Positive Leadership

Clarifying your thinking (with Luc de Brabandere)

December 14, 2022 Jean-Philippe Courtois Season 4 Episode 8
Clarifying your thinking (with Luc de Brabandere)
Positive Leadership
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Positive Leadership
Clarifying your thinking (with Luc de Brabandere)
Dec 14, 2022 Season 4 Episode 8
Jean-Philippe Courtois

If innovation is about changing the world, then creativity is about changing how you look at the world.

For JP’s latest podcast guest, Luc de Brabandere, clarifying this fundamental difference can unlock positive energy for ourselves and others.

Luc is one of the world’s leading corporate philosophers and an expert in using logic, critical thinking, and creativity in business. In this episode, he shares insight from a diverse career and his advice for navigating challenging digital environments.

Listen to the podcast now, and don’t forget to let JP know your thoughts on social media.

Subscribe now to JP's free monthly newsletter "Positive Leadership and You" on LinkedIn to transform your positive impact today: https://www.linkedin.com/newsletters/positive-leadership-you-6970390170017669121/

Show Notes Transcript

If innovation is about changing the world, then creativity is about changing how you look at the world.

For JP’s latest podcast guest, Luc de Brabandere, clarifying this fundamental difference can unlock positive energy for ourselves and others.

Luc is one of the world’s leading corporate philosophers and an expert in using logic, critical thinking, and creativity in business. In this episode, he shares insight from a diverse career and his advice for navigating challenging digital environments.

Listen to the podcast now, and don’t forget to let JP know your thoughts on social media.

Subscribe now to JP's free monthly newsletter "Positive Leadership and You" on LinkedIn to transform your positive impact today: https://www.linkedin.com/newsletters/positive-leadership-you-6970390170017669121/

LUC: A good idea is to have many ideas. And if you want many ideas you have to think more. 

JEAN-PHLIPPE: Hello, I'm Jean-Philippe Courtois. This is Positive Leadership, the podcast that helps you grow as an individual, a leader and ultimately as a global citizen as well. Innovation is about changing the world. Creativity is about changing how you look at the world. That's occurred for my guest today, Luc de Brabandere, one of the world's leading corporate philosophers. And more to come, you'll see. Of all the guests I've had on the podcast, Luc's professional journey is without doubt the most diverse. He started out as a civil engineer, then moved into banking before becoming head of the Brussels Stock Exchange. Then in another dramatic shift of direction, he decided to do a PhD in philosophy and a few more activities. Today he is a senior advisor at the Boston Consulting Group helping individuals and companies upgrade their creativity. He's also the author of more than 20 books. The most recent being Be logical, Be creative, Be Critical: the Art of Thinking in a Digital World, which investigates how the rise of the Internet and AI is changing the way we think. Luc, you are someone who totally embodies the idea of a growth mindset I found. And because of that, you have a very unique way of thinking and of helping others to learn how to think. So such a pleasure to have you on the Positive Leadership podcast. A warm welcome, Luc.

LUC: Good afternoon.

JEAN-PHLIPPE: So you are born, I think, in 1948 in Flanders, Belgium, in a French speaking household. And as a young boy, at school, you excelled at math. You’re pretty good. I guess. So how did you get interested in the art of thinking?

LUC: Honestly, I don't know. I was good in maths, definitely, But I had another passion for how… Which word should I use? I remember when I received a game from my father, one of the first things I wanted to do was to change the rules. And he was a bit nervous and I don't know how you call this. Maybe this is the beginning of creativity and the beginning of thinking.

JEAN-PHLIPPE: And you wanted to change the rules because you wanted to win badly or…?

LUC: No, no. Because I always want to try new things. And my life is extraordinary because when I was 42, I had the the privilege to turn this passion into a job. That's my life, in fact. So I'm an engineer from the very first. 50 years ago. And I enjoyed mathematics a lot. But slowly… I was in a bank - you just mentioned - and I realised that within a company you have one area with numbers and if you want to be rigorous with numbers, it's not too difficult. If you say 37, the risk of confusion of misunderstanding is low. But there is another area about corporate image, ethics, creativity, a lot of things perceived as important, but no numbers.

JEAN-PHLIPPE: No numbers.

LUC: And I said, How can you be rigorous when you don't have any numbers? As an engineer, I was a bit puzzled by that. And the answer is philosophy.

