Sharpening the Saw

This is a guest blog post by Gareth Marlow, BoS speaker and attendee.

In “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”, Steven Covey speaks of Sharpening the Saw.

As he tells it:-

Suppose you were to come upon someone in the woods working feverishly to saw down a tree.
“What are you doing?” you ask.
“Can’t you see?” comes the impatient reply. “I’m sawing down this tree.”
“You look exhausted!” you exclaim. “How long have you been at it?”
“Over five hours,” he returns, “and I’m beat! This is hard work.”
“Well why don’t you take a break for a few minutes and sharpen that saw?” you inquire. “I’m sure it would go a lot faster.”
“I don’t have time to sharpen the saw,” the man says emphatically. “I’m too busy sawing!”

Personal development can feel like this. Going on a course, or to a conference can be time-consuming and expensive. But the best events can make a profound difference to the way you think, and behave.

My favourite conference is Business of Software. It’s a single-track event — and for anyone trying to get their head around growing a software business (or any business!), the generosity and enthusiasm of the speakers, participants and organisers is infectious.

I’ve seen some amazing speakers there over the years. This is Jennifer Aaker, from 2009, speaking about creating happiness and purpose:

Rory Sutherland, from 2011, talking about an emotionally-intelligent approach to product design:

These talks gave me a completely new perspective on the things I was trying to achieve at the time, and have stayed with me since. But what makes Business of Software special for me is its intimacy. Like going to a great gig with your mates, half of the pleasure is going on the journey together, and talking about it afterwards. Mark and his team do a brilliant job of curating the talks, then bringing people together to experience them.

I’ve been to over ten Business of Software Conferences. It’s where I look forward to sharpening the saw.

I’m particularly interested in the dynamics of high-performance teams. There’s a complex set of factors at play in the best teams: trust; clarity of strategy and vision; capability — and purpose, mastery and autonomy. This is a lot to think about, on top of getting your work done. How can we create the conditions for these things to emerge and to be sustained through culture, values and our relationships with colleagues, suppliers and customers? How can we debug the problems with these relationships, to improve them?


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27 - 29 September 2021, Online

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"The only place where I feel, professionally, amongst my peers." — Scott Farquhar, founder and CEO of Atlassian

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