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I met Jimmy on the Brussels subway, not so long after the March terrorist attacks. Jimmy was sitting on one of the benches and was talking to a group he was with. Jimmy switched from English, to Dutch, to French and to Arabic. It was great to listen to him. He changed his language according to the person he was talking to. And he was really enjoying it. You could see how he had mastered the art of communication and persuasion. I was wondering if Jimmy would be a successful business guy, an artist or a racketeer. He could be all of them.
He was talking about some project he was working on. The words came out fluently, in all of those languages. And he used humour, a lot of it. The others listened. I’m sure he could get away with a lot of things, without anyone being angry with him.
I was thinking if we should hire this guy. Maybe he could go into sales. But hiring him would be illegal. He was not even 10 years old. The way he interacted with everyone, the very smart and sometimes smug replies would get him into trouble for sure. But I am sure that if well guided, with a bit of luck and with a lot of perseverance he’d make it. Some day.
Jimmy is the future. And yes, in case you are interested, he is of non-European descent. And that’s irrelevant.
(Jimmy is the name he gave me when I asked him. But I suspect it wasn’t his real name. He should not talk to strangers anyway.)
I left the subway with a broad smile. Jimmy had made my day.

David Ducheyne is the founder of Otolith. As a former HR and business leader he focuses now on humanising strategy execution.

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