Tuesday February 2, 2021 0 comments
By Bill Van Eron
Brand, Leadership & Future-Now Relevance
Headwaters Marketing & Innovation LLC
Every function has core requirements and blind spots. What we share defines our overall value. What limits one, limits all. Most may relate to the dysfunctionality when business silos compete & fail to get on track with shared values, outcomes & support. Given the need to earn significance in business, organizations, plus education & government, it is vital to reflect on why internal & external stakeholders get overlooked & taken for granted. Change that to prosper.
How ecosystems and stakeholders overlap. Ecosystems emulate natures interdependencies as a meaningful business metaphor. I see many factors in nature that if applied to business, government, education and any organization, shape a living system of values in evidence. It is not everyone being on the same track where the destination has little shared relevance. It is more of us caring to realize each other’s viewpoints, attributes, as that diversity and inclusion enabled, indeed shapes a better business & a better world. In that regard, being on track is the path to greater relevance all share and contribute to.
When we ask our stakeholder trust networks, they determine which organizations truly acknowledge what matters beyond the trappings of self-serving agenda’s, greed, short-sightedness, indifference or more? To me, Patagonia was a quick top of mind example, while finding others still seems really hard, especially beyond their own claims they matter. I see a lot of this in my advisory space as more organizations now give the right words lip service. Given how little decision makers understand or enable others to champion this path, the tendency to sign up solutionists who only address a piece and fail to integrate the soul of what matters, is why we see a 76% failure rate. I say this with full and proven confidence that stakeholder values alignment and inclusion are now the determining factors defining true leaders or losers.
Evidence in plain sight as to what you stand for has long surpassed the value of what you make, or the current pattern of irresponsibility to just say the words. Measuring up to this higher bar in the early 1990’s through 2002, a more conscious “we” earned 30X to 50X higher revenues every time. That proved that internal & external stakeholders have been long ready for values-based businesses and organizations. Waiting two decades for leaders to even say the words is admittedly frustrating as a hangover from decades of bottom line thinking that listed such investments in others as “intangibles”. These investments never failed to achieve the high bar in relevance (and profits) once over my 25 years evolving this practice in HP. I struggle with why HP and its 3 spinoffs have yet to take this up to its true leadership potential, while also realizing I was blessed to at least preview a future all can now find as more compelling.
We all witnessed decades of corporate prioritization of Shareholders as “Priority One”, and how that shaped bottom line thinking, with insensitivity to what really matters to earn success. Shareholders benefit by greater attention to internal and external stakeholders, who ultimately with 100% transparency fully determine who delivers to promises made internally and externally, or who falls short. Once on the not list, it will be hard to get off it. Earn the yes list and face all challenges with the power of stakeholders behind you, even lifting you up if you fall.
Ask yourselves, whether as internal or external stakeholders:
- Does this company stand for a purpose that we buy into as something we care about? What do you stand for is a key question more employee prospects ask? Under 2% of most organizations have an acceptable answer. In contrast, socially responsible businesses do well.
- What if I championed those values in ways more could emulate as key to success? It is far better to champion the actions that shape higher relevance than just expecting it.
- Is our organization trapped in a closed, internal-focused culture? Can we change that? Yes, integrate more right brain talent within dominant left-brain cultures to earn high relevance.
- Is our role taken for granted despite proving key to higher relevance and success? This is a WE-mergent economy. We can champion a better we with logic and emotional IQ.
- As we try to understand patterns of decline and help others improve, what is missing? Look at how sales, marketing, HR, PR, leadership & brands suffer from low trust and relevance.
- Which and what mindsets are vital to greater enlightenment and enablement? Conscious attention to others, stimulus, reflection, trust, values &design & systems thinking.
We all see a majority of organizations prioritize customers as if they are on a journey to discover your products value. If anything, most customers tune you out when they feel they are being sold or marketed to, versus understood and helped as tuned to needs trusted & valued. As most in management seem to be the ones struggling to embrace the shift to values-based businesses, those that fully embrace the shift, will raise the bar and secure leadership by being among the first. Authenticity-fueled success will soon obsolete leaders holding on to past approaches influenced by greed & control, risk aversion & closed internally focused cultures.
When I say being on the same track is an asset all may relate to, I am not suggesting cookie-cutter patterns as that is a sure path to a closed culture, employee and customer emotional disconnects. A majority of studies done over the last ten years, show a dominant priority among talent, to work in an entrepreneurial culture. Given the poor reputation mid to large corporations have in shaping and supporting such a culture, they all fall off the list, while failing to see the connection as they state talent recruitment is a top 3 priority.
How is it, I see this so clearly & for decades now, when top CEO’s still struggle with it? I am sure I am not alone. While I thank all that helped me to embrace diversity, inclusion, trust, empathy and actions only those that care, will take, that values compass is in fact why enabled humanity has a distinct advantage over AI in synthesizing needs before analytics or AI would. That said, the value in embracing all challenges and a variety of viewpoints on any topic, idea, strategy is at the heart of inclusion. Friend Edward de Bono covered this value well in his book Six Hats, so ideas prosper by a diversity of viewpoints as reflective that we all matter.
When I loved what I could see and act on as one driven to help HP achieve its founder’s vision of greater relevance, clearly, we as designers have key attributes that connect technology with values, and greater relevance. We stay open-minded, continuous learners while respecting and welcoming other views. We see new stimulus as well as older values needing revitalization. I always thought design challenges as unique to design and had great respect for true leaders. One year, around 1986 as a founding member of the Innovation Network, along with Dr. Alex Pattakos, Edward de Bono and 7 other leading thought leaders, we held an innovation conference in Santa Barbara that 950 CEO and VP-level leaders attended. It was a 4-day event fully attended by all. I enjoyed helping leaders including a VP in Shell Oil and others to express their challenges over dinner and how excited they were with real-time advisory, especially without a bill. For me it was a genuine shared opportunity to test the value of truly agile advisory, so less about money than helping our world shape greater relevance.
At that event, the founder of the DuPont Center for Creativity & Innovation Charles Prather, attended to give all of us his Innovation Quotient (IQ) Test that he had been giving to global leaders for ten years, thus 200,000 tested and scored as he now would test us. I could not find my score as it was not among the 1000 scores posted. As one who respected what it takes to be a CEO, and not being an ego-centric person, I had no expectations. But Charley pulled me aside with a look of concern, said “We need to talk”. We did over dinner. He started by saying I posted by far the highest score across all 201,000 leaders tested the last ten years. I was surprised and thanked him. I switched the topic to his concern. He said “With my values compass, and ability to understand a challenge and apply possibility thinking, if I studied and advanced systems thinking, I would qualify as a new breed of world-class solutionists. I followed his advice and he proved very insightful. Sadly, he passed away before I could thank him. I continue proving his faith in me, so leaders, employees & communities shape a better world.