Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The Dream Team - Utzon and Columbus

I was inspired to write this blog when I visited Sydney Opera House recently. They have a beautiful tour within Sydney Opera house to explain the history and the making of Opera House, the story of how opera house came into being. A global competition was held for designing Opera house. Most reknowned architects and designers participated from all over the world. Most of the entries had shown a roomy, boxy conventional designs, except for a dutch architect Mr. Utzon, which eventually got selected and is standing near harbor bridge for us to see. We all know that the design is very distinctive, innovative etc etc. But what intrigued me was when Mr. Utzon sent this design it was just a sketch. They liked it but nobody knew for sure - including Mr. Utzon whether such a structure could be built. They just embarked on a dream project and eventually fulfilled the dream after several years of delay and several million dollars spent over budget. Mr. Utzon oversaw the project for a very long time but Sydney government had to relieve him of his duties as he could not get job done. Mr. Utzon, despite making such a great design, could never visit his dream project after its completion. The creator of the concept just remained a pure dreamer who could not even see his dream turned to reality because of his poor execution skills.

That reminded me of Columbus - the great for different reason altogether. He had a completely different skill set. He set out to find alternate route to India and accidentally landed in American continent near carribian islands. When he landed he did not know where he was, when he returned he could not explain where he had been. Till he died he believed that he had found an alternate route to Indian subcontinent. In short, he had absolutely no idea about where he has reached but he did complete 3 more voyages to America in next few years. Without knowing big picture he could achieve the same result under complex conditions with impeccable accuracy. Thats what I called implementation excellence.

Look around you. You will easily spot lots of Utzons and Columbuses. The Utzons may tell stories that look infeasible, may appear dreamy and may be easily written off as useless. Thats where the columbus should begin. he should strive hard to get that dream to reality. He may not understand the dream or appreciate the big picture but thats not his job. His job is to implement it without worrying about whether its doable or not.

We find scores of Utzons and Columbuses in any organization. Both of them may struggle to find their own space and succeed in the organization. Somehow, our modern organizations are built for people who are closer to the median on most organizational skills, not for people closer to extremes. Thats where the management skill is required to bring these two complimentary skills to gather and make the dream team. The team that has capability to dream the impossible and then bring to reality against all odds, again and again, the team that consists of Mr. Utzon and Mr. Columbus.
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