Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Rita Gunther McGrath: On being late for my own session at the World Economic Forum

Rita Gunther McGrath is the co-author of the seminal innovation book "Discovery-Driven Growth: A Breakthrough Process to Reduce Risk and Seize Opportunity" and was #19 on the 2011 Thinkers50 list of top business scholars. She contributed this story from an early experience visiting the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

Davos is this little ski town with one primary street which I have subsequently learned only supports efficient transportation in ONE direction. I had decided to go to a "Philanthrocapitalism" luncheon which featured Bill Gates, Tony Blair, Bill Clinton, Mohammed Yunus and Richard Branson (I mean, who wouldn't???). The hotel the lunch was at was at one end of the town and my session was at the other.

Not being familiar with the layout, I was advised by the hotel concierge to take a bus to get back to my hotel. What I hadn't realized is that the bus back has to go along a side-windy path that takes you all over the place and incidentally picks up and drops off all kinds of other riders, even if their locations are out of the way. I'd allowed double the time they said it would take, and the minutes were ticking....ticking...

Add to that the fact that every hotel and facility in the town has intense security, and you can imagine my anxiety.

It got worse. And worse.

By the time I was lined up at security to get into the conference area (it's like going through the airport) and had not YET gotten through security at the hotel or made my way to the 3rd floor seminar room my session was in...well, you can imagine the state I was in!

Fortunately, I called my helpful liaison at the World Economic Forum who moved heaven and earth to make things happen and I hit the room with only ten minutes gone. So much for fixing my lipstick and hair, it was right into business.

The session blessedly went well and my participants were fantastic about it.

Lessons learned:

  • If the stakes are high, do a dry run. 
  • Don't take well meaning advice from hotel concierges. 
  • Walk if feasible; taxi if not. Life is too short to spend on buses.

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