that’s highly successful at exploiting their business model – in other words in delivering ‘value today’.’ Very few are able to do this whilst successfully creating ‘value for tomorrow’ which inherently needs to work with the unknown.
Jean draws on the latest breakthroughs in neuroscience to understand how mindset is at the root of confronting uncertainty and making the decisions that can help organisations to break out of defensiveness. Being open when everyone is closed means we have to ask ‘what’s going on?’ rather than constantly feel we need to lead with our expertise. We have to embrace ignorance and not hide from problems we’ve previously failed to confront or even have any idea of how to solve.
Building mindsets that are resilient to the continual uncertainty and disruption of our world of the ‘new’ means – non-linear thinking and acting; breaking the traditional sequential patterns of corporate work, so you can learn and act faster. Recognise that emotions, far being the messy and unwanted noise that interrupt our logic, are an invaluable source of rich data that can help us make sense of complexity; that what goes for customer centricity is often far from anything to do with the customer, but an organisation’s attempt to rack and stack data in a form that makes sense to it. Deep customer empathy means being the customer and seeing the world through their context, motivation and needs. Experimentation and a new relationship with failure is essential for traditional organisations seeking to understand how to create value for tomorrow and create their future culture.
The conversation included a lively exploration about mindset and Covid 19; the fact that this is the first time in living memory that the whole world has shared a common and prolonged threat to its way of life. The group agreed on the depressing lack of leadership across the world and the hope that this may just be the spur for a new generation of leaders to take control of the world’s most pressing problems.
Covid might be shaping a new mindset about the meaning of work that even the CEO cannot ignore because they’ve been equally influenced by it. Will this be an inflection point where we want to take more control over our lives and planet? Will customer lobbies enable a shift of power to the consumer harnessing exactly the same technologies and practices that enable Amazon and Tencent to wield it today
Staying open means confronting our mindset, primarily our emotional responses that in face of uncertainty shut us down. Staying open means asking, ‘what do we really want?’ And staying open means confronting the limits of knowledge and being ok with that.
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Jean is a New York Times bestselling author and trusted advisor to hundreds of CEOs and senior leaders. He works with companies to help them solve the biggest challenges facing their leaders including exponential growth, creating a culture of sustainable intensity and rethinking how organisations function in an uncertainty environment.
Jean lectures at Saïd Business School, University of Oxford, INSEAD’s LEAP leadership programme and The Henley Business School. His clients have included: Google, BBVA, Nike, Coca-Cola, Condé Nast, eBay, GE, Microsoft, IMI, Halma, Sky, Pfizer, Sony, Schneider Electric, The Bank of England, Standard Life Investments, Alexander McQueen, Stella McCartney, BMW, Warner Music and Toyota.
With over 30 years’ experience, Jean has coached over 60 CEOs and senior leaders. He has worked extensively in elite sport including being a performance coach to the board of the Women’s Tennis Association, helping to create a new leadership strategy for the British Olympic community over the past two Olympic cycles and coaches the leadership of the Lawn Tennis Association.
Jean co-authored the New York Times bestseller, The Way We’re Working Isn’t Working, with Tony Schwartz. He is currently writing a new book on the science of building mind-sets.
In 1997, Jean co-founded the think tank, HumanITy, a UK charity that advises governments and NGOs on issues of social exclusion and technology.
Jean initially studied neurochemistry, before moving into performance science and management consultancy. He’s married with two daughters and lives just outside London.