Disruption

agile, CIO, Lean, Lean PMO, Lean Startup, Philosophy, Purpose, Stability, Strategy

Why purpose driven businesses attract more criticism


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A natural consequence of getting older is the realisation that backing the “right moral cause” doesn’t necessarily win friends and influence people. In fact, sometimes it can do quite the opposite.

Disrupting things for the “common good” can even put a price on your head.  

If a man of the stature of Martin Luther King can have liberal opponents at the height of the civil rights movement, then you can bet your life that whatever purpose you stand for, the criticism with come from every which way. What’s more, it will come from friends and enemies alike.

From Tesla to Gillette and from Cadbury to Laura Ashley, companies have lost the moral high ground for a number of different reasons. PR mistakes, powerful competitors, or just a misplaced purpose that doesn’t resonate with the brand’s customers. Purpose is a fine line to tread and the sands can easily shift.

Tesla’s founder Elon Musk was already facing a storm from powerful players invested in the status quo when he famously fell from grace with the “Pedo tweet”. Gillette recently created an advert that left a huge backlash while Cadbury never quite regained its wholesome quaker, high quality, worker championing reputation after the Kraft takeover. Laura Ashley meanwhile, never moved it’s wifely image with the feminist times and got left behind in the process. https://hbr.org/1999/07/why-good-companies-go-bad

Don’t we just love to bring down the self-proclaimed hero or heroine? What is it about human nature that draws us to do this? Is it just good old Schadenfreude that makes us joyful at the fallen? Is it just that it’s a bigger story to bring down the god fearing priest rather than the self-proclaimed Lothario? Or is there something deeper going on?

As humans we often seem to search for an easy, cartoon style dichotomy and we struggle with nuanced characters. These days working out the baddies from the goodies is actually harder than ever. https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/what_makes_a_hero. Philip Zimbardo, the world-renowned psychologist (perhaps best known for his infamous Stanford Prison Experiment) says, “[A]..key insight from my research has been that there’s no clear line between good and evil. Instead, the line is permeable; people can cross back and forth between it.” 

And boy, are we sucked into the news story when they do!

Meanwhile, in today’s media jet-washed, squeaky clean world we are lacking the main quality of leadership – authenticity.

Unfortunately, these days our leaders are incentivised to be less authentic in order to avoid the media backlash should they say something “wrong” or be caught “dancing to the wrong tune..” as Teresa May was said to have done. This makes purpose driven entrepreneurs (and politicians for that matter) arguably more courageous than ever before if they step outside of societal norms to give an opinion that swims against the tide. Reputation damage is the new death blow. At the same time, the Gillette advert and other similar contentious campaigns, have perhaps left the consumer more distrustful of the purpose-led narrative overall.

So is this all just rather depressing or is there a light at the end of the tunnel?

Well maybe there is. The existence of this opposition may actually be doing purpose-driven entrepreneurs some good! Take Gareth Southgate’s England experiences as an example from Sport. On the one hand he was once the most jeered at man in football. Today? – Today he is the hero and an archetypal leader. This is apparently known as “Adversarial Growth” (http://wrap.warwick.ac.uk/3626/)

“A number of studies have shown that extremely negative, stressful experiences  actually lead to  positive psychological outcomes. ..positive cognitive abilities like efficiency of cognitive processing, problem solving and acceptance, optimism etc can all be enhanced by experiencing and dealing effectively with negative, stressful experiences.” (https://www.theguardian.com/science/brain-flapping/2018/jul/06/zero-to-hero-the-psychological-benefits-of-gareth-southgates-experience)

Furthermore, the people with the most critics are often the ones with the most passionate and vocal advocates too. Take Elon Musk as a good example. His car doesn’t even need advertising https://adage.com/article/cmo-strategy/tesla-paid-advertising/310008/. Why is that? Because Tesla have created a sales force bigger than any other – its customers.

As businesses looking for our voice, we should therefore

embrace authenticity and purpose and go out into the unknown with courage.

This is what leading people do and from the statistics it appears that this is what leading companies do. “According to New York Times bestselling author Simon Mainwaring, 91% of consumers would switch brands if a different one was purpose-driven and had similar price and quality.” https://www.forbes.com/sites/hayleyleibson/2018/01/25/the-power-of-purpose-driven/#a213d9c5dca6

So as we reflect on the nature of purpose (and indeed it’s worth) we should perhaps accept that we may not convince everyone of our brand’s wider virtues. Indeed we may attract opposition and even downright animosity towards our organisations. However, if we stick to the truth of who we are, our values and what our companies were built to do. Then, I am willing to wager we will fly rather than falter. And.. if we don’t fly as far as we’d hoped? Well, knowledge and friends are certainly a good launchpad in the new disrupted economy.

