‘You mean to say you have absolutely no conflict with one or more of the people who report directly to you?’

‘Of course I do too. When you work with a group of people day in and day out, some conflicts are bound to happen. Like my good old mother would say: when you throw silverware together, they also make noise. But nothing the sort that the two of us involved can not resolve between ourselves.’

‘Well?’ The leader of the consulting team points his gaze at me. I can tell, he doesn’t like my answer. Years later, I would face a similar gaze from another such consultant, who didn’t like my answer to his: If you could change one thing in your life, what would it be? ‘Nothing!’ was my answer. Because I am one of those people who has realized that you can’t turn back the clock – or make things un-happen that have already happened. But to use the corporate/consultants cliché, going forward, play the cards you have been dealt the best as you can.

‘Nothing?’

In the corporate world and in the consultant speak, this would be sloughed off disdainfully as  status quo. A BIG NO NO. Even though one of Hugh M. Hefner’s favorite axioms was, If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Another was Why do we need to reinvent the wheel? Whereas, for most of the consultants, I felt the motto was: Never mind if it ain’t broke, let’s break it and then we’ll fix it.

‘You know Haresh, with your experience of years, you can actually help your colleagues sitting around the table!’ The message was clear. Smug and sarcastic and self-righteous. My answer: If I understand it right, you want me to have problems so that you can fix them? I look across the table at my boss – Bill Stokkan. Even in his attempt to remain neutral, I could read in his face that it was okay. It nevertheless earned me the reported reputation of not a team player.

●●●

Up until yesterday, I had completely forgotten about the days and the days a whole bunch of us spent cooped up at the Drake Hotel’s Astor Room participating in what they called the Ideation sessions. It was basically what normal people call Brain Storming. But there is no consulting if not for buzz words and euphemisms to make things sound important. The fact that I had even forgotten all about it and don’t remember even a word of what conspired during those days, in itself proves that whatever ideas the team of the consultants threw at us were ever seen worth putting into practice. The sessions lasted so many long days that we had to have an official break of a day or so to go back to our offices and make sure that the barn wasn’t burning in our absence. What my staff was curious about was: what was it that we talked about for so long? When I gave them a run down on what was it all about, one of them comes up with: sounds more like Idiation to me. Bravo!

●●●

The session I remember the most and could have even been fired for my impulsive response happened in then Playboy offices on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles. It was to focus on our international businesses which included product licensing, magazine publishing and the video/television divisions. A well renowned international consulting firm was hired and a team of experts presided by their famous president, lined the opposite side of the conference table. All of our international divisions had achieved various degrees of success in the markets away from home but at this point having already reached the saturation point and/or reached the point of marginal returns, we are experiencing bit of a lull. Let alone the changing market conditions, competition and the altering dynamics of economies of an individual country. But there could have been factors that had escaped our scrutiny. Hence the consultants. The guys facing us were supposed to be the expert international hands with more intimate knowledge of the international markets. For my division, the focus was going to be Japan.

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