Gap International’s Leveraging Genius Conference began Monday in Scottsdale, Ariz. Nearly 200 global executives and their teams from multiple industries and cultures have come together in a weeklong journey to discover and leverage the origins of their own great performance (SmartBrief recently interviewed Gap International co-COO Bob Rothman). The following excerpts come from Gap International’s in-conference interview with John Peoples, vice president, global franchise marketing and innovation, Merck Consumer Care, about the business impact of the work under way.
As a business leader today, what are some of the main business challenges people are facing?
I put them into three categories. One of them is growth. Every business is focused on the next business opportunity and how they can accelerate the pace of growth within an organization.
The second category goes with that. You want to accelerate growth but then there are a finite number of resources. How do you leverage your current resources to get the greatest outcome or output from that?
And the third is the most scarce resource, and that is time.
With what you’ve learned so far, how might a leader address those issues?
One [way] is to be clear about your unique perspective and point of view [your genius] that you as a leader bring to all three of those challenges. And it’s also trying to find a unique perspective in each one of the people who make up the organization and figure out how all of those unique perspectives work together.
And what is the business advantage of finding and leveraging those unique perspectives, those “geniuses.” What advantage do you get as a leader?
It’s the modern day view of productivity, right? Productivity is how you get people to work smarter or harder in a way that creates a greater output.
I would argue that this [genius] is focused on finding that unique perspective for each individual so that they can be grounded in the most authentic experience possible. If they are in their unique perspective or point of view, they are going to do breakthrough work, work that’s going to be far more productive than if they are not in it.
Based on this work on genius, how would you get the best performance from your organization moving forward?
I think that understanding and getting located in that unique perspective for me and for every individual is the ultimate challenge in finding genius and bringing that to the organization. I mean, enabling or creating the environment where each individual’s genius can not only be discovered, but also leveraged to address those challenges of growth, finite resources as well as scarcity of time.
Then what strikes you about this whole notion of genius?
The thing I’ve been thinking for the first day and a half of the conference is that genius is the notion of what’s positive, not about what’s wrong. It’s not even about the challenges that you are facing, but it’s getting focused on the positive attribution of each of those brains and how we can leverage them in order to address or refocus the challenges into opportunities, in order to advance the business.
What tangible solutions can you see going forward?
Tangibly, it’s ensuring that I am spending my time and energy in places where I know that my genius matters. It’s also going back and ensuring that the way the organization is structured, as well as the way we are operating, is focused on creating that environment for genius to reveal itself.
The challenge that I have to continue to work throughout the week is how do you avoid collisions of genius? I wonder if sometimes one person’s genius may be in conflict with another’s. And I don’t have the answer for it yet, but I am looking for how the co-existence of genius can work in a way that delivers the desired outcome.
Is there anything that you are thinking about taking on as challenges or commitments that you weren’t thinking about when you started the conference?
Maybe because I have so many challenges on my plate that I haven’t thought about new challenges to take on. But I have thought about a new orientation to engaging in those challenges at work, as I think about our growth and innovation agenda. I’ve also been thinking a lot more around how I can help discover and inspire the genius in my daughters at home.