Stephanie Chamberlain is CEO & Founder of Magic Milestones a company that helps large organisations keep their product roadmaps agile yet in line with their strategy & purpose. www.magicmilestones.com 

Entrepreneurship, Failure, Investment Management, Philosophy, Product Management, Strategy, Teams, Uncategorized

The Boy and the Starfish


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When the tide is coming in..

You need a team or a consultancy that can focus on solving one problem at a time.

A man was walking along a deserted beach at sunset. As he walked he could see a young boy in the distance, as he drew nearer he noticed that the boy kept bending down, picking something up and throwing it into the water.
Time and again he kept hurling things into the ocean.

As the man approached even closer, he was able to see that the boy was picking up starfish that had been washed up on the beach and, one at a time he was throwing them back into the water.

The man asked the boy what he was doing, the boy replied,”I am throwing these washed up starfish back into the ocean, or else they will die through lack of oxygen. “But”, said the man, “You can’t possibly save them all, there are thousands on this beach, and this must be happening on hundreds of beaches along the coast. You can’t possibly make a difference.”
The boy looked down, frowning for a moment; then bent down to pick up another starfish, smiling as he threw it back into the sea. He replied,

“I made a huge difference to that one!”

Author Unknown

 

Consultancy & Training, Entrepreneurship, Leadership, Lean Startup, Product Management, Project Office, Stability, Strategy, Teams

Why the “Intrapreneur” has self-discipline beyond any entrepreneur


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Eric Ries (the author of ‘The Lean Start Up’) has written that people can apply entrepreneurial principles within the corporate world.  “It’s not ‘intrepreneurship,’ it’s not ‘like entrepreneurship,”’  Ries says.  “Corporate entrepreneurship is regular entrepreneurship.”

In a recent Birmingham meetup we had a great conversation around this..  One of the things that came out of the discussion was that people in the corporate world actually face a set of challenges that largely come from over-resourcing.  If you think about it, there is a pattern, a path that many have already walked.  However, the intrapreneur needs to reject this path.  Why?  Well, because if they walk it, they just fall into the same trap as everyone else in their organisation.  They are unlikely to change the outcome by doing what everyone else has done before.  If a project manager, a product manager, a DBA, a front-end developer, a back-end developer, a tester, a designer, a UX specialist etc. etc. all get hired straight off, this is fishy to me.  Someone is hiring the Rolls Royce Team for a Fiat Punto job.  However, if the smallest possible team is hired and later skills are begged, borrowed or stolen then this is the equivalent to acting more like an entrepreneur would.  Sorry… I will amend that.  This is tantamount to acting like an entrepreneur should.

However, entrepreneurs are only human.  Just like everyone else.  People like people. Entrepreneurs don’t set up businesses to sit around by themselves.  They want a team around them.  In fact having met and talked to well over 100 of my fellow business owners over the years..  I’d even go so far as saying they NEED them.  So even entrepreneurs, with their tight budgets, cash flow constraints etc. etc. are prone to a little ‘pushing the boat out’ when it comes to hiring people.

But what about Intrapreneurs?  Well, I have to confess here that I haven’t ever been an intrapreneur but I have worked alongside many people tasked with the job of making something work.  Generally, something other people have failed at.  Although they all had the best of intentions I can think of more than a one or two who decided to hire based on the standard template.  And who would blame them?  Entrepreneurs are constrained by the fact they HAVE NO MONEY.  Much of the time it hits their own pocket!  Yet they still OVER HIRE!!  I have done this.  Many times.  It does not end well.

So who can blame the intrapreneurs for acting in the exact same way?  The only difference being that they have more money to waste.

Hence, the actions of an intrapreneur must be more measured, more calculated.  Their resistance to following the status quo must be second to none.  They must have the grit to be able to deliver on a shoestring with all the risks involved.

They are putting themselves in the line of fire by acting in the best interests of the organisation.  WOW.

To me, it kind of feels like an intrapreneur needs to be way more disciplined, way more entrepreneurial, than the entrepreneur ever was.

Stephanie Chamberlain runs Magic Milestones Limited, which is a Delivery Management Consultancy.  She is a serial entrepreneur, published author on Agile Methods and a visiting industrial fellow at Aston Business School.