April 3, 2015

Montreal’s Three Wise Men

I had the good fortune of spending some time in the great city of Montreal this week, on what many call a “business trip”. Despite the unrelenting Arctic chill that continues to engulf its inhabitants — since late last year, a perpetual blanket of roughly a million degrees below zero — it dawned on me that there are three individuals in particular who continue to warm the omnipresent frigidness of the city. (And I was lucky enough to spend some time with each of them.)

Moore_Dr-Karl-760x427Karl Moore is Professor of Strategy and Organization at McGill University’s Desautels Faculty of Management, having done so since 2000. His specialties center around the business world, specifically globalization, leadership, CEO leadership, and strategy. He has previously taught at leading universities such as Oxford, London Business School, Cambridge, Darden, Cornell, INSEAD, Duke, the Drucker School, the Rotterdam School of Management, IIM Bangalore and Queen’s.

Not too shabby, dare I say.

We met for an hour over an espresso and ‘pain au chocolate’ at his favourite haunt, Cafe Castel, beside the McGill campus. He owns the place, saying hello to every other passerby on the street, and two-thirds of the people in the joint itself. But that’s Karl. He is a wonderful connector, a networking aficionado, and a very deep thinker about all nuances with respect to the organization. He hosts a very popular radio show where he interviews CEO’s and other leaders. His writing and quotations at The Globe and Mail is vast and extensive, with over 800 references. (800!)

Our talk, as usual, covered an array of topics. He was very helpful regarding a couple of strategies for my next book, as well as providing some insight into the content itself. He’s genuinely interested in the plight of the organization, which is probably why I think he’s so cool. He even asked when I might be returning to higher education / academia. That answer, naturally, remains private between the two of us. I’m looking forward to reading his next book, and generally anything that he puts out there on various mediums. I’m a much richer person knowing Karl, and reading or listening in on his various contributions.

Karl is the first of my Montreal wise men, and if you weren’t aware of his writing or intellectual thoughts, be sure to click any of the links above to remedy it. You won’t be disappointed, I assure you.

husbandJon Husband was the next wise man I met up with this week in Montreal. We enjoyed a lovely dinner at a restaurant that anyone would fall in love with at first bite. (I urge you to visit Restaurant Laloux the next time you’re in Montreal – you won’t be disappointed.)

Almost five years ago, I introduced Jon in this very space with a story entitled, “My Network Is My Net Worth”. Indeed, my net worth continues to increase as a result of having Jon in my life. Ever since meeting him in 2009, Jon and I have had far-ranging and multiple conversations about the ‘future of work’ … even when it seemed there was no future. Our dinner this week was no different. His self-described ‘deep generalist’ DNA continues to improve my competence and understanding of the world in which we live.

Jon is a walking encyclopedia, able to rhyme off book after book and their importance, not only on him, but on other authors and organizations that took the intellectual property to enact change or new bodies of knowledge. If you aren’t aware of Jon’s writing, you must at a minimum ‘lunch and learn’ with yourself and review his thoughts on his rather brilliant and self-defined principle known as Wirearchy.

To get you started, Jon defines Wirearchy as:

An emergent organizing principle that informs the ways that purposeful human activities and the structures in which they are contained is evolving from top-down direction and supervision (hierarchy’s command-and-control) to champion-and-channel … championing ideas and innovation, and channeling time, energy, authority and resources to testing those ideas and the possibilities for innovation carried in those ideas.

I even cited it in FLAT ARMYspecifically in Chapter 8, The Collaborative Leader Action Model.

What I appreciated this week when we met up for dinner was his belief in me. He thoughtfully provided a coaching ear during our meal, in a manner that was part provocative, part reminder, and part sanity check. I’m grateful for Jon, and that is why he’s the second of my Montreal wise men.

mintzbergThe third and final wise man who I spent time with in Montreal this week was none other than Henry Mintzberg

You know, the brilliant mind and author of 15 books including classics such as The Rise and Fall of Strategic Planning and Managers Not MBAs. He’s also a colleague of Karl Moore, holding the Cleghorn Professor of Management Studies role at McGill University’s Desautels Faculty of Management.

Henry really needs no introduction. He possesses one of the — if not the top — management minds of the past 50 years. (I’m trying very hard to catch up.)

I’ve spoken with and interviewed Henry on the phone before, but had never been fortunate enough to spend any time with him face-to-face, in any sort of intimate atmosphere. That all changed on Tuesday of this week. How lucky was I. Walking through the streets of the neighbourly district in Montreal known as NDG — Notre-Dame-de-Grâce — we finally stumbled upon what seemed like a makeshift restaurant below ground that served African food. It was delectable. The plantain was out-of-this-world, but so too was our conversation.

Henry had just released his most recent book, “Rebalancing Society: Radical Renewal Beyond Left, Right, and Center“. At 75 years of age, it is arguably one of Henry’s best. (Go buy it.) There is no stopping this man, and I hope he continues writing books like this for another 30 years. The latest centers around the hard-line positions society takes (those on the left, and those on the right) arguing that society actually requires a balance between private, public and plural organizations. He likens it to a 3-legged stool (something I often use in my talks) claiming the stool will fall over if one of the legs are removed, or become out of balance. This was a great discussion to have with him over lunch. I consider myself a lucky man.

Over our walk and during the incredible food we devoured at lunch, I learned Henry is an ardent cyclist, regaling me with stories of biking trips across Europe, Japan and Canada. Given I’ve got a penchant for cycling as well, I didn’t think it was possible to like the man any more than I originally did, but he proved me wrong yet again. I hope we can fit in a cycling excursion this summer, together.

The weather might have been freezing to this follicular-challenged man of West Coast climate living, but the time I spent with Karl, Jon and Henry was scintillating if not blistering as it relates to my learning. These three wise men donated their time, and I was the benefactor. I reckon the combined management and intellectual experience of the three is over 120 years.

I consider myself a blessed man, and consider this post a small form of gratitude in return for their sharing, time and camaraderie.

I won’t ever forget the week. I won’t ever forget Montreal’s Three Wise Men. They have taught me so much. Thank you Karl, Jon and Henry.


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