When Volkswagen cheated on its nitrogen oxide emissions tests it did what every company that lies does: it took a shortcut.
What if I were to write my entire blog in comic sans font? What would change? From the perspective of its content nothing. The words, knowledge and expertise would be exactly the same. Yet the perception of its value would change because of the associations with the font. Readers would assume, quite rightly, that the intention is less than serious or that there is a stunt hidden within the execution, somewhere.
Fatigue is a factor. It takes a toll. Processes created to maintain standards slip, and no one quite sees it. Mission statements meant to create a moral direction, fade and become marketing positions. Cynicism sets in. Bottom line mentality rules. Career arcs become primary motivations. Money is the only benchmark.
We know that in the 21st century marketing has transitioned from the 4Ps of Jerome McCarthy to the 4es of today’s social business model.
With few exceptions, most businesses are led by people destined to let their charges down at the most critical moment. Some will call it pragmatism and praise it. Others will explain it as exigency, doing what the situation demands to deliver shareholder value. There are a few more labels that follow these two: downsizing, streamlining, retrenching, scaling back.
Heroes play a psychologically archetypal role designed to create modes of behavior which guide those around them. Good heroes use the power of transformation not only to change themselves for the better, but also to transform the world they live in. In the classic hero journey, the newly transformed hero eventually transforms society in significant and positive ways. He is changed and so are those along his path and those they touch, in turn.
Every decision has a cost. When you decide to do something, simultaneously you have decided to not do something else. This means that we behave according to some guidelines and within specific parameters. They define who we are and, more importantly, who we become.
Business is there to make money. No one can argue with that. It’s like saying: “we need to breathe oxygen to stay alive”. But breathing oxygen is not the only thing we need to do in order to live and a business doesn’t need to just make money in order to survive.
We need good companies more than we need business. No one works alone. Nothing happens in a vacuum. The choices we make and the way we make them send a signal on what’s permitted and what isn’t. This creates parameters of acceptability which reverberate further than we think.
The businesses that do better than others are consistently smarter. They hire smart people and give them a free rein. They encourage a culture of openly sharing of ideas. They place greater value in being innovative than being right all the time. They are not afraid to try out new things and they are not afraid to fail.