One of the great problems facing us as we age is seeing how many of our icons from all spheres of life perish one by one. Recently Gabriel García Márquez, or more endearingly, ‘Gabo’, went to live in his own particular and eternal ‘Macondo’, a fictional town described in his novel, 'One Hundred Years of Solitude'. Indeed, the depth of his stories aside, it must be said that few writers have managed, as he has, to inspire generations to read for the simple pleasure of reading the enormous quality and richness of his writings.
Beyond the evident artistic value, many of his tales hide life lessons, lessons which might help us to comprehend life in an organisation. Although I’m sure the literary master would not agree I do hope he doesn’t turn in his grave. After all, he left us with an ingenious reply to his hypothetical reprimand: “ideas belong to no-one”.
‘Gabo’ appealed to the capacity of people to continually adapt to the changes in their environment and to the different phases of their existence: “Humans are not born forever the day their mothers give birth to them, but rather life obliges them to be reborn time and time again”. Many organisations suffer from powerlessness when reinventing themselves in the changing environment we all find ourselves in today.
I encourage all of us in our individual organisations to strive to adapt and transform our identity, with an attitude of an open mind and a spirit of regeneration, so as to better deal with the upcoming challenges within the organisation. This spirit is embodied in another memorable quote by García Márquez: “Changing one’s personality is a daily struggle as one rebels against one’s own determination to change; and yet, one continues wanting to be one’s self”. Furthermore, by declaring that “love is eternal while it lasts”, he invites us to not take the longevity of our solutions for granted, nor that of our belief systems, but rather, to innovate and to seek out new inspirations which strengthen our organisation’s position.
We must, therefore, avoid dogmatism and immobilism at all costs in order to successfully compete in the tempestuous and competitive world of today. How right he was when he stated “I feel that I know her less than I actually do”, an assertion which carries with it the implicit acknowledgement that ongoing innovation is needed, obliging us to search for new paths and unlearn all that is not conducive to our future competitiveness.
For most companies in Western economies these days, the only way to compete with companies from emerging countries is differentiation: seeking out those elements which make them unique while balancing the reality of their product or service offering with their clients’ perception of that offer. This is a fabulous challenge which García Márquez managed to achieve in his body of work, when he states that “the first condition of magical realism, as its name indicates, is that it’s absolutely true, though it seems fantastic”.
I have always been amazed at the vitality and joyfulness that radiates from Gabo’s literary works. I believe we must incorporate into our organisations his call for the search for happiness and love as a source of competitive advantage, especially as we approach the end of the ‘economic tunnel’ of these last few years. Finally, with his words of “there is no remedy for happiness”, and “take care of your heart…you’re rotting inside”, he’s imploring us to integrate passion and joy into the strategic agenda of our organisations.
Thanks to the writings of García Márquez we have learnt to daydream and to live unimaginable realities. I trust that all of us who have executive responsibilities are able to lead our lives in the lessons found in his writings, and that we be loyal to our work, repeating in unison with him “I’m free to dream; this is my sole occupation.”