JEAN-PHLIPPE: before we get any further. In a way, it's very, you know, it's a very important topic right now in my home country in France, talking about math. As you may know or not, in France the level of math has actually lowered a lot when you look at the quality of students coming through the Bac and after that, compared to ten years ago. In the ranking of nations, France used to be actually among the tops in math and has gone down. Any advice for the minister of education?

LUC: I'm not from here, so it's hard to know.

JEAN-PHLIPPE: That's why you can have an opinion from that side. 

LUC: So I don't know where in Belgium it's better. Yeah, but I remember one of my teachers always, always told me, Luc, you have to see mathematics. And because we think with the eyes, along with the brain and mostly you have to have fun. And there is a way to have fun with mathematics and there are a lot of ways to do that. I think I got some excellent teachers that unlocked this.

JEAN-PHLIPPE: So let's transform math into a real game. Actually, for kids.

LUC: Yeah, that's called gamification. And it works.

JEAN-PHLIPPE: And yeah, and you see actually some new application services that do that actually for kids today which is quite exciting.

LUC: I’m a grandfather and when I look at my grandchildren, I'm quite optimist when I see them.

JEAN-PHLIPPE: I'm sure they have a good teacher for maths at home. So I’d like to ask you about that quote again that I was mentioning in the intro, Luc, where you said that innovation is about changing the world and creativity is about changing how you look at the world. Why is it so important for you to make that distinction?

LUC: Because there is a lot of confusion. I see many people using creative and innovation a bit like synonymous. They say creativity and innovation like like Procter and Gamble. No. It's two completely different things. And when you are in such a position, you need definitions. And I have my own definitions. And the definition is never true. It's useful, efficient. And so there are many definitions I use. The one you just mentioned because it clarifies a lot of things and they are both about change. But innovation changes the world. Perception the way you look at the world. Let's take Copernicus. Copernicus, 1500 something, a big bang in our history, but the solar system is today exactly how it was before. He had zero impact on the solar system, but a big impact on the way we look at the solar system. Copernicus and globally, science is not about innovation. It's about changing the way we look. Einstein didn't change the world. Sometimes those people can help changing the world. The GPS, and automatic cars couldn't run without the relativity of Einstein. So but it remains two different things. Einstein didn't change the world, and that's the message I carry throughout companies. Let's make a difference. My job is about creativity. I have one day, two day workshops. I never change a company in one day. Nobody does. But if people start to see the company differently, I've done the job.

JEAN-PHLIPPE: That's that's that must be a big trigger. I mean, you get those teams of executives together and and they see the light, I guess, of something new in the way they think about.

LUC: The first light. Yes. And sometimes it comes through some new words. 

JEAN-PHLIPPE: Yeah, I'd love to go back to what you said before because I think it's so critical in what you do and what you offer actually to people – definitions, how do you equip people in better definition making?

LUC: First, 37 is 37. No confusion, but how much is much? How much is much? And if we don't have definitions, if we don't have criteria, we are in danger of bullshit. Bullshit. In fact, a philosopher in a company fights bullshit. His job is not what people should think, but how they think. And if you want to be efficient in thinking when you have no numbers, you need definitions, you need criteria. You need to fight les faux amis, false synonyms. Innovation is not creativity. Regulation is not recommendation. Experience is not expertise. Comfort is not luxury, etc., etc. And when you look at the difference, you clarify things. And when you clarify things, you unlock the energy. This is about energy, this podcast, and the way clarification contributes to energy is because it unlocks the energy. 

JEAN-PHLIPPE: That's correct. So in your most recent book, you organize thinking, as I said before, into three different clusters - being logical, being critical and being creative. So what are the problems that you most commonly see in the way people approach those three different types of thinking? 

LUC: Of course, that very different, you need to organize a little bit. So I came with three clusters - logic, creative and critical. And of course, it's not 100% coincidence because this is my life. The first 20 years I was an engineer working on computers in a bank and on a stock exchange. Pure logic. Then I turned my passion for creativity into a job. I became a, quote, creative consultant for roughly 30 years. It was fantastic. But then I'm a grandfather now. I'm not retired. But something happens and I enter like a third type of thinking. When you teach mathematics, you share some kind of science. When you teach creativity, you share your passion. When you are in a critical mode, you share your values. On one hand I'm a grandfather, of course, but on the other hand, I look at the world, what's happening here. So all this fake news and alternative truths. And so there is a need for a third type of thinking which I called critical. So the way I organize the three clusters, it's a bit my life, but it it is relevant as well because yeah, again, clarification. The rules are completely different.

