Inspired Us: the San Francisco Ballet and Dulles Airport

Kara McCartney, SVP and US lead at The Value Engineers San Francisco, shares the five things which inspired her this month.

The art of the stroll

Recently in Rome, McCartney found herself one afternoon at a café at Piazza del Campo. People walked arm in arm, talking and observing all around them-the street artists, the various dogs and of course each other.

Often racing from one thing to the next, McCartney, has forgotten the art of the stroll. While others may be warding off sweets or incorporating more fitness, McCartney is embracing the stroll¬-a time to observe, experience and reflect.


Asking for help

McCartney attended a San Francisco Ballet rehearsal with a group from The Wing. First struck by the sense of being within a Degas, same postures and facial expressions, McCartney began to study how the different groups of dancers interacted with each other and their Dance Master.

There were two groups at this rehearsal – the company dancers and young recruited high-school girls. The high-schoolers were first to practice.  The Dance Master called out the movements and many struggled with eyes darting as they hoped no one would notice. Consequently, the Dance Master and her assistant spent the 40 minutes searching out the weak links instead of focusing on the larger group.

In contrast, the SF Ballet dancers came boldly into the center of the room. If they were unable to get a sequence or a body contortion, they would firmly raise their hand for the Dance Master’s attention, before it affected the rest of the dancers. This can be a metaphor for corporations that need to evolve and adapt to change – so often her work at The Value Engineers is about helping clients to call out where change needs to happen and then uncovering what that change should look like before it negatively upsets the organization.


The collective human experience

McCartney loves the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford. Unlike many museums that categorize by time and place, Pitt Rivers will take a topic like witchcraft and display its tools from Ethiopia to Essex.  In one case are masks from around the world, another is wind wood instruments.  In a world where division and nationalism flourishes, a whole museum dedicated to categorizing the human experience celebrates what so many of us are forgetting, how similar we all are.

As researchers, McCartney and her colleagues witness this all the time as they see people up close in their homes and offices all around the world. There is always cultural nuance, but the emotions of life are constant regardless of where you were born, or what language you speak. Successful global brands recognize this by developing brand strategy that reveals a human truth.


The wandering professor

While moving through Washington DC’s Dulles airport, McCartney discovered a slight older man in an embroidered cap. Like most at Dulles, it’s easy to get lost and this gentleman wanted to make sure he was headed in the right direction. McCartney joined him on his search for his gate.
He turned out to be Princeton University Professor, Ephraim Isaac, scholar of ancient languages and peace activist on his way home from months abroad.

He had just been at Davos lecturing on leadership-a far cry from his normal trips to Ethiopia. McCartney asked him how it went at Davos, and he said sweetly, “I’m not sure. I believe in recognizing people as human beings, seeing them as we see ourselves. I don’t know if everyone understood me, but the young ones seem to like what I have to say.”
McCartney did too.