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Back to Adriá: Cambiar en la cima

Santiago Álvarez de Mon, Professor, IESE, University of Navarra

Adriá: Change in the cima

Thu, 04 Feb 2010 08:22:20 +0000 Published in Expansion & employment (Madrid)

All newspapers echo the temporary closure of El Bulli for two years. In the Financial Times the news occupies the front page with a photo of Ferrán Adriá tasting one of his dishes. From the point of view of management of professional careers, there are many lessons to be learned. The first of all has to do with success. Instead of dying trapped in its clutches and impoverishing oneself in its narcissistic nets, one gets out of the way, takes a break and reflects on the future. A well-deserved rest? A more than justified vacation? It could be, but no, that's not what it's about. "We're not going on vacation, we're going to work," Adriá clarifies. To do what? To work is too broad a verb, we have to be specific. "We are going to prioritize research over production". They do not engage in mass production to meet an insatiable social demand. It is time to study, to air, to think, to innovate, to research, all tasks with a strong futuristic projection. It is admirable to see how Adriá and Soler avoid complacency, perceive the first signs of fatigue and act accordingly. Faced with a paradigm that is driven by the tyranny of the urgent and immediate, they protect important activities that, as such, deserve their time and priority.

For a society in crisis, reading that "the current format of El Bulli is exhausted. To continue doing creativity under this format is crazy", is a breath of fresh air. Renew or die. In many industries, for example the media, the crisis is model, structural, with deep social and cultural roots. The economic crisis is an unwelcome addition.

If El Bulli has to reinvent itself, in the midst of cima as it is, what can we say about so many obsolete organizations? Moreover, this is the only way to avoid boredom, to cultivate creativity and to manage a change inherent to human activity.

That professor who repeats himself like a broken record, to investigate. That journalist who gives his opinion gratuitously because he does not know, to study and document himself. That manager who only knows how to shout orders because he does not lead, to practice the art of decision making. For a country like ours, which tends to think of the professional degree program as a straight upward line, where there is no room for setbacks, setbacks, stops, sabbaticals, mistakes, cathartic moments, Ferrán Adriá sends a luminous message. Sometimes, in order to move forward, you have to go backwards. To learn, to unlearn old and vicious habits. To stumble in order to get up, and to enjoy the movement, consubstantial to living beings. To lose oneself in order to find oneself. How necessary all this, in a culture that locks you into a certain sector and observes your future with the biased and exhausted eyes of past experience. If Spain needs something, beyond hypothetical functional or geographic mobilities, it is mobility mental, emotional flexibility, intellectual waist, moral depth, that the neurons undergo the daily exercise of novelty in order not to die of stupor.

Thank you, Mr. Adriá. If some professionals follow your example, teachers, architects, managers, doctors, politicians, I'll be happy. Your decision is a master's degree in prudence and intelligence, in addition to obtaining A in marketing.