contributed by:Bogotá, Colombia
Charles Snyder, Managing Director

I recently traveled to Colombia with a friend and business partner, Chris Surdak. The purpose of the trip was to present the ideas contained in Chris’s latest book, “Jerk: 12 Steps to Rule the World”.  In this book, Chris explains how entire industries can experience sudden disruptions, or jerks, in their normal operations. He details how the people who cause these disruptions – those he calls ‘Jerks’ – operate.  He outlines 12 rules for being a Jerk, and further explains how existing companies can defend against these Jerks.

The trip was eye opening to say the least. Chris and I have known each other for a long time.  We have worked together in the past for a number of companies.  We actually started our careers together in the aerospace industry. We went to grad school together. We worked for a large financial services company together.  And, we’ve had a lot of fun together: riding motorcycles, attending Formula 1 races, and getting familiar with good scotch and good cigars. During the past almost three decades of experience with Chris, I’ve learned to expect two things:  We are going to have fun, and I am going to witness magic as Chris takes seemingly disparate ideas and concepts and crafts explanations and insights that leave me amazed.

So, with much anticipation, and not sure exactly what to expect, I found myself flying to Colombia late one Sunday night.  Chris’ last email to some of our friends, started with “If no one hears from us, you can contact…“  I felt like Christopher Columbus sailing off to see if the end of the world really was a big waterfall into the abyss.  It didn’t help that I was supposed to be picked up first by two people unknown to me.

When I got off the plane, it was very late.  After putting my bags through an X-Ray machine, I waded into a sea of people holding little signs with names on them.  I’ve never seen so many people looking for their rides. After what seemed to be a long time, but was probably only a couple of minutes, I found myself face-to-face with a stranger who was peering down at his notepad.  I was so close, I could peer down also.  I found myself looking down at a copy of my passport picture.  “That’s me!” I exclaimed. And that is how I met our host for the week.  Alejandro was joined by our interpreter, Jorge.  The three of us had some time to kill before the plane arrived with Chris and Rob, so we found a bar and started drinking.  Let’s see, it’s 11:30pm on a Sunday night. I’m in Bogotá, Colombia drinking with two complete strangers in an airport bar.   What a way to start the trip!

However, as unlikely as it sounds, we immediately bonded. Before we even reached the bar, Jorge started asking me questions about Chris’ speaking style, to better translate him.  I had never thought about the translation issue before, but Jorge explained that there are more Spanish words than English words, so he would have to speak faster than Chris in order to match the richness of the content.  Alejandro was non-stop, talking on the phone, keeping our glasses filled and making me tired just watching him. The guy was non-stop energy!   Pretty soon, I determined that if this was any indication of how the week was going to go, we were in very capable hands.

The next day started very early and the pace didn’t stop all week.  We presented Chris’ game changing ideas to top companies all week; the response was overwhelmingly positive.  Especially rewarding was the fact that all of them “got it”. They recognized that the ideas we were presenting were game changing, and that the biggest challenge in adopting them were the cultural ones.

A typical response went like this:  “I came here thinking I was going to hear about Big Data.  It wasn’t exactly what I was expecting, but I’m blown away by what I did hear.”

It was so rewarding to have that kind of impact.  I am so looking forward to the opportunity to return to Colombia and work with these companies to effect changes that will fundamentally improve their business models.

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