In this video, Femke explains the role that brands and marketing have in the shift towards a regenerative economy.
In this video, Femke explains the role that brands and marketing have in the shift towards a regenerative economy.
A couple of years ago we believed that by being sustainable we will run more responsible, better businesses. The world in general, but also the business world, is waking up to the fact that pursuing sustainability is no longer enough. We have realized that humanity is exceeding its usage of resources faster than pursuing sustainability alone can correct. Business today must be regenerative. We need to innovate, we need to collaborate and be creative together, and we need feminine values in order to get us there, especially: empathy, vulnerability, participation, and devotion.
So what exactly does it look like for businesses to be regenerative? Simply put, it means giving back more than we take. It requires that we become attuned to the spaces we operate in by being conscious of the interdependence between humanity, the planet, and profit.
If we want to have a positive impact on people and the planet we must bust the myth that a higher brand purpose comes at the cost of profit. As Larry Fink says in his powerful letter to CEOs, we need to acknowledge that purpose and profit are inextricably linked together.
We’ve already seen that brands that prioritize people and planet along with profits outperform brands that do not. The 28 Sustainable Living Brands of Unilever are growing 69% faster than the rest of the Unilever business and delivering 75% of the company’s growth. Unilever’s mission to fundamentally change the way they do business has had truly incredible results for their business.
At the same time, it is hard to fundamentally change the way we do things because it’s easier to stay within our comfort zone. Changing into a regenerative business means moving from shareholder to stakeholder capitalism. For this, we have to work with more diverse stakeholders to collectively make change happen, and this is where feminine values come in.
Working with diverse stakeholders requires empathy. I see empathy as the superpower of humanity. I often witness situations where it’s difficult to join forces. To me, the ability to truly empathize unlocks the shift to most of the problems we try to solve.
Over the course of my life I realized that seemingly insurmountable barriers can be more easily overcome when we connect to the other side in a genuine, non-judgmental way. When we get multiple stakeholders to step into each other’s shoes and see the world through someone else’s eyes it always helps to bridge the divide and close the gap.
Empathy is often mislabeled as a soft skill. On the contrary, empathy is a fierce, feminine skill that needs to be nurtured. And yes, everybody can train empathy. The more we do it the ‘fitter’ we become, and the more it makes us present for personal contribution.
Empathy comes hand in hand with another feminine value: vulnerability. As we build more regenerative brands we are stepping into a world of unknowns, of firsts, and that requires us to be real about what we don’t know yet, and what we need to learn together.
Within the business world I was taught not to show my vulnerable side. It was and still strongly is associated with weakness. I realized very soon though that exactly the opposite is true. It takes a strong and fearless leader to embrace vulnerability. Whilst we naturally feel more comfortable staging ourselves through performance and thought leadership, exposing our vulnerable side makes us more human, more accessible and helps us to forge deeper connections for bigger impact.
When going through a transformation process it can be scary at moments. It’s daunting because we need to turn paradigms upside down, moving away from business as usual and exploring an uncharted path to improve in the long-term. The moment we embrace and accept our vulnerability we build deeper trust with others and commit to learning from setbacks along the way.
In addition to empathy and vulnerability we need participation. The regenerative business movement won’t gain the momentum we need through just a few challengers — we need many. We need to widen our circles and invite others to take an active role in order to find solutions, and not only to find them, but to implement them. We are in this together, and the more we cooperate the faster we will generate real impact.
And finally, we need devotion. It takes an emotional and personal commitment in order to see regenerative change through in the long term. Devotion keeps us connected, engaged, and it helps us keep going, even in the face of challenges.
What is beautiful about these feminine values is that they can be practiced and utilized by anyone: men and women, CEOs and entrepreneurs, visionaries and mobilizers. Our world has come a long way, but we still have a long way to go. It’s time for an era of empathy and silo shifting, so we can create a radically inclusive and richly regenerative global economy.
Joyshree Reinelt CEO of Innate Motion, outlines why a feminine approach to leadership will help brands go beyond vague sustainability commitments and social impact positioning to become a true force for good.
A fierce proponent of radical collaboration and fierce empathy to drive change, Joyshree breaks down how to drive change from the inside out; with a commitment to a new form of leadership at the heart.