JEAN-PHLIPPE: No, I think it's super relevant. It's interesting because I think about some of the work I do with my foundation, with very young future social entrepreneurs. Very young people from all kind of backgrounds who have a dream to change the world. And one of the areas where we try to support them to grow is critical thinking. And they start very early on, which is hard. What is your view on that in terms of is there any age actually to start teaching critical thinking?

LUC: Normally not. At least in Belgium we don't have any classes, any course on thinking when you are at the college. Nothing, absolutely nothing. 

JEAN-PHLIPPE: In most places in the world this is the case. 

LUC: I think this is a big mistake. Definitely with the Internet and all the big data, we need to learn more how to think and a bit maybe less what is this and what is that? It's completely different as a position, as an attitude. And for example, I’m a computer guy. I studied computer science. I was maths maths maths and so I graduate. When I was 40, I came back to university, like you said, to study philosophy. And I remember looking at the exam, metaphysical anthropology, and thinking this is going to be difficult. And in the middle of the list, I saw logic. I didn’t even know existed


LUC: Think as simple as that

JEAN-PHLIPPE: Critical thinking is so important. It is a skill we should all take the time to develop and these are 3 things you can do right away which will help develop your skills. First, always question ideas and assumptions, rather than accepting them at face value. Questions give it clarity in your thinking and maybe conceptualising analysing will be easier. The second scrutinise the consequences of the actions before making a decision. Thirdly, be an active listener to listen to different people’s views and opinions. These will help you form your own decisions.

JEAN-PHLIPPE: Luc, when it comes to positive leadership, really, it starts with the individual, the person. And, you know, when people first of all, take care of themselves, invest in their own personal development, but also become cognisant of the ways to manage their positive energy in themselves, mentally, psychologically, physically. And then have worked also on their purpose, which is something I believe a lot into personally, then they can have a positive impact on the people they touch and eventually on the world. At least that's the philosophy of positive leadership. What would it be your advice in terms of how can people develop the different kind of skills we just talked about - the thinking skills in the three different areas - to help in being an even better, stronger positive leader? 

LUC: My first answer is about energy. What we share, in fact, is we’re talking about energy. So I run thousands of brainstorms and I was convinced that at the beginning a good brainstorm is a brainstorm when you have suddenly a great idea. Now I'm convinced a good brainstorm is meeting where people leave with energy. That's positive, energetic. But now the the second part of the answer, I’ve trained a lot of consultants in the BCG. And I remember at the beginning there was a woman, Camille. I remember her name. And at the end of my training she came to me say, Oh, I won't do that. This is exactly my goal. And that's my role to assist a little bit. So I'll say we're going to go together to a client, You're going to run the brainstorm. I will sit in the back and then and then we debrief. The day comes, we go to the client. The brainstorm and the session was very bad.

JEAN-PHLIPPE: Oh, what happened?

LUC: And exactly the question. She was motivated. I was motivated. And it was not good. What happened? And suddenly I realized it was not good because she tried to imitate myself. What a big mistake. If you want to become a good accountant, you have to imitate a good accountant. If you want to be a good mathematic, you have to have good math. But in this job, absolutely not. And I asked Camille, give me, which is your passion? And immediately she replied, architecture. Okay, fine, no problem. And I told her, we're going to have a new experiment with another client. But on the screen I want to see buildings and nothing else. And then she told a story about buildings - big ones, old ones. All kinds of building. And she was super good. And thanks to her, I understood that you have to build - and that nows answer your question - if you want people to be good, they have to build everything on their passion. Because there is no science. If you want to learn geometry, you have to learn geometry. But if you want to learn creativity or critique, you have to learn how you are and who you are and build on that.

JEAN-PHLIPPE: I'm so much with you, Luc. I strongly believe that, you know, each one of us should start with what is actually your own passion and strengths as well and talents, what we call talents, unique things that you do very uniquely in special moments. And you get the best of your energy out.

LUC: Yeah. And of course, you know this famous quote of Socrates: know who you are. This is true, but only halfway because the day you know who you are, then you have to become what you are. And that comes from Nietsche. And it happened to me. When I was 42 I said, Hey, I'm a corporate philosopher. That's what I am. It took me 42 years to understand what I was. Yes. But I was, no way. No way. Absolutely. But it clarified to me, Oh, I need to go back to university. And then. And then. And then. And then. So first who you are. Second become what you are.

