As a young boy growing up in Peer, it was natural I’d want to learn to ride a bike. For though Belgium is not awash with heroes, we had all heard of Eddy Mercx, widely regarded as the world’s greatest ever cyclist. The problem, at least at first, was that I wasn’t very good. No sooner would I start pedalling than I’d panic and crash to the ground. After yet another painful tumble my father once exclaimed ‘the problem is, you’re so afraid of falling, that you forget to push though.’

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Fear, of course, can be both physical and mental. In acutely stressful situations, we trigger hormones that have their evolutionary root in our ancestral environment — when faced with danger, our bodies tell us to either fight, flee or freeze. The symptoms include heart palpitations, sweaty palms and the need to pee! Psychologically, our attention is drawn to the immediate, our focus narrows, and we act according to our instincts more than any deeper reasoning. …


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Disruption! There must be few words more likely to provoke unease among executives and investors alike. Almost universally, the term is used in the negative sense by the mainstream; its very mention associated with disturbance, upset and impediment…

Yet its incidence is on the rise, as evidenced by any number of surveys predicting the majority of listed businesses will face market disorder in the next five years — as well as a raft of statistical studies, confirming a grim toll of companies that have already succumbed.

In a business context, disruption is an innovation or intervention which changes a market pattern, creating new value chains that typically undermine the established profitability of incumbents. That’s why it’s so feared by those who might at first appear to be the most able to resist. Over the last twenty years, we’ve all witnessed, and most likely contributed to, the reshaping of once stable industries which proves these concerns are well-founded: the rise of online retail and the demise of many brick-and-mortar giants is an obvious example. …


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Why is it that companies make bad decisions?

In posing that question, I’m not referring to those infamous bad calls like Decca records rejection of The Beatles, or Blockbuster’s rebuff of a joint venture with Netflix. These are human mistakes — and with the benefit of hindsight, we can all of us believe we’d have made a smarter choice.

Rather, what interests me is why, given all the checks and balances, so many companies appear to take carefully thought through decisions that actively harm the interests of their stakeholders?

A Harvard Business Report estimated that up to 90 percent of all mergers and acquisitions fail; similar claims can be made for internal transformation projects, especially in the IT and digital sphere. Whatever way you look at the problem, it seems that despite access to the smartest minds, sophisticated forecasting tools and due diligence warnings, business leaders continue to get it wrong. …


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Has it really been twenty years since we were celebrating a new Millennium? Depending on your perspective, that milestone might seem like yesterday or an age away — given the pace of change, it can feel like both. Across societies worldwide there’s a cultural tradition of acknowledging significant anniversaries and using these as a time to reflect on the past and set new goals. And so, as we enter the third decade of the century, it’s perhaps an appropriate moment to consider the road we’ve travelled and the forces and challenges that are likely to lie ahead.

From a leadership perspective, looking back on the last twenty years, the landscape is in many respects still recognizable — the basics of balanced analytical judgement, good people skills, team building and empowerment are little different, if probably more nuanced. But the changes wrought by technology, increasing globalization, public sentiment and the sheer improvements to our understanding of how we best work together — have inexorably transformed the way organizations navigate their routes to success. …


Jos Opdeweegh reflects on how virtues and values can work together to help us and our organizations flourish.

Holding hands in friendship — illustrating Jozef Opdeweegh on virtue and values
Holding hands in friendship — illustrating Jozef Opdeweegh on virtue and values
Photo by Aarón Blanco Tejedor on Unsplash

The ancient philosopher Aristotle understood a thing or two about how to achieve success. According to his writings, a good and satisfying life was one that navigated a course between the extremes of hedonism and deficiency. And the way to do this, he asserted, was by living in accordance with our ‘virtues’ — those qualities and behaviors that we all, universally recognize as good, and which in his view, were best nurtured by experience and daily practice rather than prescriptive rules.

Fast forward more than two thousand years and ‘virtue theory’ is enjoying something of a well-deserved renaissance, most notably through the positive psychology movement and the writings of Martin Seligman. Its relevance to business is gaining traction too, and justifiably so, because the virtue theory adds a layer to our understanding of that other ‘V’ word, V for values, which has evolved into a ubiquitous concept in the progressive workplace. …


Jos Opdweegh considers how trust and care are essential to a powerful organizational culture

Newspaper on Fire: Jos Opdweeegh on Trust in the Workplace
Newspaper on Fire: Jos Opdweeegh on Trust in the Workplace
Photo by Elijah O’Donnell on Unsplash

Across much of the developed world, faith in institutions is rupturing. Modern day politics, with a regrettable tendency to provide impulsive, populistic solutions to problems of extreme complexity, contributes to an undercurrent of skepticism, which in turn feeds further unease and polarization, undermining confidence. In a host of democracies, leadership is variously described as broken, dysfunctional and unrepresentative. Little wonder then, that survey after survey reveals public trust to be at all-time low.

Regardless of one’s political opinions — passions even — this is deeply corrosive. For trust is essential to positive human relationships and one of the most valuable tools in building progressive societies. Without it there can be no exchange, no collective endeavor, no promises relied on…. and worse, no dreams shared, or secrets confided. Trust, in its broadest sense, is so ubiquitous that we seldom give it a thought. …


Jos Opdeweegh considers how, in business, a balance of skills can be just as effective as specialised brilliance

Athlete starting a relay — illustrating reflections from Jos Opdeweegh
Athlete starting a relay — illustrating reflections from Jos Opdeweegh
Photo by Braden Collum on Unsplash

Last week, the eyes of the world’s press turned to Doha and its hosting of the World Athletics Championships. Here in the UK interest was intense. Dinah Asher Smith’s victory in the 200 meters was a masterclass of controlled and specialised technique, but it was Katerina Johnson Thompson’s Gold in Heptathlon that caught my eye.

The Heptathlon is one of the ultimate trials of all-round athletic ability. From shotput to sprinting, the discipline tests speed, strength and stamina, as well as the mental ability to hold it all together over two days of competition. …


Jos Opeweegh reflects on the importance of building talent as a means to a flourishing organisation

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Photo by Austin Distel on Unsplash

A few weeks ago, I gave an interview in which I reflected on the importance of building talent across our company, the need for structures that facilitate career progression, and most of all, a supportive culture which allows talent to thrive by learning from our mistakes as well as our successes. There are compelling reasons, I said, for investing in talent, and on that point, I guess few business leaders would disagree. But as with many organisational challenges, while the way ahead might be obvious, sticking to the path isn’t always so straight forward.

Let’s start with some guiding principles.

Talent is vital to making good decisions. With talented people, and talented teams, we not only perform better today, but we enhance our strategic vision and tactical planning. The short-term advantage and the sustainability of that success go hand in hand. …

About

Jozef Opdeweegh

Proven CEO of global organizations

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