Company, Country, Life: Thoughts for dialogue, by Sabin Azua

Company, Country, Life: Thoughts for dialogue, by Sabin Azua

The book you are holding in your hands is a compilation of articles originally published over the last 10 years in a variety of media. They constitute a series of observations, opinions, and topics for dialogue that I have endeavoured to share with readers.

This current project was born of a conversation with Carmen Larrakoetxea, the then head of the periodical El Economista - Basque Edition. I had just published my 60th article which happened to coincide with my 60th birthday, and we were both attracted to the idea of celebrating the two anniversaries with the publication of this book. Later, we considered the option of making a broader compilation from the various media where I had been a contributor, and thus the project continued to grow. I wish to thank Carmen for her initiative which has materialised in this publication.

I have always felt the need to express myself in writing. As a student I got my start writing articles for the periodical ‘Horizontes’, at Tepeyac School in Mexico, and later, I was one of the founders of ‘The Masterman Times’ which started out at IESE Barcelona Business School. Even today, when faced with a blank page, I feel a certain thrill searching for the muses, usually hidden away, and like an alchemist, turning inspiration into words replete with meaning. Finding, discovering rather, the precise words to express ideas and feelings, and seeing how they flow in a text which is in constant discourse with me is indeed a marvellous, invigorating sensation. As one of my most admired writers, Gabriel García Márquez, puts it, “The Blessed Mania of Telling Stories.”

As a writer, I am not very methodical and conscientious. The majority of the articles before you were written in one sitting, practically never revised by myself. The editing, is the part played by Pili Kaltzada and some colleagues at B+I Strategy who made comments to correct the original. I am guided by what Pablo Neruda said: “Once you’ve written and have published something, it ceases to be yours, instead, each reader ends up formulating their own personal version.” Their contribution certainly enhances the original version.

The book emerges from an obsession with sharing opinions, observations and life experiences to aid individual reflection, dialogue with the author, and with other people. However, they do not put forward any great truths, rather, they are intended to be sincere opinions about general aspects of society.

Some readers would be surprised at the diversity of topics covered in certain articles, applying aspects of daily life to business reality. There are observations that go from the magical realism of Gabriel García Márquez to Michael Porter’s business competitiveness; from Johan Cruyff’s lessons to the social thinking of Joseph Stiglitz; from a Bruce Springsteen concert to Gary Hamel’s strategic vision.

The following articles reflect the multi-faceted nature of human life. Each one of us is a compendium of facets which give meaning to our existence. I personally believe that we can experiment in, and learn from, any area of life. That is why these articles contain numerous analogies from such eclectic topics as literature, music, football, business, economy, education, politics, social cohesion; and especially, poetry. I attempt to set up my passions and interests as a stage upon which the articles can proverbially dance.

Compiled with great excitement and expectation, the publication you are now holding is a modest exercise in dialogue with freely expressed, unadorned thought. The articles in this book have been organised into three major themes: Country, Company, and Life, to facilitate reading and to guide the reader towards their main personal interests in a non-linear fashion. I am passionate about my country and all things Basque which I learned to love from a distance during my first 18 years of life in Mexico. My whole career has been in business consulting in the area of competitiveness while receiving vital inspiration from the arts, politics, social movements, education, music, and football.

Each section features a contribution by people with whom I have close personal and working ties; individuals who graciously accepted my request for their input. The format consists of written prologues at the beginning of each of the three sections, which enrich the reader’s interpretation of my ensuing articles. Finally, illustrations in the form of thematically linked paintings have been kindly offered by artistic business professionals for inclusion as well.

I wanted the three prologues to be written by people who are close to me and with whom I share not only a friendship, but also opinions on a great many questions. With former Basque Premier, Juan José Ibarretxe, whose prologue was a must, I share a vision of our Basque Nation in matters both national and social, a vision which I have attempted to express throughout this body of written work. Of course, my brother Jon’s prologue had to have a place. He has been an example to me throughout my life, and we share a conviction and vision for business, and for our country. Finally, my friendship and professional co-operation with journalist Pili Kaltzada, forged by means of articles and discussions over morning coffee, is reflected in the prologue for the section entitled ‘Life’.

In order to break up the visual monotony of the written word, a prologue followed by articles, it occurred to us to liven it up with an illustration in the form of a painting selected by the painters themselves. The novelty is that these contributors, rather than being renowned primarily for their artistic career, are in fact first and foremost business executives of considerable professional trajectory. I admire them both for their work and their humanity, and I believe they are, and should be, an example for all of us in our professional lives.

Therefore, some readers may be surprised to see artwork by Felipe Prósper (ex-President of IDOM); Javier Gutiérrez (ex-Executive Director of Vidrala); and Miguel Lazpiur (ex-President of Lazpiur Hermanos, and Confebask-The Basque Federation of Business Owners). Our intention was to pay homage to those people who directed the growth of their respective organisations, and that of the people within those organisations. They exemplify an ethos which has been lauded time and again in the articles of this book.

I wish to thank all the above-mentioned people who have disinterestedly put their two cents’ worth into this publication, and all those readers in these last 10 years who have who have sent me commentaries, ideas and challenges to the articles. This reinforces my dedication to communication and dialogue as a means of learning and personal growth. Penultimately, I could not forget my colleagues at B+I Strategy who have contributed to enhancing the texts as part of an ongoing effort to improve communication.

It is my hope that you, the reader, find this book of interest, as well as useful. From this moment forward you are its owner, although I do not claim responsibility for the thoughts which may be provoked in your mind by reading it. I do hope, however, that some ideas may stir something, even something concealed in the recesses of your mind, and give you something to think or even dream about, in which case, I shall consider that the mission of this publication has been accomplished.

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Sabin Azua

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