Behind Success: Conviction
April 9th, 2012 by Andrew Szabo
A blog by Bill Taylor, on the blog network of Harvard Business Review, brings out the central importance of believing in what you do and expressing it with conviction.
Taylor is a founder of the magazine Fast Company (a great read for entrepreneurs, btw) and the author of Practically Radical: Not-So-Crazy Ways to Transform Your Company, Shake Up Your Industry, and Challenge Yourself (Harper Collins, 2011).
Taylor relates a story from Adam Lashinsky’s new book, Inside Apple. On January 21st, 2009, Apple CEO Tim Cook gave a press conference after Steve Jobs announced that he would take a medical leave. An analyst asked Cook about whether he might permanently replace Jobs and what that would mean for Apple’s prospects. Cook responded with an extemporaneous expression of Apple’s core values, “as if reciting a creed he had learned” in Sunday School: the mission to make a few great products; to emphasize simplicity; to promote teamwork. Cook ended, “And I think that regardless of who is in what job those values are so embedded in this company that Apple will do extremely well.”
Bill Taylor’s takeaway:
It’s not what you sell it’s what you believe. If there is one principle that explains why some organizations — Apple, Southwest Airlines, USAA, Cirque du Soleil, the Marine Corps, Pixar — consistently and dramatically outperform their rivals, it is that every person in the organization, regardless of job title or function, understands what makes the organization tick and why what the organization does matters.
Taylor cites Roy Spence’s book, It’s Not What You Sell, It’s What You Stand For. Spence co-founded the Austin based advertising agency, GSD&M. Spence gives as examples of successful, purposeful organizations BMW, Whole Foods Market and Southwest Airlines. Spence acknowledges that a successful company must have great products, a strong operating model and superb marketing. But behind these must be a mission,
an authentic sense of purpose — “a definitive statement about the difference you are trying to make in the world”— and a workplace with the “energy and vitality” to bring that purpose to life.
GSD&M actually has management with the functional title, “purposeologist.” I love the idea if not the neologism. One such purposeologist, Spence’s co-author, Haley Rushing, cites the renowned “Aggie” culture at Texas A&M University, where the saying is: “From the outside looking in, you can’t understand it. From the inside looking out, you can’t explain it.”
Taylor also cites the example of Umpqua Bank, in the Pacific Northwest. Its “branches are unlike anything you’ll find from other banks, and the culture is rooted in a commitment not just to serving customers but to entertaining them, surprising them, going beyond their loftiest expectations.”
Taylor closes with some telling questions for management to ask itself: What do you promise that nobody else in your industry can promise? What do you deliver that nobody else can deliver? What do you believe that only you believe? He concludes: “The organizations that can answer those questions crisply, clearly, and compellingly are the ones that win big and create the most value.”
To do as Cooke does so well at Apple, you need to ask yourself: What are our core values? How successfully do we execute on them? How clearly do we express those values to our clients? When we speak of a winning corporate culture, we essentially mean the ensemble of these core values and their implementation.
(click here if graphic is not observable)