You’ve found your Purpose. You’ve articulated it. You know that purpose-driven = performance. A common roadblock? Not incorporating Purpose in decision making. According to a recent study from Price Waterhouse Coopers, 69% of Executives believe Purpose is central to success. Only 34% make decisions based on Purpose. Disconnect!
Simply put, if you want results from Purpose, you need to integrate it in your decision making. It’s simply a matter of Flipping the Filter, changing the lens we use to make decisions. Sounds simple, but it’s far harder to execute. Why? We’ve been doing something else - making decisions based on profit or gross margin, as an example - for so long, it’s hard to kick the habit. But when done right, it can have profound results, including increasing your top and bottom line.
You may not know it, but Lincoln - yes, that car company you thought might go away a few years ago - has done a lot right the past few years. In fact, they’ve recovered from some extremely rocky times, reinvented themselves and have experienced significant growth for three years running. That includes double-digit growth this year despite a decline in the luxury car market as a whole. When I talked with Executives there, many things stood out. What rose to the top? Their Executive team was willing to Flip the Filter and make their most important decisions based on Purpose. The result, innovative new products, distinctly different messaging (hello Mathew McConaughey), positioning in the marketplace and of course the rapid sales rise I’ve already mentioned.
Inside Out Decision Making - Lincoln Shows us How
As Lincoln began their process they did what any good company would do. Research. A lot of it! They were smart enough to know that what drives behavior isn’t necessarily what people say. Why? The portion of our brain responsible for decisions isn’t connected to our ability to communicate. They took the time to “get under the hood,” of what was articulated and understand what truly drove behavior. The outcome? The realization that what people were looking for was experiences. But not the experiences most car companies cater to with those fast revving, 0-60, turbo-charged experiences you see in most car ads where the car is the experience. Yes, people wanted a great experience from their car. But, what was the point of that great experience with the car? What they found was the car was the gateway to experiencing the world. It was a tool, not an end all. From that a Purpose that inspired spilled out: Creating products that empower people to experience the world. From that came some powerful attributes about what the brand would be. Elegant. Effortless. Serene. Think about the Purpose and the Attributes Lincoln defined. They’re profoundly different from what other car companies tell us about themselves and their products.
It's one thing to define a Purpose and to define what you want a brand or products to be. It’s quite another to live it. Decision making is the magnet that pulls intentions, Vision and Purpose together for compelling outcomes. Lincoln shows us how by making decisions from the inside (Purpose) out. When they faced What decisions (Features and Benefits) they didn't start with Gross Margin or Profit, they started with, will this feature or benefit help buyers experience the world? Will it help make an experience that is effortless, elegant and serene? If someone is driving the PCH will what we've created empower the customer to experience that drive in all its majesty? If it does, if the feature accomplishes that, then find a way to incorporate it. Then let's look at how to make that work (innovation driver!) from a profit and margin standpoint. BUT do that without diminishing the Purpose or the brand attributes we want to define us. Was it cost effective to include 30-way perfect position seats, adaptive cruise control auto hold or 19 Revel audio speakers strategically placed throughout the car? Probably not. Did it help achieve the Purpose? Yes. So they were included. Perfect examples of making decisions from the inside out. Ask Lincoln how they feel about the outcomes.
Stating a Purpose is a great start. But a great Purpose or Vision means nothing without action. Actions are defined by decision making. Flip the filter. Make decisions from the inside out. Results will follow.
A lively conversation with Mark Sylvester of 805Connect talking about Purpose. Listen as Mark asks me about why the discussion of Purpose, or your Why is so vital to your personal and professional life.
It’s Time for Change
You’ve been successful, diligent, disciplined and innovative. The enterprise grew rapidly and profitably. Then the world changed. Your once thriving enterprise has stagnated, been disrupted or seen its market collapse due to external factors or internal mistakes. You need a breakthrough and you need it now. But it’s elusive. For every step forward, there are three steps back. Why?
Breakthroughs Are Challenging: The Grooves That Drive Us
In Yoga philosophy, there is a word: Samskaras. They’re important. Simply put, samskaras are the patterns and habits that drive our life. We may have chosen them consciously or they may have developed over time. Think of those life-driving patterns as a groove on a record. The more you’ve played them, the deeper the groove. The deeper the groove, the more likely you are to “fall back into it” when something jars you. In business, in good times, those grooves drive repetitive success, scaling. Blended with the right values, vision and mission, the right samskaras become the culture for extended success. BUT when the world changes, when we need to break through those same patterns, that groove, well it has the power to hold us back.
