Brave Thinking and Big Ambitions


The V&A Museum opened in Dundee in 2018, design by Kengo Kuma

Today am inspired by a conversation this week about brave thinking and big ambitions.

I love to work with brave leaders. One of the four characteristics of people who choose to work with me (see the BeMoreYou page) is that they are brave. At it says on that page:

Be Brave.
Bravery means you’re open to being uncomfortable, to stretching, as that’s where the growth lies. If you’re not uncomfortable, you’re playing it too safe.

Bravery is a virtuous circle. When you embrace your full potential (discomfort and all). Your vision becomes clearer and your confidence increases, even in the face of uncertainty.

So, let’s talk today about some examples of Brave Thinking leading to Big Ambition for organisations and businesses. May it inspired your own brave thinking and help you conceive and achieve your big ambitions for yourself, for your organisation.

Brave Thinking and Big Ambition

“A million dollars isn’t cool. You know what’s cool? A billion dollars”

This line was said by Sean Parker to Mark Zuckerberg in the movie The Social Network (see video link here) at the early stages of Facebook when the young college students came to the founder of Napster for advice and he asked them how big their ambition was and they said a million dollars.

Brave thinking from Sean Parker led them to look to a much bigger ambition, driving the results we then saw from Facebook.

Transforming the city of Dundee

The photo at the top of this post is of the V&A Museum that opened in 2018 in the city of Dundee.

One of my longtime friends is an inspiring and massively ambitious and purpose-led business leader who hails from and is immensely proud of Dundee. I remember visiting him there quite a number of years ago. In that specific conversation he reflected upon how Dundee, despite a proud business and industrial heritage, now had a very poor reputation in many ways in other cities in Scotland, not only making it hard to recruit staff for the several thriving and burgeoning industries there, but also lowering the pride and confidence of the people of the city in the place they called home.

Fast forward a few years and a group of passionate advocates for Dundee had collaborated and brought forth some truly brave thinking that created a brave ambition.

Their brave thinking will have been along the lines of “what will it take to really shift pride, confidence and belief in Dundee?”. They then looked at the assets they had, with one of those being the geography of their waterfront area. Someone will then have said “has anyone been to Bilbao? It is an industrial city that is also struggling, yet attracting a Guggenheim museum has really transformed things for them”.

So, somehow they attracted the V&A Museum to Dundee to anchor the waterfront. The choice of the V&A was a masterstroke, as it is a Design museum and so they already built and ran multiple programmes for and with the city around design of community, social connections etc, as design is about far more than objects.

Beyond the choice of the V&A as the anchor for the waterfront, I was literally jumping with excitement when the winner of the architectural competition was the truly awe-inspiring design by Kengo Kuma. I remember walking out of Dundee railway station at 7:30am on a cold and sunny morning in December 2017 and the first thing I saw was the completed museum building. I literally stopped for several minutes, frozen in awe and joy!

So, now with the V&A anchoring Dundee, when one visits you can almost tangibly feel the growth in pride and confidence in the city. No surprise, then, to see investment flooding in to the city, as well as it making Lonely Planet’s list of Top 10 European desinations for 2018.

Brave thinking, big ambition, transformative results.

World class ambition for world class heritage – Hill House

I mentioned at the top of this post that a conversation this week inspired this post.

That conversation was with a senior leader at the National Trust for Scotland (NTS).

This leader noted to me later by email :

“I am ambitious for the National Trust for Scotland. We look after 76,000 hectares of land, over 300,000 artefacts, 245 miles of mountain paths, 400 islands and islets, 10,000 archaeological sites and 8 national nature reserves – amongst much else! We do this so that our natural, built and cultural heritage is promoted and protected, we do this as a charity, we do it for the love of Scotland.”

They are also looking, in doing this, to “push boundaries, big ideas, challenge to make a step change”.

I am a Scot and have always loved the National Trust for Scotland and wow, do they have such great and beautiful assets to promote and protect.

One of my absolute favourites, and reflecting my love of design, is a masterwork by the brilliant architect and designer Charles Rennie Mackintosh, called Hill House.

Hill House has been suffering from damp in the walls for some years, so needed to be renovated and protected. Rather than use conventional means, the NTS did some brave thinking and came up with a big ambition.

They called it the Hill House Box. Unoriginal, but hey, look at it!


For more on the scope of this, watch this short video, Truly impressive!

“Rennie Mac” is a globally recognised genius of architecture and design, Hill House is a masterpiece. The box around Hill House fully recognises and even augments this. I love it.

Now, off the back of the meeting I had with this brave and ambitious NTS leader, I then connected her to my friend in Dundee to talk brave thinking and big ambition. Excited to hear what comes from that!

Brave thinking and big ambition.

I hope this post stimulates yours.

Also published on Medium.

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