Few other business people have affected our lives on a day-to-day basis more than Steve Jobs. He had the ability to rethink tools and let go of the status quo, while retaining the strength to cling to certain values with a strong sense of identity. He is usually given all the credit for Apple’s genius and success.
The reality was very different. Very often leaders are overrated followers. Though the iPhone is what revived Apple, Jobs was dead-set against the mobile phone category. His employees had a vision for it, and it was their ability to change his mind that really revived Apple.
In 2004, a small group of engineers, designers, and marketers pitched Jobs on turning their hit product, the iPod, into a phone. “Why the f@*K would we want to do that?” Jobs allegedly snapped. “That is the dumbest idea I’ve ever heard.”
The team had recognized that mobile phones were starting to feature the ability to play music and had already started researching it, but Jobs was worried about cannibalizing Apple’s thriving iPod business. He hated cell-phone companies and didn’t want to design products within the constraints that carriers imposed. Together they had to figure out how to persuade Jobs to buy into this idea without getting into an overheated discussion about it.
One of the best ways to get people to change their minds is to reinforce what will stay the same. Knowing that Steve Jobs was big on culture and values, the team re-positioned their arguments and ideas to honour their culture. They assured him that they weren’t trying to turn Apple into a phone company, but it would remain a Think Different company that makes the best tools for creative individuals. They could see a smartphone manifesting the Apple brand identity. Apple already put 20 thousand songs in your pocket, so why wouldn’t they add a phone? As Adam Grant so beautifully states, they needed to rethink their technology, but they could preserve and honor their DNA.
After six months of discussion, Jobs finally relented and gave his blessing. Just four years after it launched, the iPhone accounted for half of Apple’s revenue.
With bosses and employees alike, people welcome change more when you honour their identity and culture. Visions for change are more welcoming when they include visions of continuity. When people are resistant to change, it helps to reinforce what will stay the same.
Innate Motion, as a change facilitator, knows how important it is to identify a company’s culture in order to help people welcome change. So we developed an assessment tool to do so. The tool lets people write short stories about: (1) how they want to contribute to the organization, (2) how they see and experience the values of the organization, and (3) how they define their organization’s capabilities and expertise.
By understanding the identity of an organization we can shape the change process in a way that aligns with the culture and values and makes it easier to welcome.
Raised in a Chinese food culture where balance is the key principle: not overconsuming one nutrient at the expense of another, but instead using elaborate ingredients combined to create a palette of flavors and nutritions, the absoluteness of veganism seems a bit radical to me.
Far away from the habits of “eating straight-up meat” and consuming it as a staple, meat for me is usually a supplement or decoration to grains or vegetables. Oftentimes, meat is represented in an invisible form like oyster sauce or chicken essence. Meat serves an interesting function, as a spice, to activate the umami flavor in all our ingredients. Therefore, it makes the boundary between a veggie dish and a meat dish more difficult to spot. Following this thread of thoughts, I feel there are some exclusions and confusions when we advocate for veganism today.
Before diving into a proper discussion on veganism or a plant-based lifestyle, it is important to define the scope of “veganism” we talk about today. A recent trend of veganism driven by animal welfare and global environmental concerns, which originated (arguably) and is more prevalent in the west or the global north, associated Veganism with key words like “white”, “privileged lifestyle”, or “green capitalism”.
Personally, I believe it’s a very courageous and respectful decision for anyone to go vegan. However, my concern is on how veganism is often advertised and communicated as a better and more progressive form of diet. Branding it as “the better diet” risks putting it on the moral high horse. The following points aim to bring some thought provoking questions, how new is Veganism? Can all cultures and geographies adapt to plant-based diets? and is modern veganism a product of economic progress?
Preaching veganism today risks neo-colonialism
Through doing various work in the plant-based category in some parts of Africa and Asia over the past year, it’s astonishing for me to realize that the dairy and meat industries are inherently colonial legacies. On the contrary, indigeous cultures have had the tradition of following plant-based diets for centuries. With colonization, animal products are made to be considered “essential”. Indeed, many cultures in the world, especially the ones which have their roots in Buddhism, Hinduism or Judaism have been practicing plant-based diets for a long time. For people in these countries, the question arises: we have been eating tofu and soy products in our diets forever, what is this vegan hype all about?
