WhatElseism (Episode 76)

WhatElseism (Episode 76)

Interview with Pablo Machado, CEO of Suzano China.

“The best way to question your assumptions is 30 years ago. The second best time is today!”

That, of course, is a rewrite of the famous saying Chinese proverb: “The best time to plant a tree was 30 years ago. The second best time is today”

I was inspired by this quote after interviewing Pablo Machado, CEO of Suzano China.

Suzano is a Brazilian company with a presence in over 100 countries, and its products reach over 2 billion people in the world. It is the largest paper and pulp company in Latin America and one of the largest in the world. Or that is how they are often described, but that is not how they think about themselves anymore.

Pablo explained to me that for most of its almost 100 years history Suzano had defined itself as a “wood and paper packaging company”, but in the last two decades they have rethought what they really do, and now they look at itself as a “Biobased solutions company”.

That is not just a “change of words” – it’s a “change of worlds”

Suzano is now looking into ways of turning trees into bio fuels, and how to replace plastics – even to make fabrics for clothes.

“We are dedicated to finding new applications to trees, while at the same time creating a sustainable forestry business,” Pablo said to me.

According to Pablo the whole company of Suzano got re-energized when they reframed the description of what they do. From a product that basically was seen as a raw material of paper, packaging material, tissue, and wood, to a resource that can be used for almost limitless applications.

“When we look at a tree – we look at possibilities,” Pablo said with conviction.

I asked Pablo how this change in view of trees has changed how they work and he replied:

“We still look at what we have discovered – but we now focus much more on what we haven’t yet discovered. When we started to look at trees as a raw material to infinite possibilities it created a change in the company, and not just for the engineers in R&D, but that mindset also spread to HR, sales and other departments. We are much more now asking “What else could we be doing?”

I think this mindset is key. “What else could we be doing?

I think it’s so key that we need a name for this mindset.

Let’s call it “WhatElseism”!

When you get a mindset of WhatElseism in a company you have the whole organization asking “What else could be done?” instead of “This is how it’s done.”.

Question mark at the end. Not a period.

And when you have that you have opened up for unlimited possibilities.

Imagine that.

The 37,000 employees of Suzano work with one of the oldest materials man has ever utilized – trees – but they are looking at its application with a re-found curiosity asking What Else could we do with trees?

If you had the same mindset about your own industry, what else would you discover?

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