A unique perspective on the business world and its potential for transformation. By delving into the intricacies of the dream factory, the narrative sheds light on the dangers of complacency and the importance of staying attuned to the ever-changing external landscape. It emphasizes the need for businesses to embrace awakening and profound transformation, recognizing that true management lies in inspiring individuals to envision new possibilities and strive for a reality that has not yet been realized. This thought-provoking exploration serves as a wake-up call for businesses, urging them to break free from the confines of routine and unlock their full creative potential.
Last week, my journey led me to the distant shores of Singapore, soaring through the skies aboard an airplane. Some would argue that such an act is detrimental to both our planet and my own well-being, particularly at the tender age of sixty, as if I were a fragile structure teetering on the edge of collapse. But I refuse to succumb to their whispered warnings. The airplane becomes my haven, where slumber envelops me effortlessly, my mind adept at assimilating dreams.
Dream absorption, a peculiar ability to merge the stimuli of the surrounding world seamlessly into the fabric of one’s dreams, ensuring an undisturbed sleep. A flight, however, bombards the senses with an unending stream of impressions, heightening the significance of this art. It was during my voyage to Singapore that I experienced a peculiar dream, one that compels me to pen this narrative, for it holds significance beyond its nocturnal origins—a tale interwoven with the tapestry of businesses.
Within the realm of this dream, I found myself perched in the rickety confines of the last cart, a weathered vessel trailing behind a swift electric tractor reminiscent of those bustling about in airports. The origin of my presence eludes me, as dreams possess a whimsical nature, impervious to the constraints of causality and time. Suddenly, or perhaps the dream commenced precisely at that moment, my mind cleverly inserted an earlier segment, reversing the tides of time. The cart jolted into motion, lurching violently across squares, verdant fields, and nameless streets, its destination shrouded in mystery. I clung desperately to anything within reach, fearing I would be unceremoniously cast into the void. The harrowing journey seemed interminable, and amidst the chaos, I contemplated…
But then, I awoke. The airplane traversed a region of turbulence, its erratic movements shattering the sanctuary of slumber.
I pondered the abrupt halt to my dream absorption, thrust into consciousness. In that moment, it seemed as if the persistent turbulence had exceeded my mind’s capacity to conjure soothing scenarios, forcing wakefulness upon me. Such moments beckon contemplation. Yet, there exist other catalysts for awakening.
Once, during our time in a bygone dwelling, Belgium bore witness to an earthquake. At first, my dream absorbed its tremors, only for my mind to jolt me awake, recognizing the imminent peril. In such circumstances, persisting in somnolence would be an imprudent course of action. When slumber grips and danger looms, seeking refuge in dreams becomes a foolish endeavor. To ensure our safety, we must rouse ourselves from slumber and act within the realm of reality.
In the annals of time, I once held a managerial position within a company, a cog in the machinery of an American multinational. A company brimming with dreams, incessantly churning out visions. As managers, it was our duty to safeguard those dreams, to absorb the disquieting signals from the outside world, and, above all, never succumb to wakefulness. The company slumbered, and its business model became a realm of reverie, etched in stone through scorecards, KPIs, and a labyrinth of reports.
Alas, such was the fate that befell Kodak and Nokia. Chernobyl witnessed a similar somnambulist existence, as did the automobile industry, retailers, banks, insurers, energy providers, and even our governments. All entrapped within an eternal dream, while ambitious managers toiled to sustain the illusion, outperforming their predecessors, adroitly assimilating the external signals clamoring for attention. They excelled at upholding a mirage, managing the preservation of an artifice. For a time, I, too, excelled in this role. Yet, none dared to vocalize the truth—that something was amiss beyond those hallowed walls, that the business model had lost its relevance, and our wellspring of inspiration had long run dry.
When scenarios falter and external signals demand awakening, slumber offers no solace. From among the guardians of dreams, voices must emerge, resonating with a clarion call to action. These heralds of wakefulness, the bearers of the “wake-up call,” declare the necessity of change. Mere slogans of “Simpler, Better, Faster, and Together” do not suffice. Yes, they must shout, for awakening is an arduous endeavor, especially for those who, like Sleeping Beauty, have spent their lives ensnared in perpetual slumber.
Within the realm of dream factories, artifice and deception cloak their façades, adorned with counterfeit narratives spun by external consultants—captivating tales of customers and employees embellished with resonant values. But beware, for I perceive beyond their enchanting veneer, compelled by necessity to do so. Having traversed their inner workings intimately, I penetrate the veil without hesitation.
