18:16 (CAT), Tuesday 20th March
If you are reading this post on LinkedIn, then you are probably a first-degree connection of mine, and already know a little bit about what I do.
I’d at the very least hope you’ve checked my tagline at some point, before connecting and concluded that I do some sort of consultancy with senior leadership teams.
‘Helping today’s leaders develop new strategies for an exponential world’
For those that have dug a little further, you’ll also have noticed that I’m the CEO of The Equinox, which is described as “a venue in Sandton, South Africa, specifically developed for facilitated strategy, innovation and collaboration sessions primarily for the corporate sector”.
But what you don’t know, is why I called The Equinox, The Equinox.
So at 18:16, Tuesday 20th March 2018 I published the first draft on our website, to explain why I choose that name.
If you are interested to learn why, read on.
In 2014 I took on the role of Head of Strategy, for Absa’s Corporate and Investment Banking client division. One of the clear goals was to look at ways that we (Absa) could develop a more client-centric approach towards servicing our customers.
We started running workshops with a number of our premier clients to understand at a deeper, more meaningful level, how we could not only provide important financial products but offer a differentiated service that would truly help them to achieve their ambitions.
The idea for The Equinox came off the back of these workshops, primarily because we were unable to find a venue which both functionally and emotionally acted as a catalyst to unrestricted debate and thinking.
We realised that the available environments were massive disablers, preventing teams from challenging conventional thinking or truly ‘thinking outside the box’.
So, in mid to late 2015 we decided to design and build a venue, which would act as a catalyst for organisations that wanted to develop strategies for an exponential world.
What do you call a venue like that?
Choosing the location, developing the initial plans and overcoming the obstacles that arose during the build, all caused significant stress for myself and the incredible team that were involved throughout.
For me, though, I found deciding on a name for the venue, was the biggest stress of all.
The endless ideation sessions, debates with brand management and marketing and discussions with friends and colleagues, left us with hundreds of ideas, but nothing that I felt aligned with the underlying purpose of the venue.
The leadership lab, The Engine Room, The Black Door, Wonderland, Ambitions, the anti-rooms (as in anti black-box thinking) and Absa’s Innovation and Leadership Centre were just some of the ideas and themes that were suggested.
Although I loved many of the ideas, I wanted something that, even if not obvious, could be clearly explained to our clients, if I was ever to be asked.
More importantly, I wanted something, that would remind me every day, about the purpose of the venue.
In the end, I decided on The Equinox and was able to reach consensus with my colleagues.
So why the Equinox?
The honest answer? The name had nothing to do with the astrological equinox that occurred at 18:16, Tuesday 20th March 2018, and everything to do with Jean-Michel Jarre!
It is widely agreed that Jean-Michel Jarre was one of the founders of modern day electronic dance music. Even those that don’t like his style have to concede he was a pioneer and innovator of his time.
Just consider the futuristic sounds he created from the available technologies of the 1970’s (click here for a reminder).
Do you remember the city concerts, where he attracted crowds of 1mill plus people, because of his incredible light and laser displays?
Did you ever wonder, like me, what would happen if his gloves fell off whilst playing the laser harp?
So, we discussed using Oxygène, Revolutions, Métamorphoses and Équinoxe (which were all album titles) to symbolise the primary aim of helping leadership teams develop pioneering and innovative strategies for an exponential world.
Eventually, we decided on Équinoxe, mainly because the 4th track on the album is still one of my favourites (click here to listen). For practical purposes, we went with the English spelling.
And what about the celestial equinox?
Some of my friends and colleagues have suggested that we choose The Equinox, as it is representative of the changing seasons. i.e. the only constant in life is change, and at The Equinox we focus on helping leadership teams to develop strategies that take cognizance of this.
I can live with this explanation. It may not be strictly accurate but it still resonates.
This is however just coincidence. We were obviously aware that the name The Equinox could be nicely aligned with space (visually and metaphorically) and change (seasonal), but that was a secondary benefit.
So, in 2018, the 40th anniversary of the album Équinoxe, I thank Jean-Michel Jarre for inspiring me through the medium of art, to try to think and act differently and never accept the status quo.
Je vous salue Jean-Michel Jarre!
And to everyone else, I wish you a happy autumnal equinox.