George Gabor Burt, Director at Blue Ocean Strategy, shares how innovation and an innate sense of curiosity pave way for success.
Fun fact: for a brief moment, I was once the youngest person on Earth. If you think about it, this is true for everyone, but is most often overlooked. Yet, it is a very important thing to remember because it reminds us of our inner child and just how unique we are.
I was born in Budapest and brought to America at the age of twelve. Initially, it was very difficult to adjust to the completely new environment, language and culture, but with time I started to appreciate the positive impact this change afforded me. It profoundly impacted me, my perspective, and everything I have done since. It instilled a sense of deep curiosity, exploration as well as an appreciation for different cultures and people.
I founded and ran a financial software company after moving back to Eastern Europe, at the time when that region was transforming in every imaginable way—politically, economically, culturally, and socially and mostly peacefully. It was a singular moment and place in human history, and I was fortunate to have been part of it. During this time, my favorite professor from INSEAD – the business school in France I attended years prior – invited me to join him in launching a new leadership concept that would become Blue Ocean Strategy (BOS). The core premise of BOS was very appealing to me because it was about creating new market spaces, challenging conventional wisdom and overstepping boundaries. So, I transferred out of the business I founded and became one of the original experts of BOS.
This led me to what I am doing today, having established the Slingshot Framework and related activities as an extension of my BOS work ten years ago. My current mission is to empower people and organizations to continuously re-imagine boundaries and grasp the power of creative transformation. Especially now, in the wake of COVID, there will be a fundamental shift in the way we share knowledge.
What I am working on is positioning Slingshot as the curator of critical expertise, know-how, and knowledge for the post-COVID world for both personal and organizational excellence, focusing on such topics as organizational creativity, emotional transformation, gender harmony, lifelong learning, and humor in leadership.
At its core, the Slingshot Framework reawakens our childhood sense of adventure, individuality, and creativity and channels it systematically to help us shape the future of our business and our life. As Thomas Edison said, the greatest invention is the mind of a child. Curiosity and a desire to explore is an integral part of all of us and its empowering to remember that everything that is manmade was first born in someone’s imagination.
I have always been passionate about re-imagining boundaries myself and seeking fresh perspectives to solve lingering problems. For example, I have proposed a ‘radical idea’ for tackling homelessness and the marginalization of the elderly, and another for re-imagining tertiary education in the U.S. in order to tackle the crippling student debt crisis. And I crafted my book ‘Slingshot’ in a way that it re-imagines traditional leadership books: It is illustrated by children, has original music that accompanies each chapter – transforming the book into an immersive experience – and is only privately available.
One thing I have realized over my journey is that certain critical moments profoundly impact your life, so you want to be receptive to these special situations when they arise. Try to recognize and grab them. It can be an article, a conversation, a brief experience – anything that brings you an instant moment of clarity and purpose. Life is full of surprising twists so take advantage of them to shape your personal journey in a way that enables your abilities, passions, and impact to blossom. In the words of my dear friend and trailblazer of women workplace empowerment, Natasha Josefowitz: “What is luck? It is not only chance, it is also creating the opportunity, recognizing it when it is there, and taking it when it comes.”