Monday July 17, 2017 0 comments
By Bill Van Eron
System of Everything Mastery in the New Economy
Headwaters Marketing & Innovation
I understand the deep roots that often define the culture and actions of most technology companies.
I also understand why more are failing and struggling to figure out why ‘exactly,’ despite the reasons being more related to a series of actions affecting the health of their business and market ecosystem.
This increasingly relevant insight was gained working in HP in its pre-eminent and glory years between 1978 and 2001. It is hard to witness patterns that separate HP from markets that used to adore them. Engineers were the dominant force in HP just as they are today. Very intelligent, detail-minded and talented human beings were the norm. Marketing was on the outside fringe of that respected culture. The HP Way and MBO (Management by Objective) enabled employees to do their jobs their way while being measured on the impact gained against clear objectives.
As a highly regarded, NYC-trained senior graphics designer determined to capture the value in this wonderful company, I had to challenge myself to master more of the system that was defining true success. Saving a company’s communications as a last-ditch design effort is truly a band-aid solution or what they call “hero marketing” (meaning making something look good that never really had a strong marketing foundation).
The ultimate personal challenge. I stepped up and left my design comfort zone at its peak to understand and apply customer-facing marketing by observation, great questions, insights, and solutions that connected us around real needs, including our humanity. With no one above me deeply invested in customer-focused marketing, my interest expanded to champion that need. The more I looked out at the values of our customers and built creative bridges between those values and our brand, the more our sales force, channels and customers called out my work and my teams as working the best, as stated in national sales meetings, company-wide performance audits and customer reviews.
But forgive my ‘me-time’ here as I was all about enabled teams and touting about what “we” accomplished. In time, my impact as a conscious catalyst became evident and there was no stopping an impassioned ‘we’ that included customers, channels, influencers and employees.
This journey to better HP by bettering myself continued to pay huge dividends to HP every year without fail. I hear a lot of talk about failing but I learned how to think bold, validate, see the system, and make it happen -- but when doing that outside the core culture, failure is not an option.
I see conscious champions as essential; yet now -- at last -- they have someone to call, unlike when one used to be on the bleeding edge of ‘never done that before' and which is essential in business today.
Sometimes the biggest a-ha happens when we step back to challenge our assumptions. Leaping forward 16 years, most of us are pressured to advance our skills --which I continue to do -- and, in noticing how many tech companies were suffering, I took a long sabbatical to test my own assumptions as to why.
The problem these companies are facing in playing a larger, more human game is compounded when corporate culture fails to inspire open, objective review, inclusion, greater innovation across internal and external ecosystems, and demonstrate a stronger external focus.
The latter should consume about 80% of your time, according to several research reports by Deloitte and Harvard Business Review. Not doing these well births what many call ‘closed organizations’ with product-centric cultures -- more simply stated: failure.
We all know who the giants are but who is doing a great job at balancing values and actions with customers, employees, stakeholders and achieving greater revenue growth because of it? To answer this question, one must look past the hype and status of even the largest players, such as; Apple, Facebook, Google, IBM and many other still admired companies. You must see where the market is going and what will be the driving force for revenue growth -- which all the CEO’s and tech guys want -- yet, they fall increasingly short in achieving that goal. I respect Google, but enter into their customer support system and you quickly experience a customer experience short-sighting.
If you look at the factors driving change, most are enormously personal. The advent of a trust crisis shaped an online, full transparency counter-culture that can tell which organizations are genuine and which are still pushing messages at their audiences and which, all too often, they fail to live up to in practical terms. Embracing that market criteria offers huge returns.
The company I see as positioned excellently for a future that inspires commitments, freedom, adventure, innovation, value, inclusion, an external focus, outstanding credibility, and a meaningful social footprint…is Microsoft. Imagine a successful company like this, reinventing itself. Yes, they did.
Here are a few excerpts of their vision and purpose with a strong emphasis on enabling humanity to connect, shape and share value:
- Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella states the following as their value-based vision:
“At Microsoft, our mission and values are to help people and businesses throughout the world realize their full potential.”
- They go on to match strong values with programs across the full span of diversity, innovation, inclusion, social value so their claims leap beyond rhetoric to earn full credibility and relevance.
Why is this important?
If you look at a very recent STM technology trend map, the one thing notably absent is the attention, enablement, and benefit to humanity. But this is a great map! My team of expert conscious catalysts shows clients how to create that vital layer of high-impact solutions that most miss. We get their team, market validation and renewed passion in work and higher value all around that is inspiring through their new momentum. I hope Microsoft’s actions finally motivate the thousands of companies that have been on the fence for decades.
While I focused here on technology companies, this blind spot applies to most knowledge organizations with single-focused dominant expertise. Education, government, medical, legal, financial, and other markets are all seeking more meaningful connections internally and externally as the new ‘Yin and Yang’ of business.
It is time to think beyond the bottom-line and raise the bar to get beyond the knowledge and closer to the relevance and ecosystem that defines success.