Given how late I made it to bed on Thursday night, a fresh pair of eyes would have been good on Friday - I looked (and felt) like I'd flown in on a very delayed flight from New York, after temping as a test rabbit in a shampoo laboratory for a week.
I spent the final three days last week at an off-site with a selection of leaders from across a range of Financial Services businesses. (Thursday night was the last night dinner and many of us chatted until dawn, knowing that we might not get the chance to do so again - my fault for staying up, but I would not have missed it for anything.) The diversity of our experience (bankers trying to keep the boat afloat in Ireland, off-shore specialists with an eye on changing international regulations and approaches, insurance specialists with a keen understanding of the value of technology and the disasters that keep battering their businesses, retail bankers desperate to re-engage with their customers, corporate specialists working to help businesses during these difficult times and a handful of leading academics to facilitate the discussions and force us to think) was what really made the days (and night) worthwhile.
It got me to thinking about how I go about trying to solve problems in my day-to-day life. All too often, I only turn to the people whom I know have had similar experiences - it's easy for them to grasp the issues; it's simple to share sob stories with others who can empathise and there is a probability that they might be interested in talking about the topic (which makes it easier to approach them) - don't get me wrong, their learnings can often be of great help and support. However, from now onwards, I think I will also ask for suggestions from others whom I will seek out because they can look at the issue with a fresh pair of eyes.
Over the past week I have learned much about my own role and organisation by comparing things with others outside my sphere. There are ideas, approaches and concepts that could be of value for us to adopt and, because there was no sense of direct competition, individuals were happy to share what, in a different situation, might have been competitive secrets. Although we live ansd work in an increasingly global world, there are still national nuances and local economic differences. Those working outside the UK were able to share stories of how the economic downturn had impacted their business and how they had responded - often they were ahead of or behind the UK in the economic cycle and hence they offered learnings and potential warning signs that I can now look out for. I learned much about how different industries are atrracting, retaining and communicatiing with their customers, employees and the wider public. Most importantly, I have now made a group of friends who will be there for me whenever I need someone else to be a sounding board and to glance over my proposals with a fresh pair of eyes.
Thank you to all of you - you know who you are.