Deep Grooves Create Sustainable Breakthroughs
In business when the world changes, we react with vigor. We apply resources. We hold events. We focus on things quickly and efficiently. The numbers tell us to. We think up new ideas and draw up plans. We execute them. The new song is playing. The new groove is playing. Problem solved. Or is it? Soon enough, we fall back into the same patterns. We start listening to that old comfortable groove and find ourselves in the same place. There’s a simple reason. When the first road bump against our new initiative appears, that “bump” is enough to jar us out of our new groove and we jump back to the old one. We didn’t make the new groove deep enough.
Sustaining Success, Keeping Your New Groove Doesn’t Require A Lot of Time or Money. It Does Require Awareness and Commitment.
As I’ve worked with companies and organizations of all sizes and structures (for-profit, not-for-profit) work towards sustained breakthrough, a couple things have become clear. 1) No matter how great the new strategy or tactic, sustainable breakthrough, creating a new groove, typically isn’t achieved overnight. 2) The good news is, the single biggest thing driving sustained success is not our two precious resources, time and money. It is something much simpler, which most leaders have in ample supply: Awareness and Commitment. In the early days when the groove isn’t deep, we’ll jump to that old groove. That’s not a problem. In fact, it is expected. Aware leaders will notice this and simply correct course by putting the record back on the new groove. What fuels awareness in a world where we’re constantly under information siege? Simply put, commitment. When we consciously commit to developing a new awareness, we’ll do it. Moving the record back to our new groove isn’t difficult, we just need to be committed to doing it. Over time as people and systems hear the new music, as the music plays, that new groove will be deeper. Sooner than you may expect, you may wake up one day and find you don’t have to dial it up anymore.
Before the patent and trademark attorneys get up in arms, let me explain. There are a rare few on this planet who come up with completely revolutionary ideas. Albert Einstein comes to mind. For folks who study the Theory of Inventive Problem Solving (TRIZ), you’ll know that only 1% of the inventions studied—they looked at more than 200,000 patent filings--fit this category and were classified as Pioneering Inventions. Another 4% were considered an invention outside a paradigm. The rest, well, they were great ideas, but not necessarily revolutionary or “inventive.” They were, instead, smart people, employing inventive ideas that other people had come up with. But these smart people combined those great ideas and applied them in new ways. Innovation through Combination.
The Foundation of Sustainable Innovation
You can brute force innovation without inspiration for a while. Smart people and businesses have shown that time and again. If there is a problem to solve, people will find ways to do it. But when you look at individuals or businesses that are continually innovating and creating competitive advantage, what’s the common thread? The answer, for me, is a simple one. Connection with Purpose. Said another way, connection with your Why, your reason for doing what you do. With that, creativity, innovation and the energy to put in the hard work to create it are natural outcomes. If you find yourself trying to innovate and don’t feel passionate about why you’re doing it, the odds are that innovation will be a lot harder to come by and you certainly will struggle to sustain it for the long-term.
If You’ve Found Your Why, There are Roadmaps, Processes, to Innovation
TRIZ tells us that there are 40 inventive solutions which have repeated themselves time and again and serve as the foundation for problem solving. After looking at more than 250 businesses, St Gallens Business School has gone so far as to define 55 identifiable business model patterns that can help define nearly every business we see today. Some might see this as depressing. It limits our ego-driven need to be an inventor. For me, I find it refreshing. There is a roadmap for catalyzing our thinking and ideas and tools to help us get there. The process is Combination Innovation.
The Way Out, Why-Powered Combination Innovation
For those looking for solutions, they’re there if you’re committed to finding them AND you connect them to your WHY--infusing the process with the required passion to make it happen. I’ve been blown away by what Why-focused Executive teams can accomplish in a short period of time with some well-prepared external stimuli. The process, Combination Innovation, is simple. Introduce external stimuli such as business model patterns, solutions sets used to solve other challenges in other industries, emerging trends, data and ideas to imitate--to recombine. Focus on how to apply that stimuli to your business. Run them through a defined set of vetting criteria. For the winners, determine how they fit into your business model, including your Why. Repeat. Great ideas emerge and often the "solution," the innovation, is a combination of those ideas put together. For those really looking for truly out-of-the-box, introduce new voices in the room to guide the process and offer fresh perspective.
Innovation Is For Everyone and It Creates Competitive Advantage
Innovation isn't just for rocket scientists. Nor is it something to be ignored. It is for anyone, 1) willing to reconnect with their Why and 2) willing to open their mind to looking at and combining things in new ways. Be bold. Be daring. Imitate to Innovate and create competitive advantage!
The voice and stories from this blog originate from the collective wisdom and experiences not just of our team, but with those we were fortunate to learn from.