For other cultures who inhabit the dryer lands like Mongolia, Kazakhstan or Kyrgyzstan, their diet is mostly meat-based, simply to do with the fact that their land is not suitable for edible vegetable cultivation. For certain regions, it actually takes a thousand times more water to grow an acre of crops for human consumption, than it takes to raise an acre of cow on wild range (cited from Quartz). For them, consuming animal products is actually better for the environment than planting vegetables.
The buzz of “vegetarianism” or “veganism” has gone viral in recent years due to exaggerated media attention. And it is ignorant to brand a plant-based diet as a “global mission” for everyone on earth to combat environmental issues and protect animal welfare.
Veganism is only possible when the society reaches a “satisfied infrastructure”
When I was young, elderly Chinese people would say, “here, eat more meat, that will make you grow taller”. Another famous TV tagline from just 10 years ago still rings fresh in my ear, “every day a cup of milk, all Chinese will be stronger”. Such sayings convey how meat and dairy products are perceived as rarer, more beneficial, and more premium in China.
This reminds me of an interesting idea that “veganism itself is not a privilege, but rather the ability to make food choices is ultimately the privilege”. Many countries have only been out of meat scarcity and started to consume and enjoy meat products from one or two decades ago. It’s not until the 90s when meat became a more daily dish for many Chinese families beyond special occasions like Chinese new year. For a long time, meat has been the cultural symbol of wealth and health, and only until recently, people started to reconsider their food habits and the issue of food (meat) waste. Projecting the meat-free timeline from developed countries to other populations might therefore be a rushed and unjust process that would easily cause backlashes.
Can veganism be reframed to mindful eating?
During an excursion to one of the islands in Palawan, Philippines, I saw a British couple starting to pack all the lunch leftovers from the table. My boyfriend and I got curious and asked them what motivated them. “They sacrifice their lives for us, so we should give them the respect they deserve.” That sentence hit us deep. Anti-speciesism is not necessarily measured by the quantity of meat or dairy consumption alone, but also the attitude and mindset while consuming, whether you are consuming according to your natural digestion capacity and causing no waste. The Japanese articulate this approach very well: “Whatever you are eating, you need to prepare yourself psychologically in three stages. First of all, you need to feel remorse, secondly to feel thankful, to thank the animals’ sacrifices, and the last thing is called “co-exist”, to live on for the animals.”
What are the implications for brands or marketing?
I believe we don’t need to hunt for a universal standard to practice sustainability. Brands that blindly follow trends like veganism have the risk of committing greenwashing and falling into the trap of cultural ignorance. Before suggesting sustainability practices, it’s crucial to understand the local culture, its people’s relationship with nature, the accessibility of food options, and their forms of agriculture. Sustainable branding only works when it’s anchored in empathetic insights into the culture it operates in.
Another interesting angle on a vegan diet is to explore more holistic positioning territories around “mindful eating” or “respectful eating”. Based on the different stages of economic development, cultural heritage or generational differences people can be encouraged to take responsibilities differently and implement various ways to shape a more sustainable future for themselves.
A sick planet, marginalized genders, exploited workers, what real role can a brand play?
After all, they are soft ideas, aren’t they? It is precisely this soft power of brands that makes them precious in the battle to build a better world for future generations. Brands are fundamentally ‘ideas’ that inspire us and bind us together as communities.
Apple inspires us to, ‘Think Different and Nike to ‘Just Do It’; and we rush to form communities around these ‘ideas’.
We proudly wear them on our t-shirt and emulate them and take the knee too, when they do.
We need to harness this engaging ability of brands, but instead of appealing to our ego rather speak to our ecological mind (a mind that sees the ecosystem, the ecology it is a part of).
Instead of appealing to our vanity, brands can help people come together and contribute to actively creating a better world.
Brands can thus keenly play a regenerative role in society. Instead of appealing to our competitive drive; regenerative brands can help generate real value by appealing to our collaborative drive.
Exploitative and degenerative brand cultures tend to focus around the notions of scarcity and competitive advantage, whereas a regenerative brand culture understands how collaborative advantage can foster shared abundance.
Regenerative brands can thus create a win-win-win at the level of individual, community, and planet.
As an illustrative example, we can see how ‘Dirt is Good’ (OMO detergent) becomes a truly regenerative brand by speaking to our eco-centricity instead of our ego-centricity at the level of individual, community, and planet.
