Greetings. The start of each new year is a great time to stretch all of our thinking about a world of new possibilities. A time to imagine new initiatives and offerings that will deliver even greater value to the customers, employees, and shareholders we have the privilege to serve. A time to challenge conventional wisdom and even reinvent the way our businesses or industries operate. And a time to reach out and connect with people and organizations that are very different than we are–people and organizations with very different ideas, perspectives, ways of doing the things that matter most, and even different dreams.
In September my newest book titled The Necessity of Strangers will be coming out, and in the year ahead I’d like to challenge you to make strangers–i.e., people you don’t already know and who could be very different than you–an important part of your learning and action. To connect with people around the corner and around the world who might hold the key to innovation and your greater success. To step out of your comfort zones and look across disciplines and cultures for new insights into the big questions, challenges, and opportunities your business faces. To look to make even stronger connections with the customers and colleagues you might not know very well.
And to approach each day with sense of curiosity and greater openness to finding new and more powerful sources of inspiration.
In a world filled with strangers and remarkable possibilities.
I always begin each year with a bit of inspiration from our children–Sara, Carly, and Noah (shown below outside Fiskekyrkan or “The Fish Church” in Goteborg, Sweden)–who continually remind me of the value of being open to new people and new experiences. And I recall fondly one time when Carly was in fourth grade and we were taking our morning walk to the school bus stop. On that particular day a fellow walked by who seemed somewhat odd and more than slightly disheveled. A fellow we had never seen in our quiet neighborhood before. And once we were out of listening distance, I quickly turned to Carly and reminded her of the importance of not talking to strangers. It was sensible advice my parents had given me in far less uncertain times.
To which Carly quickly replied:
“But Papa, if I don’t talk to strangers how will I ever make new friends? And, how will I ever learn new things?”
They were words that I now think about nearly every day, and words that inspired my new book and my ongoing commitment to help our customers and my readers to find value and even genius in people they don’t yet know.
With a bit of (appropriate) caution.