Endowed to us in the late ’90s were the values of “Simpler, Faster, Better, Together.” At first glance, what could be amiss with such aspirations? Precisely. “Simpler” served as a euphemism for “reduced resources, cost-efficiency.” “Faster, Better” demanded that we partake blindly in the rat race, forsaking introspection and blindly pursuing processes to tick boxes, all in pursuit of coveted bonuses. Falling short of this “Simpler, Faster, Better” dogma or daring to question its trajectory exposed us to the risk of being cast out from the embrace of “Together.” Such values only reinforced the dehumanizing regime.
The echoes of their fate reverberate through the annals of the automotive industry, retailers, banks, insurers, energy providers, and within the corridors of power. Slumber, pervasive and consuming, ensnares them—an eternity of dreams. Ambitious managers strive to sustain the dream, surpassing their predecessors, adroitly absorbing the external signals that threaten wakefulness. They skillfully manage the perpetuation of an illusion. For a prolonged period, I excelled within this realm. Alas, none dared to vocalize the truth—that there is palpable disturbance beyond the realm of slumber, that the business model has lost its relevance, that the scenarios devised are mere palliatives, and inspiration has eluded us for decades.
When scenarios crumble and external signals clamor for awakening, slumber proves a futile strategy. Beyond the guardians of dreams, the world requires heralds—the bearers of the wake-up call, those who declare change as imperative. And not change for the sake of change, but profound transformation. Yet, awakening is no simple task when one has slumbered akin to Sleeping Beauty, their entire existence governed by somnolence.
In 2003, the realization struck me that raising my voice, effecting change, particularly as a senior manager, was an endeavor destined for futility. Thus, I chose to abandon the dormant vessel. The symphony played on, with or without my presence. I sought solace in the embrace of a competitor where wakefulness was not only permitted but encouraged—a realm where we responded collectively and vigilantly to the world beyond, unlike our counterparts who wandered aimlessly like a herd of insentient sheep ensnared in their own dreamlike reality.
Since 2010, I have traversed the globe, assuming the role of a living wake-up call, for much awaits rousing from slumber.
I am granted the privilege of hosting numerous dream-factory companies for one to two days, where I witness their waning ability and motivation to absorb the outside world, to sustain the reverie. They yearn to awaken, for after decades of slumber, rousing from this stupor is no simple feat. In this endeavor, I extend my aid.
I am no prince on a white steed, bestowing miraculous awakenings with a tender kiss. Nor do I bellow or scream, resorting to buckets of ice-cold water. No, such theatrics are unnecessary. Instead, I gently awaken them through storytelling, and if necessary, I may utter a resounding “BOO.”
Such is my approach, subtle yet evocative, provoking thought and stirring the slumbering souls to reclaim their consciousness. Awakening beckons, and I stand ready to guide them into the realm of wakefulness, where profound transformation awaits.
I am familiar with the inner workings of the safe dream factory. I understand the mechanics of dream absorption, the struggle of waking up, and the looming danger that threatens to strip away all stability. It is precisely from this experience that I can truly offer assistance. I know that awakened individuals are capable of envisioning and creating much more than mindlessly executing tasks. That is why I conclude my sessions with the Cinderella principle: do not look at things as they are, but as they could be. That is true management.
In the hushed labyrinths of the dream factory, a spectacle unfolds, known only to the initiated. I have traversed the depths of slumber and awakened to the truth hidden behind the deceptive facades of routine and illusion. Armed with this knowledge, I reach out to those entangled in the clutches of sleep, yearning for awakening yet often unaware of the path to escape.
I understand the struggles of those who reside amidst the dream factory. I know how tempting it is to be swept away by the current of rote actions, losing oneself in the web of prescribed tasks and responsibilities. I am aware of the fragility of the awakening process, the perilous leap into the unknown when the veil of comfort is pulled away.
And yet, it is precisely from this profound experience that I am able to offer sincere help. I recognize that awakened individuals possess a wealth of creativity and potential, far beyond what they themselves may realize. My role is not to dictate or lead, but to encourage them to discover their own vision and embrace their own power.
That is why I embrace the Cinderella principle as my guiding light. I do not allow them to see the world as it is, trapped in the suffocating grip of routine and limitations. Instead, I urge them to dream, to visualize how the world could be, full of possibilities and transformation. That is the essence of management: the ability to inspire others to see their own potential and strive for a reality that has not yet been realized.
So, as I conclude my sessions, I convey this message: do not be confined by what is, but aspire to what could be. That is the essence of my guidance, rooted in the profound knowledge of the dream factory and fueled by the belief that awakening and transformation are possible.