Dufour, Y. and Steane, P. (2011), "Folding the future back into the present: lessons from the past – Dom Pierre Pérignon and the development of champagne", Asia-Pacific Journal of Business Administration, Vol. 3 No. 1. https://doi.org/10.1108/apjba.2011.41503aaa.002Download as .RIS
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Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Folding the future back into the present: lessons from the past – Dom Pierre Pérignon and the development of champagne
Article Type: Editorial From: Asia-Pacific Journal of Business Administration, Volume 3, Issue 1
One legend is that the most precious talent and secret ingredients in the creation of champagne are in essence a gift from God, and only to his most deserving followers – someone like Dom Pierre Pérignon. Others say, that champagne comes from exultant inspiration – a beatitude – that could be drunk: “Come, come brothers, I drink the stars!”.
Born in the very same year that Descartes published his illustrious Discours de la méthode advocating the supremacy of logic and empiricism, Dom Pérignon had not even reached 20 years old when the Papal Bull of Alexander VII made him Dean of the famous Abbey of France, Hautvilliers – home of the relics of Saint Helen. Dom Pérignon spent over 35 years struggling with questions and searching for answers that yet led to more questions. More than two centuries pasted before the perfection of the chemistry and process and proper yeast responsible for the effervescence of champagne. Nonetheless, Dom Pérignon solved six of the most imperative puzzling problems of his time in the development of champagne:
Q1.; How could a wine of attractive colour be skilfully crafted despite the whim of the weather in the region of Champagne?;A1.; Produce a white wine using red grapes from which you would remove the skin and then bleach it using fish glue to collect the remaining drifting particles!;Q2.; How could we secure consistency from one year to the other?; A2.; Through the assemblage of wines from various years!;Q3.; How could we avoid colouring wines while maturing in barrels?;A3.; Mature them in bottles!;Q4.; Where could we find bottles which would resist pressure from gas during fermentation?; A4.; In England, where according to a member of Dom Pérignon’s family, they had discovered the secret of making “black glass”!;Q5.; But, how could we keep the pressure in the bottles?; A5.; Using a stopper!;Q6.; Which stoppers and where could we find them?;A6.; Stoppers in natural cork such as those used to close the water gourd of the Spanish pilgrims who came to Hauvillier praying to St-Helen!
In the Book of Genesis, the seventh day was for rest – to rest and enjoy the result of work. For Dom Pérignon, this provided yet another magnificent inspiration: the champagne flute which allowed him to witness the “miraculous assumption” of the bubbles.
Where do these imaginative creative leaps of Dom Pérignon derive from? What makes him a pioneering inventor? As Garry Hamel and C.K. Prahalad point out, in every person there beats the heart of an explorer. We are all seduced, to one degree or another, by the opportunity to explore the unfamiliar and experience the joy of discovery that may be found in virtually every human activity. The quest is the essence that fuels strategic initiative and creativity throughout an organisation. Managing it might be one of the remedies for performance of organisations a topic investigated by the authors of two out of four papers in this issue of the Asia Pacific Journal of Business Administration. T. Ramayah, Nusrah Samat and May-Chiun Lo investigates the links between “Market orientation, service quality and organizational performance in service organizations in Malaysia”. Jane Frances Maley looks into “The influence of various human resource management strategies on the performance management of subsidiary managers”. The two remaining papers are about closely related topics: Chih Hung Chen and Winai Wongsurawat discuss the “Core constructs of corporate social responsibility: a path analysis” whereas Angela H.-L. Chen, Kuangnen Cheng and Zu-Hsu Lee talk about: “The behaviour of Taiwanese investors in asset allocation”.
One of the numerous paradoxes of our world of organisations is that innovation and change is on the one hand, highly wished for, and on the other, highly unpopular and suspicious. Every organisation has its own “Doctors of the Church” in charge of orthodoxy and truth. But most CEOs and entrepreneurial innovators are bright exalted liberals and, by definition, deaf to the views of the crowd. Furthermore, they cannot resist a thought-provoking challenge. Kennedy, Yamaha, Turner, etc. all these people were genuine dreamers and so was Dom Pierre Pérignon. His dream to subdue the demon of champagne is as good an example of a “strategic intent” as Komatsu’s “Maru-C” (to encircle Caterpillar), Canon’s “Beat Xerox”, Toyota’s “Beat Benz” or British Airways to be “The World’s Favourite Airline”. Strategic intent is the term in strategic management parlance for an animating dream that provides emotional and intellectual energy. It can be a journey towards building cathedrals or (re)inventing industry or competing for the future. Once set in motion, destiny might be slowed but rarely stopped. In that respect, Dom Pérignon was a man of his time. While some had tried before him and failed, others were lining up to undertake the challenge. Above all and across the fields and nations, the broad direction was already set up: to discover. At the outset of his journey, there was undoubtedly no way Dom Pérignon could have known where, when or even if some of the answers to his questions could be found. It was primarily an act of faith in the science, technology and people of his time. Those who undertook developing the VCR and the personal computer as well as those who are struggling to find a cure for AIDS belong to the same school. So far, the field of management has paid too little attention to the analysis of time, periods and context. None of the classical management frameworks pay any serious consideration to time. Once the problem is formulated, solutions seem to pop up from here, there and everywhere. In the creation of champagne, Dom Pérignon’s forerunners attempted to get rid of the effervescence altogether, but he wisely turned the whole problem upside down: what one cannot avoid one should wish for! Worthwhile solutions do not come in bulk, and finding them requires creativity and insight. New challengers often discover a unique problem formulation that has been simply overlooked by their predecessors and competitors. However, the task Dom Pérignon then undertook was, by far, beyond the resources, knowledge and capabilities of his time, let alone those of his Abbey. Nearly a quarter of a century after his death, chemists were still puzzled by effervescence. However, the story of champagne supports the idea that success is more a function of resourcefulness than resources. The chain of questions raised by Dom Pérignon exemplifies the process which allows an organisation to stretch over, above and beyond its current resources and capabilities which in the strategic jargon termed “strategic architecture”. Strategic architecture is the brain; strategic intent is the heart. Strategic intent implies a significant stretch for the organisation. Current capabilities and resources are manifestly insufficient to the task. Whereas, the traditional view of strategy focuses on the fit between existing resources and emerging opportunities, strategic intent creates, by design, a substantial misfit between resources and aspirations. The goal of strategic intent, the implicit task of strategic architecture, is to fold the future back into the present.
Yvon Dufour, Peter Steane