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Seeing the trees for the wood

In her excellent biography of Soren Kierkegaard, Clare Carlisle uses the notion of a train journey to describe Kierkegaard’s life and work, with him alternatively sitting forward and rearward facing. The view you get of the passing landscapes of fields, towns, people and places are very different and the philosophy of the viewer are in turn also altered.

Imagine two people sitting opposite each other in the railway compartment looking out of the window, which looks out on the world of opportunities they have between them. The innovative, motivated but inexperienced person faces forward, excited and not overwhelmed by whats ahead, has recently been asked to work with the more experienced, steady and more successful person sitting opposite him. The experienced person has built large projects, developed one of the largest companies in the world and has a trusted brand that’s a household name. He sees large farms, forests and cities as his usual business and is successful on repeating on what his company has done in the past. The more inexperienced, forward facing persons see’s new opportunities coming ahead through the window and looks at specific trees, parts of roads and houses and sees how they can be improved quickly by his smaller, but more innovative business.

The challenges these two people face on their joint endeavour go beyond some of the practicalities of sharing office space, working together in a coordinated way and understanding each others language, because there is also a very different philosophy in the way they work. Combining both their views from the window will form the basis of success. Smaller projects, that the experienced person may have missed, will form the basis on gaining ground on new technology, which in turn will shape the larger, more traditional projects which are the mainstay of the bigger company. Injecting energy and enthusiasm into this joint venture will need to be coupled with the experience and structure that’s needed for success.

For the individuals, the approach and structure of the way they work is also very different, but both loyal and supportive of these traditions and expectations on what they do and why. However, it’s not only their view from the window is different, looking forward or looking back, the what they see in terms of opportunity and possible success. It will be these that will determine how much they enjoy working together going forward.

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