Individual: DIG helps transform egoistic Tiger parents who want their children to succeed into empathic parents who want their children to embrace playing outdoors.
Community: DIG helps communities to be eco-centric instead of being ego-centric. Instead of investing in real estate, ‘Dirt is Good’, makes them realize the importance of creating playgrounds in the city for future generations to come.
Planet: Finally, Dirt is Good, creates a win for the planet; as it inspires R&D to not just make detergents that clean whiter but also design packaging that help create new soil, or help grow plants, so kids can play in a natural environment.
We can see above that the brand idea works as a strong organizing idea and brings coherence to a company’s actions instead of disparate, random acts of goodness.
To conclude, we need to deeply reflect on what Prof. David Orr said, “Who are we? What are we? Was our role here on this planet simply to dig up carbon and release it into the atmosphere and then expire? Was that what we were all about?”
We are worth it, and we are worthy of it in that higher sense of looking beyond our selfish being; and brands can powerfully help us unlock our better nature for a regenerative impact, by inspiring our ecological identity.
We all know that sustainability is a given today, and fortunately many people and companies have started making serious efforts to move towards a more sustainable future. Well, I have good news and bad news. The bad news is these initiatives aren’t working, and what we’re doing isn’t enough. The good news is that there is a way to accelerate the shift.
In their article Sustainability is the next digital, my former colleagues of Bain&Company brought to light two key facts:
1.only 4% of sustainability programs achieve their goal (vs 12% for all change programs)
2.a bit less than one sustainability initiative out of 2 (47%) simply fail (vs 1 in 5 for all change programs).
This is a result our society and the planet simply cannot afford. Following this alarming observation, the authors provide interesting perspectives to help companies improve their success rate. Yet it seems that they are missing a key element and opportunity: unleashing the mobilising power of a few people will tip the balance towards guaranteed success.
Sustainability transition is not just a matter of strategy and operations. Remember Peter Drucker’s quote, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast”? In the case of sustainability strategy, the last decade of successes and drawbacks leads me to adapt this to “Culture eats strategy for breakfast, lunch and dinner”! If we want to accelerate a successful shift towards more sustainable businesses, the fundamental question to ask ourselves is: How do we accelerate corporate culture change? How do we get a high number of people to embrace change faster?
In nature, energy is essential to all living things. Corporate transformation is no different: it is fueled by the energy the stakeholders put into it. So how can we unlock the maximum change energy behind sustainability transformation?
A common pitfall in organizational engagement programs is to consider all stakeholders equal. Yet, just like we have seen superspreaders of the coronavirus, some of our stakeholders are superspreaders of change. They have a much greater desire and energy to put behind the transformation than others and will drive uncomparable impact.
Once in motion and empowered with the right tools and structure, they spread their energy like no one, impacting the culture locally and shifting mindsets much more rapidly than you could ever have dreamed of with classic “engagement of all” frameworks.
Are they substitutes to your change programs? No. But they will speed up the awareness, the engagement and the contribution to the change program through all layers of the organisation. And by their close proximity to local internal and external stakeholders, they contribute to build the organisation’s capacity for empathic understanding (meaning its capacity to tune in and adapt to the diversity of perspectives that forms the organization), which is another key element of successful change. Our experience at Innate Motion has shown that they offer higher quantity and quality of change than any other corporate change programs.
How to identify and mobilise the change frontrunners ?Innate Motion’s 15 years experience of unlocking human potential in businesses and empathy-powered journeys of transformation led us to define a 4-step approach to mobilizing change frontrunners behind corporate sustainability transformation:
STEP 1: Trigger excitement. Formulate a Mobilising Change Idea that will be used as a rally call for the change frontrunners. It will voice the overarching job to be done to progress towards the sustainability vision and is therefore the necessary magnet for change frontrunners to feel attracted by and decide to steer their energy behind.
Too often we see the corporate world talk of “Sustainability 2030”. This is neither a vision nor a Mobilising Change idea. It doesn’t state what vision of the future the company will contribute to nor acknowledge the starting point and the job to be done. If that’s what you have today, it might be time to re-think it.
For guidance, consider each word on its own:
In practice: Unilever’s Mobilising Change Idea that drives their ambition to make sustainable living commonplace.