JEAN-PHLIPPE: Yeah, I think I think that resonates so much, not just with me, but I think with many people listening to us because it's all about, again, this process of the just shaping but becoming, you know, who you’d love to become as part of your personal mission purpose, which is so hard but so important to be at least pointing in the destination or at least where you want to start going to.

LUC: Sometimes you can talk to a psychoanalyst or to a coach or to somebody else. It helps to clarify. It happened to me. So I'm really thankful to the person who finally told me who I was. 

JEAN-PHLIPPE: Exactly. So soliciting feedback actually from others because they also have interesting perspectives on us. We should never forget. And not just look at ourselves in the mirror, which is important, but let's have others look at us.

LUC: Mirror always added value. 

JEAN-PHLIPPE: Yes. So let's come back to, you know, we discussed definitions a bit of what doesn't matter. But you're also very famous for your concept of thinking in your boxes, the box. And can you elaborate on what that means and how we go about building new boxes? And give the context? The keys for people to study the box.

LUC: It is very easy. I was working for ESILAW the French company, and after the speech somebody raised his hand and said, Monsieur Luc, interesting what you said. You mentioned 10 times, 15 times that we should think out of the box, but you never explained what's exactly the box. And so I was in trouble. So I just answered with a joke just to escape the question. I left the room. I said, Oh, this is a serious issue. I need an answer to that. And at the same time, I was studying philosophy and then slowly, okay, what is this? And I need a definition again. What is a box? And slowly I realized and I understood. In fact, a box is a set of simplifications. If if you're in a bank and if you are asked to think out of the box, you are not asked to think out of the bank. You are asked to think out of the way you used to simplify the business of banking for many, many years, which is completely different. And so a box is a framework, is a paradigm, is a set of hypotheses, a simplification you can use as glasses. And you look to the world with this. And in fact, creativity is not that much about going out of a box, of a given box. The real challenge, definitely at a strategic level, is the new box. And you have many examples. For a company I worked for, Philips, for 40 years, the box was electronic appliances. But today Philips is a health company like 75% of the business. They are still manufacturing coffee machines and radios, but the real business of Philips is health. And this is a new box. It's not an idea out of the former box. It's not like a new coffee machine. It's a new way to look at the business for Philips.

JEAN-PHLIPPE: The box is not a tangible thing but rather a model in your mind. And what he is saying, and what he goes into more deeply in his book, thinking in your boxes is that every mental model you create, no matter brilliant or profitable, we eventually need to be refreshed and replaced, sees the world will continue to evolve. Will your box stay still? Boxes can trap you in rigid assumptions? And well will passive actions shock your creativity? By thinking outside the box, is not as liberating as it sounds. The space outside the box is infinite. And when faced with endless possibilities, the human mind feels adrift  and tends to fall back into the familiarity of the box.

LUC: So since you cannot change the world, you have to change the way you look at it. 

JEAN-PHLIPPE: Your mind as well.

LUC: Your mind. Exactly. Like Copernicus. We need to be Copernicus and the business it's more difficult because you need to be like Copernicus to change the view and then to innovate.

JEAN-PHLIPPE: That's pretty hard work. You know, earlier this year, I had the chance to meet Dr. Rajiv Shah who is the President of the Rockefeller Foundation. A very inspirational leader whose life has been dedicated to the service of others. And one of the things he said in the interview with me, which really stuck with me, was how great leaders have the ability to ask simple yet totally transformational and bold questions and then stick with them until it gets done. And so this method of building new boxes that you just described, is it a useful way for us to get to those simple, yet transformational questions. In other words, in sense, to me, it sounds like almost the art of asking those very profound questions.

LUC: That is Socrates’ point of view. He always told I don't know anything, but I know the importance of questions and how to raise questions. And of course, the question is the beginning of thinking. The comfort zone is a zone when you don't have any questions. You solve problems and you do many things. But the question itself is a starting process. It sparks creativity.

