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Vijay Govindarajan

March 12, 2013 by Speakers' Spotlight

Vijay Govindarajan: How Stella Saved The Farm

Strategic innovation, globalization, and transformation expert Vijay Govindarajan, along with co-author Chris Trimble, released his new book today entitled, How Stella Saved the Farm: A Wild and Wooly Tale About Making Innovation Happen:

How Stella Saved the Farm is a simple parable about making innovation happen. The story resonates in organizations of all types—public sector, private sector, and social sector, from mammoth corporations to small organizations employing just a few dozen people.

The parable is about a farm in trouble. Bankruptcy, or the grim prospect of being acquired by a hostile competitor, threaten. The farm succeeds only if the team pulls together and innovates. The main characters in the story are all like people you know, maybe even yourself. The tale includes an unexpected leadership challenge, an ambitious call to action, a bold idea, countless internal obstacles and conflicts, fears, joys, and triumphs.

Excerpt: Prologue

The airline announced the final boarding call and Stella gave Alejandro one last hug. She leaned into his strong body and nuzzled his long neck. Finally, she turned and walked toward the gate. How had this happened? Stella had hoped to fall in love someday, but she hardly expected it to happen so soon.
Stella had high aspirations, and she didn’t regard getting swept off her feet as an aspiration at all.

Only a few months earlier, she had graduated from school with the firm expectation that she would change the world. Of course, she wasn’t sure exactly how she would change the world, but she was eager to get going—working for her family’s substantial farming operation, gaining real-world experience, and building skills for the future.

Stella’s mother, hardly a Type A like Stella, had offered some parental advice. “You have the rest of your
life to work,” she told her daughter. “And work’s not all it’s cracked up to be. See the world first. Enjoy yourself.”

So Stella had postponed her career plans. She had purchased a backpack, a discount airline ticket, and a guidebook, Peru on Ten Dollars Per Day. She was pared to rough it, with one exception. There was no way she would let go of her BlackBerry.

She started her trip in the mountains, hiking the Inca Trail. She made friends with other backpackers from around the world, intoxicated by their unusual backgrounds, interests, and perspectives. One day, she made the difficult ascent to Machu Picchu, the famous Inca ruin. A thick mist had settled over the summit. Stella took a break, resting on a rock. That’s when Alejandro appeared through the fog.

“Care for a cherry Life Saver?” he offered. Stella looked up—way up—to make eye contact. Alejandro was tall. He was handsome. Like the country of Peru itself, he seemed so, so . . . exotic. “Sure. Have a seat,” she invited.

For the next few months, they traveled together—Stella discovering a foreign world, Alejandro exploring his own country, each learning about the other. They photographed strange birds in the Amazon. They sunned
themselves on beaches. They braved the catacombs beneath a centuries-old monastery in Lima.

Stella couldn’t deny her physical attraction to Alejandro. She admired his rugged, fit form. Yet he also conveyed an air of luxuriousness, even softness. Stella found the combination irresistible.

Now, after her whirlwind romance, Stella walked onto the plane in deep thought. Leaving Alejandro was
not her only source of anxiety. She checked her Black-Berry again. More bad news from Deirdre, her mentor at Windsor Farm. The economics of the farming operation were steadily deteriorating. Deirdre was under extraordinary pressure. It was time, Stella knew, to head home and try to help.

She squirmed in her seat, unable to get comfortable. Airplane seats just weren’t designed for bodies like
hers. You see, Stella was a sheep. Alejandro was an alpaca. And this, indeed, is a fable.