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COO Sees ‘Face of Business’ During LSD Trip

Despite being seasoned journalists, we cannot help but be shocked at what we see as we open the door to Eleanor McGurkin’s corner office on the 33rd floor of i3 Tower. The furniture has been thrown into the middle of the room – with chairs and sofas flipped on top of overturned tables. And along all the outer edges, including the walls, floor and ceiling, there are intricate writings and almost impossibly complex charts. They cover everythingThere is no view of the city, except in the cracks between the lines and letters that cover the windows.

McGurkin is the COO of Intraconnected Industries Inc. (more commonly known as i3). She’s a powerful and well-respected industry leader admired for her stable and firm hand on one of the Midwest’s most complicated manufacturing and distribution enterprises. Today, though, her hair is flying in every direction, and her suit looks like it’s been through a war. Judging by the smell, we’d guess she hasn’t showered in weeks.

Eleanor McGurkin, Visionary
Eleanor McGurkin, Visionary

Despite everything, based on her company’s recent performance, Ms. McGurkin has become one of the most successful COOs in the United States. In the last quarter, I3’s performance has risen by almost every metric. We’ve come to understand why.

Given that Ms. McGurkin was clearly suffering from a psychotic breakdown, our interview was remarkably straightforward and enlightening. Ms. McGurkin herself laid out the timeline for what occurred. Ms. McGurkin’s former husband demanded that she participate in couples’ therapy. Steve (a local-area musician and part-time pastry chef) goes by only one name. The therapist recommended that the two of them have a shared LSD-based experience. A trip. Ms. McGurkin was reluctant, until she was informed that a divorce would require more time away from the office than the ‘therapy’ would.

The session did not go as the therapist had planned; Ms. McGurkin’s head was in the wrong place.

As she puts it, “I came in confident, but concerned. As much as I tried, I felt like I really didn’t know what was going on with I3. I had out-of-date frameworks and standard metrics that didn’t really speak to the business itself. I knew that once you scratched the surface of our company, all was not gleaming and perfect. There was a lot of rust and rot. Maybe we were no worse off than anybody else, but it was there and I was having a very hard time tackling it. Steve was the least of my concerns.”

Ms.McGurkin’s face lights up with an almost unnatural flow as she explains what happened next, “The trip started off slowly. But, about 90 minutes it, it hit full speed. Then, in a sudden rush, I suddenly understood everything. The whole organization was like a living organism before my eyes, flexing, and growing, and changing. I understood what factors had the largest impact on the business – even the non-obvious ones. I could see past the existing data and into the truth of the corporation. I could see the relationships between individual people and watch them grow. I could sense redundancies and inefficiencies and picture the effects of remediating them. I could understand the implications of every decision I could make. It was like I was seeing the Face of I3 – the perfect melding of strategy and operations!”

By this point, Ms. McGurkin is sweating from the mere memory of what she’d seen. We ask about the markings that cover the office and she says, “I’m just so scared of forgetting what I saw in those few hours of pure business revelation. This entire time, I’ve been busy trying to capture what I’d seen…” she pauses for a long moment and then adds, “But eventually the organization will outgrow what I’ve seen…. and I have no idea what I’ll do then.”

The sadness on her face overwhelms us. I want to break down the wall between journalist and subject, I want to help. But I have no idea what to do. The fact is, every business changes and no revelation – no matter how great – can be the last.

As we’re closing the door on her office, we see is Ms. McGurkin climbing into her pile of furniture, curling up into a tiny ball and beginning to quietly sob.

If LSD isn’t on your list of business tools, that’s okay. My help doesn’t require the use of any psychedelics. How? I build bespoke frameworks that integrate financial, operational, marketing and other factors into focused, clarifying, models that help managers and owners make intelligent decisions. I have experience working with Mercedes Benz, Intel, IBM, Nike and others. With my ability to adopt a cross-disciplinary outsider’s perspective you won’t see ‘the face of your organization’, but you’ll come a lot closer than you were before. To learn more, visit my consulting page at http://www.SolveforSuccess.com.

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