JEAN-PHLIPPE: You talked about Socrates, of course, he famously said the ultimate goal of philosophy was to know thyself, and to know thyself is also to know the world and therefore to be able to have a hold on it. So philosophy is a perpetual questioning of the relationship to ourselves, to others, and to the world. And that's why we are talking about changing your mental models. So how can we transpose this analogy again, Luc, the analogy of boxes for strategic visions of organizations to that of new boxes to reinvent ourselves? We as people, me as Jean-Philippe, you as Luc.

LUC: I work with words and for example, when you're talking about mental models, I recommend people, what is a model? Like for business model. Immediately in our world business model. Okay, but what is a model? Let's talk about customer experience, but what is an experience and etc.. So I work with words and then a model has strengths and weaknesses. And strengths help you to move. But weaknesses, it's not the reality. It's a simplification. So I'm from Belgium, so, you know, Magritte. Ceci n’est pas une pipe. This is not a pipe. So we all work with models and a model is never true. It's never false. The only criteria to assess a model - is it useful? I have no legitimacy about psychology and coaching. I’m a philosopher. So and when you understand really what is a model you can use this for mental models as well. The main difference between philosophy and the other worlds - there is no area. So I always can help, even on the mental models issue.

JEAN-PHLIPPE: And so just just building on that, I'd like to to get even deeper in the discussion, if you don't mind, which is in a way, I mean, you've been impacting a lot of organizations with people working in such organizations and in most of those just creativity workshops or other types of collaborations, events, etc., you built, there's always this positive tension hopefully between the person and the organization. The outcome, taking shape of a company, an NGO, a state, whatever it is, so how much you think again that the key is that you provide to people to think about opening new boxes for new models for the organization future. We talked about Philips, how can it be applied to you personally and how much does it help people to go through the process?

LUC: The process is a bit the same. It’s about reorganizing the slide. Let's talk PowerPoint. So what if you if you take Copernicus, the solar system was the same, but reorganized the slide. He moved the sun in the middle.  And at the personal level, it happens also. And I have this experience. Everybody was talking about me when I was 35. He is an engineer with a lot of creativity. He's an engineer with a lot of creativity. And suddenly I say, no, I'm a creative person who studies engineering.

JEAN-PHLIPPE: It's quite different. 

LUC: Yes and no. It's the same. I'm the same. And my past was the same. But the way I looked at it was completely different. And that's how and why I left the stock exchange because I realized I'm not an engineer. I study engineering.

JEAN-PHLIPPE: You are not a banker either. 

LUC: I'm not a banker either. I'm a philosopher. And it was a big shock. So the mechanic of new boxes is exactly the same at a personal level as the organizational level. But I have to be very rigorous. Organizations don't think. When you say, for example, Brussels is surprised that or the government thinks that… No, a government doesn't think. Brussels is not surprises. Only people could be surprised and I push a little bit because it we need to accept that only human beings are thinking and so it means that a government has no responsibility. A lot of people in the room together can agree on one and decide, but never tell about Paris is thinking that or no… Paris doesn't think.

JEAN-PHLIPPE: Or United Nations.

LUC: Exactly. They don't think. They are made of many people and each of them are with good ideas, bad ideas and so forth and creativity… When I have a group in front of me, I don't see the group. I see 12 or 15 or 18 people. One by one. I don't see a brain. I see 18 brains.

JEAN-PHLIPPE: That's that's a great clarification as well, of course, of the true impact of people at the core of those things. As our former from a long time ago, President de Gaulle said le machin. Non-French speaking people is the thing that de Gaulle was calling talking about administration or bureaucracy or anything.

LUC: Le machin ne pense pas. 

JEAN-PHLIPPE: It doesn't think. So let's shift gears and talk about another, I think, passion or this, area of interest you've had and you keep having your life on digital. And you've been writing La Petite Philosophie de la Transformation Digital. So Little Philosophy of Digital Transformation. Computers create a screen between what things are and what we think they are and connected objects do not pose a problem as such. What is questionable is the extent to which we have become connected subjects and therefore disconnected. I think that you said something like that.

LUC: Yes, I did.

JEAN-PHLIPPE: So at the time. Let me expand the discussion because we are in 2022 and as we we see each other eye to eye in this room we see and we witness and and I can really talk about that working for a large tech company, Microsoft, we see the time where AI, large language models that are coming out now can be used to write basically articles, opinion pieces, to compose music, and even actually automate development of computer code, which we do. How do you, as a philosopher, react to this evolution of thinking or critical thinking, if that's the case, and of learning how to think?