STEP 2: Drive affiliation. Unify the change frontrunners into a tight alliance where they will combine their energy for exponential impact. Get them to connect with each other, to have deep conversations, to share meaningful experiences and to collectively sign a pact for impact. For these change pioneers to be at their best, they need a safe, shared community to learn, co-create and be inspired.
Depending on the size and the complexity of your organisation, there can be several alliances created. External alliances with partners are also key to sustainability transitions, and mobilising your partners is a powerful tool to accelerate impact.
STEP 3: Build empowerment. Enable the change frontrunners to drive local engagement and contribution. This means you can’t expect them to behave as communication relays focused on driving awareness of your change program.
In order to shift mindsets and really impact the company culture, they need to have the latitude to adapt the change ambition to the local context and encourage local contribution. Culture is guided by values but based on shared stories. And there are no better stories than the ones we can add a verse to: empower your change frontrunners, and create a stage for them where they can share the stories from their micro community, fostering the transformation bottom-up.
STEP 4. Feed their desire for achievement. Engineer for fulfilment through measuring progress on their pact for impact. Keep the spirits up and the energy flowing by clearly defining milestones for their actions and giving them the opportunity to witness their impact: how many people have they effectively engaged, number of change initiatives they have ignited, stories being shared, quantity and quality of meaningful conversations in the community… Use these to show gratitude and appreciation for their continuous engagement.
This community of change frontrunners will build an incredible momentum in your organisation, the kind that is needed to implement systemic changes.
Intentional energy and Empathy are 2 essential superpowers organisations needed to be set free in order to successfully transition towards sustainable futures. What’s holding you back from unleashing them ?
Would you like to learn more ? Reach out and let’s chat!
Collective action and shared ownership for driving gender parity is what makes International Women’s Day impactful. At Innate Motion we support the movement for equal participation and believe a society with inclusive prosperity and regenerative future is best created by a diversity of talent, qualities and values. That’s why we have a diverse talented team across the globe, always ready to challenge ourselves and push our efforts to the next level. We challenge others to also step up and lead for positive impact. Today we announce a new executive team to realize the company’s ambition to fuel the regenerative business movement, for people, as people.
Joyshree Reinelt- CEO
I #ChooseToChallenge people who lack treating others with grace.
Female hero, approachable intellect, courageous entrepreneur, thought-leading psychologist, keynote speaker, lover of Oliver, mum of Jay, and forest jogger with husky Yuki. Whilst she always stood out by ethnicity and labels she was given, she seamlessly fit through her personality and through a deep sense of relating. Her highly developed empathy skills allow her to be conscious of biases and relate to people for who they truly are. She is passionate about bringing the power of empathy to the world because she sees that only when we behave as people for people, can we overcome adversities and co-create an abundance of possibilities and better solutions. Every day she does her best to fuel the regenerative business movement by being radically collaborative to build a sustainable human future.
Femke van Loon- CGO
I #ChooseToChallenge stereotypes that prevent female leadership in business
Activist, freedom fighter, changemaker, author, friend, mum and food lover. As business humanizer and driver of BCorp, Femke coaches people and teams to uncover shared purpose and unlock positive impact using the power of empathy, brands and engagement, with the ambition to co-create an inclusive, regenerative future for all. In 2016 Femke wrote the book ‘Beyond the Powergirl’, inspiring a future with a better balance between female and male values in which every girl and every woman is free to live and share her unique talent with the world.
Moniek Tersmette – COO
I #ChooseToChallenge men taking endless time to make a point or even none at all.
Female Outlaw, relentless changemaker, progressive caregiver, thought-leading psychologist, coach, friend, mum and fearless cold-water swimmer. Moniek has an exceptional eye for spotting talent and growing them into leaders with empathy. She is a huge advocate of driving change through everyday behaviour. The unique organisational profile of the Innate Motion company, with its officeless structure, diverse team, bottom up accountability and borderless care would not be possible without the relentless passion and stubborn optimism she puts in her role as Chief Operations.
In our previous article, we explained how we discovered that pro and anti-vaxxers are more alike than we think. They share a common vision and aspiration for society and an evolved vaccine system. In this article, we explain how we work to come to these insights.
