“It is not necessary to have hope in order to try, nor to succeed in order to persevere”

House of Orange-Nassau

Creative writers claim that the hardest part of building a story is striking the right tone, as without tone the identity or essence of the story or gist to be put into words gets lost. We were faced with something similar when it came to writing this foreword. We have found it hard to strike a tone that in the current environment does not sound overly sceptical or pessimistic. Indeed, the Spanish economy has been languishing for some time now in no man’s land. Clearly this is not the place to examine the reasons why we are where we are, nor the potential ways out. We do however want to at least flag three principles without which a business endeavour such as ours could not survive, not to mention prosper, in a recession of the magnitude and depth of that currently engulfing us: namely, (i) the ability of our professionals and partners to think critically;(ii) individual performance under the umbrella of a collective endeavour; and (iii) the dedication and spirit of sacrifice needed to overcome exceptional circumstances.

“The ability to make sacrifices consists of overcoming the inertia of becoming apathetic, forcing ourselves to face up to a gloomy future without giving up on the ideal”

All crises, whatever their nature (personal, professional, corporate, etc.) entail some form of muddling of the individual ability to think critically. In a company, this confusion ultimately impairs the ability to compare and contrast that all leadership requires and leads to the surrender of the autonomous judgement that should inform individual actions and even the organisation’s corporate culture and values. Without constructive criticism there can be no progress: errors go undetected and the need for change remains buried.

The second principle is that of group cohesion. A company is weaved from all those that comprise it and each member must assume his or her responsibility. This responsibility is paramount to individual performance, to doing what is expected by the organisation. Contrary to what one might believe, the more plentiful a group’s members, despite the general assumption that they will behave rationally, does not necessarily mean that the individuals will pursue what is in the collective interest; they do not necessarily believe that is the best course of action. Indeed, it is not uncommon for quite the opposite to happen. Accordingly, an organisation’s values and culture must be targeted at rewarding individual behaviour, but only in the context of the company’s interests.

The third principle has to do with attitude in the face of the grave and extraordinary nature of an illness (namely, a crisis) that promises to be ravaging and protracted. There is much to be said on this point, but only one point is worth making in this context. Organisations can become apathetic as can people and this lethargy can prevent them from doing what critical analysis clearly tells them to do. The ability to make sacrifices consists of overcoming this inertia, forcing ourselves to face up to a gloomy future without giving up on the ideal. The quote that introduces this foreword featured on the facade of the House of Orange in similarly bleak times, when the Spanish troops rode about roughshod, dominating those barren lands. Under these circumstances, without any glimpse of a better future, the good gentlemen of the House of Orange-Nassau found the mettle to persevere: they did not need hope to act or the promise of victory to persist.

In boom times, the ability to think critically, the group cohesion and the spirit of sacrifice are not exactly in vogue; the high-profile successes and material achievements of the past end up clouding the positive influence that these three forces have on organisations’ steady progress and stability. N+1 has been no exception. But like everyone, we still have time to react. It is true that nothing lasts forever, not even this crisis. But if we really want to overcome it, we have to apply these three guiding forces consistently and unwaveringly.