LUC: Okay, this is of course a big subject and I study as a computer guy and my machine had 1k. I programmed 00110. But I'm not that young. I don't know the computer in the Apollo 11 machine but. To me it was a privilege because the rules are the same today. A machine is a machine. And the power, of course, completely different. But the most powerful algorithm has a starting point. And the starting point is a set of simplification. In chess, you can do things of course, the human being cannot do. But the starting point was defined by a human being. So that's what I think. And a computer who plays chess doesn't know he's playing chess. Of course, I believe artificial intelligence is a tool and it's a fantastic tool. And the purpose of a tool is to be more powerful than than the human being. Nobody would sell glasses to see less good. So the goal of the glasses is to see better. Let's remember, an algorithm has a starting point and who can define the starting point but people. And that's it. That's it. So imagine the world today if all algorithms were program programmed by women, for example, or by its Ethiopians, the world would be different. So there is a piece of human you cannot remove from any kind of algorithm. And I go back with my words. We don't use the appropriate words, like an autonomous car. A car is never autonomous. And this is good news because autonomy is the power to decide by yourself. Oh, I'm going to run 30,000 kilometers an hour. No. In the plane, nobody is talking about an autonomous pilot. And a connection of connected objects. No - connected subjects. So let's really enter through the vocabulary, because that's the way to clarify and more. The tool is a tool, this fantastic tool. And I'm happy to learn my guitar with an algorithm. But it's an algorithm.

JEAN-PHLIPPE: I wanted to go deeper on this one with Luc because whilst algorithm and artificial intelligence are tools. It’s also transformative technology. And if AI is transformative, it has the power to be transformative both for good reasons as well as bad. Fear of the unknown has always been the case with technology from the wheel to the internet. but I wanted to know what Luc as a philosopher feel about the amount of power of critical thinking that has been handed over to AI and electronics. And whether or not he felt this sometime poses a threat to human autonomy and capability.

JEAN-PHLIPPE: No, but just again, getting a bit further in the discussion, of course, there's tons of opinions on that very topic of the growing power of AI agents, whatever they can be. And in a way, if you think about that increasing, again, power of AI, you could be frightened about actually, you know, loss of critical thinking by people, by humans, depending on how far you go, how deep and how you delegate to those agents a number of your thinking processes. So how do you think about that? You've been thinking of your life…

LUC: Even from big companies like yours, accept and agree, yes, we not understand always what's happening. So there is a bit of a danger. And when I see, for example, we're going to fight fake news with algorithms.

JEAN-PHLIPPE: That scares you?

LUC: That scares me because who has programmed the algorithm? So, yeah, I think there is a future for the human being in two main dimensions - creativity and responsibility. Two things I cannot imagine on a machine.

JEAN-PHLIPPE: So if the machines programme humans we've got a problem.

LUC: Yeah. Today, we use internet and internet is using us. No. We are using Internet. We use the tool.

JEAN-PHLIPPE: You know, there's a there's a certain amount of overlap between being a good leader and a good philosopher. Both involve bringing about clarity. When I was speaking to the Microsoft CEO, my boss and friend, Satya Nadella, on the podcast, he said, the number one priority of a leader is to bring clarity. And actually, as a company, we've been adding another three leadership principles. The first one is bring clarity. The second one is generate energy. And the third one is deliver success. So I wonder how you see the relationship between bringing clarity, which we discussed a bit together and also the need to generate a marrying a positive energy with the team, the organization, that you work with or through. What is that connection?

LUC: Clarification is when the fog is moving away, suddenly you see. And of course, the connection is so clear. When there is fog, you cannot have energy. Where to spend it? It's about the efficiency of the energy. And this is clarification, definitely.

JEAN-PHLIPPE: How can you help, because you've been you've been, again, leading and meeting, entertaining and more so many groups of people one by one, step by step, what are the techniques, the best techniques you could mention that a manager or leader listening to our podcast could use to bring that clarity and stimulate that energy creativity within others? What would you suggest? One or two things?

LUC: The words, the words. And for example, ask the person the five words they use the most. One, two, three, four, five. And then go on with the conversation without those words. You force people to get out of the comfort zone because if you are in the software business, you may not use the word software. And then you are forced to clarify for what is the software exactly and what's the difference between software and programme? Yes, and the programme and I don't know what and it worked everywhere. So I think this is a good way to clarify when you force people not to use the words they use the most. 

