We live in the age of technology, and the world around us proves it: wherever we turn we can see the profound changes that technological progress has brought in the past twenty years.
But in 2018, the world of technology was hit by a deep shock. Between news of news manipulation during election campaigns, data leaks and thefts, applications that collect personal data about the user, the big tech companies found themselves at the center of a real earthquake.
This was the demonstration of how much technology, driving the great changes of the last decades, risks becoming something that scares people if used for less noble purposes.
Technology offers us possibilities never seen before, it has the potential not only to make our lives safer and more comfortable, but it can also solve some of the problems that have plagued our society and our planet for decades.
The world panorama is changing, and with it the role of large companies is also undergoing a profound transformation. A company can no longer be just a machine to generate profits, but must adopt a fundamental role within our society, a role that no one else, neither governments, nor individuals, can play.
Our companies must abandon the binary vision that has accompanied them to date: it is no longer a question of choosing between profits and efforts to improve the world. The success of a company derives, today more than ever, from its ability to do good.
A new era has begun, and we must be ready for change if we are to survive.
Trust, the most important value
For many years, the CEO’s role has been seen as purely functional to the company’s economic performance. The work of executives is still measured today based on data such as growth and profits, but things are changing.
In an increasingly competitive market, where the success of a company depends more and more on the people who are part of it, the importance of all those who work in the company is clear. If in the past it was the management that set the course of a company, today it is no longer so: a company that acts contrary to everyone’s moral values, from workers to managers, will have to answer for its own work.
The most important value for a company is undoubtedly trust. When a customer buys your product, he is not only deciding to give you the money he earned by working, he is telling you that he trusts you. It puts its trust in your product, sometimes even its health and well-being. Breaking this bond is the worst thing that can happen.
For this, the task of each CEO is not only to take care of growth, but also, and above all, to do everything in his power to ensure that this bond of trust is not harmed.
Our products can meet various complications, from design errors to assembly problems and so on. In no case, however, should we allow these issues to become a cause of loss of confidence in us.
Precisely for this reason, transparency is a very important component of all our communications. Communicating publicly that you have a problem may seem like a bad idea, because it lays bare our vulnerability. In this case, however, the vulnerability will make us stronger, because it will allow us not to lose the trust of our customers.
Trust, like other values, is difficult to quantify in monetary terms, but it is precisely for this reason that we must not allow it to fall into the background: it is easy to get carried away by purely economic issues, but the impact of the trust that customers have in us is something incalculable.
Customer success becomes our success
In the business world, relationships are much more than just economic transactions: it’s not just about identifying a customer and trying to sell him our product. Relationships are much more complex, similar to interpersonal relationships – it’s not a simple transaction, it’s about establishing a connection.
For this reason, a company’s commitment must extend beyond the search for sales: we must give our customers the tools they need to grow, and this often involves much more than selling a product.
There are four basic concepts that we need to keep in mind when thinking about the success of our customers:
- Technology is constantly evolving, and it will not stop. With the advent of artificial intelligence and machine learning , technology will become increasingly crucial for most businesses.
- The tools at our disposal are the best we have ever had in history, and we can reach standards never before achieved.
- The customer’s success depends not only on his business, but on his customers, his suppliers, all those who have to deal with it.
- The difference between what a customer wants and what is possible is fading away.
Considering all this, it is important to learn to listen to our customers, not only to give them what they ask us, but to really understand what their world is. Instead of creating a slightly better product to sell, the solution could be to help them create smoother processes, without the need to buy new products.
Innovation is at the heart of our ecosystem
Each of us is aware of the fundamental role of innovation. Long gone are the times when a company could sell the same product or service for years without changing.
Today’s world requires not only excellent ideas and products, but dynamic solutions that adapt to the rapid changes taking place around us.
A company that wants to grow, must necessarily have innovation among its fundamental values, and constantly seek new ideas, new knowledge, leaving its own boundaries and limits to try to evolve.
Equality is given by facts, not by slogans
Today it is quite common to hear companies and organizations loudly declaring their ideals, among which we often find equality. It is certainly no secret that, in some countries more than in others, there is strong discrimination against minorities, towards women, towards the disabled.
This is why it is more important than ever to create truly inclusive environments, which allow anyone, regardless of ethnicity, gender, religion, to be part of our company, without suffering any type of discrimination.
Our companies must become the reflection of the changing society, and our decisions must reflect these values.
The importance of shared values
Creating a company and choosing values on which it must operate is relatively simple. What becomes difficult is implementing them, making them truly part of everyday life. The values we choose will define what corporate culture is, and it will grow and mature with the company.
The values of the company belong to everyone, and must be shared at all levels of the organization. For this reason, it is important that every person within the company lives in an atmosphere of tranquility, with the reassurance of being able to speak and express their ideas and doubts, without any risk of retaliation.
This will help to establish a climate in which the best ideas – which can start from any level – are heard.
The 1-1-1 model, because it is important to give something in return
What can companies do to give something back to our society? How can they actively contribute to the well-being of the community?
Since the day it was founded, Salesforce has adopted a model it calls 1-1-1. This means that, each year, it devotes one percent of its products, one percent of its revenues, and one percent of its employees’ time to non-profit activities.
This model has had enormous benefits, increasing the level of satisfaction and involvement of employees, attracting new talent and making sure that those who were already part of the company were motivated to give their best. This consequently generated an increase in productivity.
In over twenty years of activity, this model has been adopted by more than 5000 companies, which have seen firsthand the benefits that such a program can bring.
Adopting a beginner mentality can open up new avenues
To survive a climate of constant change and constant challenges, it is necessary to adopt a flexible mentality.
For this reason, learning to look at things with the eyes of a beginner, evaluating every possibility and listening to everything that happens around us, can help us make better decisions.
Having an open mind is like working on white paper, it allows us to find the best ideas. After finding them, however, we must turn them into reality. This is a delicate step, and it is important to deal with it in a clear and structured way.
For example, Salesforce uses a framework called V2MOM:
- Vision – what do you want?
- Values - what’s important to you?
- Methods – how can you get it?
- Obstacles – what is hindering your success?
- Measurements – how do you know when you got it?
Defining these five points is an operation that may seem simple, perhaps even useless, but allows you to have a very clear idea of the direction to take to transform an idea into reality.
How companies need to fit into society
In order to be truly successful, a company must fully integrate into the company’s ecosystem, actively contributing to try to create a better world. For this reason, the well-being of our planet must be a priority for every company.
We can no longer allow caring for our planet to be of secondary importance, and to always be subordinate to profit. Every company must immediately commit itself, without half measures, to putting the environment at the top of its list of priorities.
The culture of our societies is evolving, becoming global. Our companies cannot afford to remain anchored to the past. Each CEO must expose himself, and be an example to follow.
The question is no longer “How is business going?” but “Are we doing good?”