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Challenging the status quo

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  •  Following are excerpts from an interview with Hilmy Cader, CEO of MTI Consulting and Architect of the MTI Strategic Reflections Column
  Q: What motivated you to write this column? A: I had done a presentation at a forum in Sri Lanka about three years ago and on my way out, I met Nisthar Cassim (who at that time was re-joining the Wijeya Group to start this new business paper), who suggested that I write a column. My first reaction was “Why?” and “What should I write about?” After some further thought I agreed to give it a go!   Q: Initially you wrote a full column before shifting to the front page short paragraph, why? A: With my personal style of communication, as well as with all our consulting work, I prefer being very specific and using minimum documentation. So, writing ‘stories’ was not my forte and more importantly I felt that the same message could be sent across more precisely in lesser words. We live in an era of information overload, all at your fingertips in split seconds. I have no intention of adding to it, neither competing with – it would be futile. What is lacking though, partly due to the information overload, is the need for simple, bold and bottom-line driven (not always in monetary terms) thinking. This is what I have attempted to deliver, by probing the challenges faced by economies, enterprises and employees alike   Q: It takes less time and is much easier to do the short paragraph than the full blown column? A: Certainly not! In fact the contrary! When you have ‘unlimited’ space, with the benefit of the enormity of the English language, you can ramble on and keeping filling space, but when you have about 100 words and yet get a key message across, it disciplines your thinking and articulation process   Q: Why is your column called ‘Strategic Reflections’? A: Despite all the advances in technology (supposed to improve the quality of our life), corporate executives are busier than ever, caught in an activity syndrome, with very limited thinking time.  I wanted this column to make business leaders sit back and reflect on the strategic aspects that impact their life and work   Q: Do you think you have achieved it? A: I may not be the best judge of this! Judging the feedback I have had, I feel it has achieved the impact I had intended to. I have had people disagreeing with some of the ‘Strategic Reflections’, some proposing alternate paradigms – all of which are positive signs   Q: Your column has tackled varied topics and in most cases you have challenged the status quo, why? A: The mission of the column is to challenge status quo, ask the hard question. The issue I see in Sri Lanka is that we do not do enough of this in the corporate sector. We prefer to not ‘upset’ anyone or anything!   Q: In some of your columns, you only ask the hard questions but not provide solutions? A: If the intent is to challenge and trigger deep thought, then asking the right question is a very powerful tool.  Neither am I able to provide answers to all questions, nor is it practical. The reader should be triggered to think and find answers for themselves   Q: How would you describe your thinking process that triggers the writing? A: In my last 16 years of strategy consulting, the single competency that has helped me the most is THINKING. At MTI, we have 4 Competencies that make up the way we think i.e.  Ground Zero, Bottom-line Drive, Structured Thinking and Limitless Mind-Limitless Possibilities. My thinking process that precedes my communication style is strongly influenced by these 4 Competencies. One of the most powerful yet simple questions that I will ask is ‘So What?’ – to help cut through the clutter of information and opinion overload   Q: Finally, you have not tackled any political issues in your column, after all politics does have a major impact on business? A: That is best left to the politicians!

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