JEAN-PHLIPPE: So basically getting outside of your zone of comfort by removing the words you keep using all the time.

LUC: It's a good way to easily go out. I don't say it's nice to do that, but it works very well.

JEAN-PHLIPPE: We build on that. We in our company, Microsoft, we've been doing a number of what we call culture conversations. Cultural sessions are quite important because they are about really discussing in depth by a small group of people one team at a time across 200,000 people in the world, what three worlds mean - respect, integrity and accountability. Thee core values. And you'd be incredibly - probably you not - surprised by the incredible richness, the diversity of views for every single of those worlds in a group of five, ten, fifty people.

LUC: And imagine around the world.

JEAN-PHLIPPE: Exactly. Because then the diversity globally, culturally is like amazing. Anyway, so I'm with you in a sense of that clarification on the world, the semantics is so rich when you get to the bottom of it. If you can get to the bottom of it.

LUC: Let's go back to power - pouvoir, puissance, force et energy. When you speak different languages, you immediately notice the difference and you're not surprised two people with two different languages don't think the same way.

JEAN-PHLIPPE: It really enables you to embrace that diversity in the world in a better way, not perfect way, but in a better way, at least to open up if you try hard. So, Luc I’m afraid we are coming to to the end of that dialogue, which really went so fast. 

LUC: Not the end. It’s never the end.

JEAN-PHLIPPE: It’s the starting point. 

LUC: It’s the start point, not to end.

JEAN-PHLIPPE: No. So let me let me ask you a question. A final question to open a new era for you. In a way, we are going back to the starting point we had in this conversation. We introduced you, and you mentioned a couple of morals. I'm also grandfather, and I you are concerned about the future of the next generation because you've got many grandkids and I'm told you've been planting thousands of trees in in a forest. And so what are those trees about? Why planting trees? And you know, tell me more about that.

LUC: To me, a tree is a symbol. Descartes, he puts his philosophy in the tree and a tree is so much connected to a lot of things, to my values, the environment, future, energy and philosophy. So it's like a symbol. I simply love trees. And there was a ground nearby my home and I had the chance to buy it.

JEAN-PHLIPPE: Belgium, right? In Brussels?

LUC: Belgium, I say, I'm going to put trees. And what's extraordinary is not only you plan for your children, but in fact I plan for myself, because I did it a long time ago and I see my trees, so.

JEAN-PHLIPPE: But have you open that forest to others as well? Some youth?

LUC:. Of course, it's open to everybody. So but I asked them, okay, be respectful. They play the game and everybody's happy. So I'm happy, definitely.

LUC: I think somebody said, I don't know who - if you know you're going to die tomorrow, what would be the last thing you're going to do? He said, I'm going to plant a tree. I can imagine so.

JEAN-PHLIPPE: what would be your advice to a 21-20 year plus kid? Should she do math, study math? Should she become an artist, she should become a consultant and work at BCG or become a social entrepreneur and change the world or something else?

LUC: She or he should become who she or he is. I would recommend strongly become what you are, but that takes some time, and first try to understand who you are and you'll be back at the starting point.

JEAN-PHLIPPE: Great great great way to end this wonderful conversation, and I can’t agree more with Luc about the starting point, on the why I'm here, and who am I? And how we can then build our passions and strengths, to acquire new skills to be whatever it is we want to be. An engineer, consultant, research entrepreneur, or philosopher, to really leave your mark with passive passion and success. But our key takeaway from our conversation is the importance of spending time developing your thinking skills, learning how to think, not what to think. This is such a great investment. It will enable you to make conscious well-informed decisions. It will bring you clarity and energy. Clarity and energy to be able to pass on to your teams. Thank you so much because it was really great pleasure

LUC: My pleasure

JEAN-PHLIPPE: Looking forward to staying in touch with you to continue to evolve our thinking process. Thank you so much.

LUC: Thank you, Jean-Phillipe

JEAN-PHLIPPE: You've been listening to passive leadership podcast with me Jean-Phlippe Courtois. If you have enjoyed today's episode, please make sure to leave us a rating or comment. Always appreciate it. Have you back in the New Year with more inspiring and engaging conversations with leaders from all over the world. And until then, there are dozen of episodes for you to listen to in the archive and you can also catch the show on the Microsoft YouTube channel. Thanks so much and goodbye.