The Importing and Exporting Role
I love this exchange from this Dearlove & Crainer Management-Issues interview with business strategy professor, consultant and author Richard D’Aveni. Asked about how relevant his academic insight is to real business situations, he zeros in on exactly the thing that spanning leaders – that is, leaders who are able to span multiple industries, disciplines, or cultures – can do which makes them important and influential, and which ultimately makes them even better leaders…
Why should executives, beset with all this turbulence and change, listen to someone like you, an Ivy League Professor – Joe Bowtie, if you like? How do you understand their world?
That’s a good question — executives should always ask their advisors that. I think the main reason is because I live in their world. OK, so I spend some time teaching at this idyllic place up here in the woods of New Hampshire. [The Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College.] And I tell the students and executives who come here these stories about strategy.
But where do you think the stories come from?
They come from my consulting with hundreds of companies, from my research. They’re coming from practical experience, and the way I learn is by talking to lots of managers, finding out what their concerns are, what’s happening in their lives, what’s affecting their businesses. So it’s really a story that doesn’t just pop out of nowhere.
What I am is an importer and exporter of ideas. I import ideas from one marketplace to another. And I can see general trends that the average manager doesn’t see, because I see what’s going on in one industry and another industry and another industry, and I pull them together. [underline emphasis added – CG]
And that gives you a different perspective?
That’s right. That importing and exporting role is really what I do that managers can’t do for themselves. I can’t know an industry better than a seasoned industry exec can. He or she has a lifetime of experience in it. What I can do is import and export much better than they can.
I don’t live every day in just one world, but I show up often enough to find the right information, and I can take it somewhere else and I can sell it, just like any merchant would, travelling from one nation to another. And my ability to see those trends and to transport them across industry borders is really what I’m good at.