Worth the Hassle: Reflections on Novosibirsk

Tom Peters and interpreter Ivan Komarov

As airline and airport woes mounted, I frankly wondered what I was thinking when I agreed to go to Siberia. Well, now I know.

Every now and then, one feels that what one does is of some value. Last Friday in Novosibirsk (04.14) was one of those days. The air, as I previously posted, was at full-chill as I arrived. Not so the reception. I was welcomed effusively as I debarked Siberian Air from St Petersburg. And that welcome set the tone for an extraordinary couple of days.

I think I was the first, more or less, of "my sort" to make the trip to this large, mostly industrial city. Like the rest of Russia, hiccups notwithstanding, Novosibirsk-Siberia is moving at a brisk pace toward embracing free markets—and preparing to compete in our global village. (We're all next door neighbors, etc., etc., etc.) Thus the approximately 800 business folks who joined my interpreter (Ivan Komarov, a Russian sporting an economics Ph.D. from the University of Maryland) and me were anxious to go from the get-go.

I, as usual, while attempting to be mindful of cultural differences, did not offer a "simplified TP presentation"—to do so, I believe, would be insulting. I did focus a bit more on management "basics"—and liked the result so much that I plan to keep it up in my U.S. presentations. (There is a wretched tendency to keep complicating things, for the sake of self-amusement, to the point that the "eternal basics" disappear into the dust; that was one of the reasons for the "Irreducible209" I recently introduced.)

At any rate, the day sped by (last chapter of the presentation ended at 8pm, followed by a dinner) and attention-energy never flagged. Thanks to the skill and style of my interpreter, the day's sober if uplifting main message also had its full share of light moments—my description of our 1st grade drill of hiding under our desks to evade Soviet atom bombs drew a laugh, for instance; so, too, my attributing my arm-waving, shouting speaking style to Nikita Khrushchev.

Silly as it may sound, I honestly felt I left Novosibirsk having made more or less 800 fast friends—and having offered along the way a few modest suggestions and a generally spirited approach to altered enterprise practices. The audience was amazingly receptive, and apparently quite charged up. The proof, as always, is in the pudding—but as I departed for Rome I did so with a rare sense of satisfaction.