When we talk to people about polarizing topics we use a set of specific projective techniques. When people are interviewed on a sensitive topic they often start with the intent to persuade or to protect themselves, showing up with prepared arguments and data. To have conversations beyond listening to arguments and statistics of anti-vaxxers and pro-vaxxers, we designed the following projective exercises:
Word association. We ask people to close their eyes and reflect the emotions/feelings/free association that comes to their mind when they hear the word ‘body’. This technique gives us insight into immediate reactions, personal connections, as well as an understanding of the language used. We ask them to complete this task quickly so we can capture initial thoughts before the response is rationalized.
Why does the word association work? This helps people break their barriers and discover images, emotions, and associations related to a specific topic. It requires them to answer in an instinctual way rather than a rational way.
Tip: Ask participants to sit comfortably, close their eyes, and breathe regularly. This gives them the mental and emotional space to answer the question. After a moment, ask them about their associations. Probe them to evoke images, emotions.
Body metaphor. We ask people to pick a metaphor to describe their body. We heard beautiful metaphors like, “my body is like a temple, it keeps what is essential for me,” or, “my body is active like a car, but needs maintenance once in a while.”
This technique is a more developed version of the word association. Here participants are presented with a sentence or a story that contains a blank and asked to fill in the missing word or words.
Why does the body metaphor work? This encourages creative thinking and can uncover thoughts and attitudes associated with various situations. It helps to break conventions and beliefs that people take for granted.
Tip: Ask people to describe what this metaphor means to them and how do they feel about it, rather than asking for a rational explanation.
Transparent Body. We have people imagine they have a magical power to see through everything in their body, the way it functions on the skin, the blood, the cell, on each organ. Then you ask them what happens when they inject or are exposed to the topic at hand. Have them describe in an imaginative, not scientific way, what happens.
Why does the Transparent Body work? When working with a concept or product that impacts the body, using the Transparent Body technique helps to get to people’s true feelings and understandings around the idea.
Tip: Give this one a bit of time. People need time to project this and to feel the impact, so don’t rush it.
Solar System. We made a solar system with “Vaccine” as our sun, and the planets were: politics, environment, science, science, society. We asked people to position the planets, with the most relevant being closest.
Why does the Solar System work? This helps to unveil the hidden influences, perceptions, concerns, and reasoning related to the vaccines and get a deeper understanding of the dynamics at play.
Tip: make it playful by using visualization as part of the technique to guide the process.
World With and Without. We ask people to think about the World With Vaccination and the World Without Vaccination, describing how that world looks, smells, what the people are like, how they interact, and how they live.
This exercise reveals and builds on deep desires and fears by asking people to imagine and describe a world without something dear to them.
Why does the World With/Without Work? The extraction or adding of an element forces people to choose to really imagine the impact of that element in their lives. It is pushing the boundaries of their imagination. It allows them to step away from logic, tapping into the emotions.
Tip: Make sure to explore nuances. Not making it a black and white picture.
Research is not just about asking straight questions that would lead to straight arguments. The verbally based process of interviewing limits the potential for imagination and creativity. There aren’t enough words for some of the more complex situations and feelings we encounter.
Projective techniques make it safer to talk about things that people are reluctant to talk about. Without the use of these techniques, research becomes superficial and inaccurate.
Stay tuned as another series about vaccines will come soon!
What surprised us the most is what appears as a paradox: pro- and anti-vaxxers are more alike than we thought.
We spoke to 23 people, both for and against vaccines, and touched all continents and all generations. Listening to different opinions, feeling how they feel to get to an understanding of what drives their point of view. People are passionately divided in what seems an impossible dialogue, full of misunderstanding, anger and fear. Anti-vaxxers are easily perceived as detached from society and reality. Neither side feels they are being heard. We will explain how we came to meaningful conversations next week.
Here first some surprising observations that we did: 4 shared beliefs of anti-vaxxers and pro- vaxxers.shared desire for a harmonious world
However, they actually share the same worries and views on society. We live in a polarized world today where division, chaos and dissension are extreme. Both want a more peaceful, harmonious world. A more just and equal society, where we can be stronger together.
Pro-vaxxers think anti-vaxxers are utopians, mistrust science and believe pharmaceutical industries want to sell products regardless of harmful consequences.
Anti-vaxxers think pro-vaxxers are misinformed. They lack the ability to discern and don’t question the information they receive.
