the lessons of Hernan Cortčs

A warm breeze bearing the scent of bougainvillaea wafted across the gardens and nonchalantly stirred the palms which rustled against the blue rectangle of the window. It was difficult to concentrate on the project which was the reason for our gathering. In an attempt to get the economy moving, the Mexican government had decided to instigate the creation of one new company per day in each province of the country over the following two or three years. To serve this project, the team to which I as a young graduate had the singular honour of belonging, was to conceive, organise and set up for the country as a whole an information processing system which would make it possible to locate, evaluate, select and finance the projects.

This seminar took place at Cuernavaca, in an old hacienda which had belonged to Hernán Cortés , the famous conquistador. His adventure was the antithesis of our rational, technocrat approach. He had left Spain to discover the mythical Eldorado, and built the whole of his conquest of Mexico on intuition, bluff and chance, on the quasi-impromptu use of natural forces and men.

However, this project did not create any commercial ventures, as there were no entrepreneurs. To create a commercial enterprise you have to invent a goal, to clear a way to reach it, and share both of these things with those working alongside you. There, precisely, are the three lessons to be learned from Cortés .