Wine not

Some of you may have heard the news story the other day of the competition to discover who made the best wine, America or France. This was a repeat of one held in Paris in 1976, called ‘The Judgement of Paris’, when France was shocked when French experts, after a blind tasting, said they preferred the Californian wines. The French wince industry took consolation in assuming that the French wines would age better. So 30 years on they repeated the test. In this year’s competition, all the top five wines came from California!

What does this tell us, other than which wine to choose in future? I would suggest that the French growers, convinced that they were the best in the world had decided that they didn’t need to change. Their product was as good as it could possibly be. The Americans, on the other hand, were constantly looking at how to improve; how to prove they were as good. It is a classic, real-life, version of the Tortoise and the Hare.

Change is a dynamic. It can not be tamed or denied. Either you are going up, or you are going down! So ambition, creativity, hard work and investment need to be sustained, to become permanent features of your culture.

In the midst of Change, there is an understandable pressure on leaders to let their organisation get back to ‘business as usual’; change is stressful, and nobody enjoys feeling stressed.

An organisation is always under pressure to deliver on its day-to-day agenda, and Change is an additional burden. However, if you are not taking control of your Change agenda, then you are allowing your competitors to do so. The French growers chose to rest on their laurels, confident that no one could catch them up. Up-until-now people have paid a premium for French wines, but how much longer will they prepared to do so? In your own sector are you an American or French?

“The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible” Arthur C. Clarke

Interestingly, the French government, in its desire to protect the reputation & quality of French wine enshrined in law various rules governing the way wine should be made. Unfortunately for them the rest of the world just listened to what customers wanted and used their creativity to come up with novel ways of giving it to them. For example, people like the oaky taste of certain wines, the French achieve this by aging in oak barrels. The Americans discovered you can get the same effect by adding oak chips into the wine. The chips provide a similar (or better!) flavour at 10% of the cost of using barrels.

There is always another, different way to give your customers what they want. You need to be sure that you know what they want.

Another interesting thought is that wine is just pressed grape juice until yeast is added. Like many business cultures, things don’t change without a catalyst to provoke the change. Change, like a yeast culture, needs to be fed. You have to provide the right environment for it to occur. Leaders must not only talk about Change, but must also support it.

This means:-

  • Hiring and promoting people with different views, experience and outlooks
  • Provide a clear, compelling vision of what the change looks & feels like
  • Ensure mistakes are identified properly, and learnt from, rather than condemned [if you aren’t making any mistakes you aren’t trying hard enough!]
  • Resources (time, money & outside support) are made available
  • Decide what is key, and then measure it, reward it and recognise it
  • Identify natural champions and empower them to make a difference

“Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world” Albert Einstein

You can learn more about the competition at this link The Judgement of Paris – wine competition


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