I wish I had a pencil and a piece of paper

I have a daughter, Brittany, who is currently loving life as a professional illustrator. But when she was 5 years old, we took her to Chattanooga, Tennessee and visited a popular attraction, Ruby Falls. The 145-ft. falls are in a cave, so the trip down builds anticipation. Upon arrival to the viewing area, the lights are turned out (which in a cave means pitch black) and music begins playing. Then the lights are turned back on and the falls are bathed in rich colors.

Amidst all the music and hoopla, I overheard my daughter simply say, “I wish I had a pencil and a piece of paper.”

She’s an artist and the majesty of what she was seeing, in her mind, could only be captured if she could but put it down on paper.

A similar event happened to me this past week at IBM Connect 2013.

I have always had a passion for the promotion of creativity in people and in our businesses. I have long believed that people are the center of our business and to connect with people we must reach them on their emotional level. I believe pictures are more powerful than words. I believe stories are more impactful than statements of fact. I believe in focusing on the “why” more than the “how” and “what”.

As I sat through the Connect Opening General Session, I was well impressed with the thought and product leadership being expressed on stage. Our product teams have done an awesome job in putting us in the market lead and our management team is working hard to make sure we leverage that leadership to help our customers succeed. And it is that leadership that has secured Kenexa as part of the IBM family.

When Rudy Karsan, Founder of Kenexa, took the stage…that was when I had my “I wish I had a pencil and a piece of paper” moment. As it turns out, I did. I had my iPad and Twitter, so I immediately reported on what I was hearing.

rudy tweet

Here is what he had to say:

What’s the most powerful computer in the world? Us. Our mind. We are the best. We are the best computer in the world. And when you think about smarter workforce, it really begins with us as individuals.

Take a moment and think about the most engaging moment in your life. What memory does it bring back? Does it bring a smile to your face? Does it allow you to become bigger than who you are? This most powerful computer in the world is also driven by emotion and feelings. And the notion of smarter workforce is to fully engage that mind. It gives us meaning, it gives us purpose. As we get engaged, we become bigger. We become better parents. We become better partners. We become better community members.

Smarter workforce is about making the world a better place. And on this journey, the platform on which we are creating this is remarkable. It’s a journey that we are all going to travel, to a place we don’t know exists yet. But what we do know is that every step of this journey will allow us to become bigger as people. It will allow our organizations to become richer in the way they serve their communities.

As a species, we are a very social species. We love to attract, we are just finding new ways to get there. And in the different ways we have to get there, we will continue to be engaged.

And at the start I said think about a moment you were fully engaged. If it was at work, you were in the right job. You had the right environment. You had the right tools at your disposal. You had the right team. That’s what Smarter Workforce is all about. It’s about us becoming bigger than who we are, how we perform and how we engage all our fellow co-workers, our larger communities, our customers, the entire world. And as we play this out, as we go on this journey, I am highly confident that the platform we are going to build this on is going to be extremely rich and fruitful because of your input.

Rudy took us to an emotional place “think back to the most engaging moment in your life”. He didn’t mention architecture or speeds and feeds. Instead he cast a vision of being “bigger than who we are”. And the bigger was not about revenue, it was about being a better person, a better parent, a better community member, a better corporate citizen.

Having read his book “We: How to increase performance and profits through full engagement”, I know that he is not overlooking the business measurements that we all too often focus on. Instead, he has recognized the importance of reaching people on the emotional level, and then he’s able to have them join him on his journey to a Smarter Workforce.

I have my pencil and paper (iPad and social network) and I’m loving this journey.

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