We were sitting down for a meeting. It was Brian’s first day on
the job. I had been told to look after him.
I handed a napkin to him and motioned for him to dab behind his
ears. For some reason it was wet there.
“Thanks,” he said nervously. “Is it that obvious?”
“You’ll get the hang of it,” I said. “Just listen carefully to
the CEO’s words.”
“Right. I’ll pay close attention.”
“I don’t mean listen to what he says,” I explained. “I
mean listen to the way he says it.”
“Got it,” said Brian. “Thanks, man.”
Our CEO entered the room and took his seat at the head of the
“I’ll begin with a helicopter view of the situation,” he said in
a booming voice that resonated with insight and authority.
“Frankly, the bottom line is that we basically won’t achieve a
meaningful understanding of the overall parameters of this
complex issue until such time as we have determined the
cost-effectiveness of our strategic thinking.”
A few of my cohorts nodded their assent. Brian leaned toward me
and whispered, “What’s he talking about?”
“He’s horizoning,” I explained.
“He’s horizoning. He’s encouraging us to think about the future,
to take the long view, to predict the company’s performance.”
“Of course,” said Brian. “I should have realized that when he
mentioned the helicopter.”
“Just soak it in,” I said. “Once you learn the lingo, you’ll be
in like Flynn.”
“Hopefully,” our CEO continued, “our ongoing dialogue with our
clients will impact our capability to proceed, profit-wise, on a
Brian nudged me. “Does he mean we should pay attention to our
“So today I invite you to think outside the box,” said our CEO,
“to do a little blue sky thinking.”
Brian gave me a quizzical look.
“To think in a visionary way,” I explained. “To not be overly
concerned with practical considerations.”
“Got it,” Brian whispered. “Blue sky. You can see it from the
helicopter. It’s starting to make sense.”
“To help us drill down into this issue . . .” said our CEO.
“To get more detail?” Brian queried. I nodded.
“. . . we need to consider how customer expectations interface
with reasonable delivery times. Wilbers, any ideas?”
As the CEO’s go-to guy, I was expecting him to call on me.
“Well,” I said, trying to mimic his authoritative voice, “I
won’t brain dump on you, but obviously we need to get our ducks
in a row.” At the mention of ducks, Brian looked at me
admiringly. “We need to do some joined-up thinking here.”
I paused dramatically. You could have heard a pin drop.
“Basically,” I said, “we have obviating conditions here, neither
of which should be viewed or expostulated upon in isolation, one
from the other.”
I could tell from the CEO’s expression that I had hit a home
After the meeting, Brian followed me outside the room. “You were
awesome,” he said. “I mean, cutting edge, dude, like shovin’ the