Surprisingly, in our post-truth world, both sides believe science research is the only way for society to evolve. Though they interpret some of the data differently, both rely on science to inform themselves, protect their body and their children the best way they can. Science drives their decision making.
Anti-vaxxers believe pro-vaxxers rely too much on modern chemical treatments on health issues, forgetting about the body’s own healing mechanisms.
Pro-vaxxers believe anti-vaxxers see their body as a holy temple they only treat with natural products.
In reality, both believe the body and health wellbeing are crucial. Love for nature and a proper wellness routine is needed everyday to take care of it. Both adopt things like: spiritual practices, mental and emotional health, integrating exercise, healthy eating habits in their routines.
Anti-vaxxers believe vaccines are harmful with dangerous side effects. Current information does not provide enough space for discussion, information exchange or questions.
Pro-vaxxers believe vaccination should be mandatory for everyone, that it is a symbol of a healthy civilization. This means we should all give full compliance and support to build a resilient world for the next generation.
You may be surprised to find out that both pro-vaxxers and anti-vaxxers want to evolve the vaccination system. Pro-vaxxers believe one size does not fit all; they rather wish for more freedom and more room for an exchange of views and customized solutions based on personal profiles.
Anti-vaxxers wish to improve the system, to be given more freedom to discuss, and more transparency regarding side effects. Those are the starting points for them to re-evaluate vaccination and rethink their decisions.
So how does this make you feel? Anti-vaxxers and pro-vaxxers sharing beliefs. It is almost mind-blowing, right? It was for sure for us the case. Anti-vaxxers are not detached and rejectors of science. They actually want to use science to better the vaccination program and to better society. We realized that with empathy we could stop polarising conversations and find a shared way forward.
Empathy is the most powerful way to connect with others, understanding how and why people feel the way they do. After a challenging 2020 we learned the importance of considering those around us. We believe that to be ‘empathy fit’ one must train this “muscle” as you would any other – by practicing often.
At Innate Motion we have witnessed how being ‘empathy fit’ can transform brands and companies to be more in tune to the people they serve. To make the world more human we have committed to using empathy as a tool both in our daily lives at home and with colleagues at work.
In order to encourage others to do the same Innate Motion has created a simple online challenge. The 5 day challenge will run live from Monday, 25 January 2021 to Friday, 29 January 2021.
Each day we will post a video with an exercise. By the end of the 5 days, you will feel more centered, mindful and connected. Join us in our mission to get more empathy fit! Bring a friend, colleague, partner, anyone you like!
See you there! #empathyfitnesschallenge2021 #EFC2021
Welcome to Day 1 of our empathy fitness week!
Today, Kanchana Moodliar, business humanizer at #innatemotion will introduce you to the first challenge, which is all about self-empathy. How can we better get in tune with ourselves? How can we show ourselves more kindness and appreciation, in order to better do it for others?
By turning our negative thoughts into positive statements, we can really change the way we feel and act towards others.
Share your experience in the comments. When we did the mindfulness exercise, what physical sensation and/or emotion did you become aware of that you weren’t fully conscious of before? Let us know!
Join us in our mission to get more empathy fit! #empathyfitnesschallenge2021
Did you know that everyday, you take about 35 thousand decisions? You do this without even noticing that you are doing so. Just like we don’t notice this, we often don’t realize that our decisions are filled with unconscious biases that we acquired along our lives, from our upbringing, culture and so on. Only when we are aware of the biases we carry, can we begin to improve them.
Femke Van Loon, business humanizer at #innatemotion will walk you through today’s challenge on battling our behaviours and actions that are consequences of our biases.
Take the test here: https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/selectatest.html
Let us know what are the unconscious biases that you discovered in yourself and how this made you feel.
Join us in our mission to get more empathy fit! #empathyfitnesschallenge2021 #EFC2021
Have you ever been in a conversation with someone and you can tell that they are totally disconnected? Well, today’s challenge is all about the art of listening.
Learning how to be an empathetic listener allows the person you are speaking to feel heard and understood. Megan Pratt, business humanizer at #innatemotion will give you some practical examples of the pitfalls of the art of listening, hopefully allowing you to become more aware and a better listener.
Let us know which of the empathetic listening actions you practiced today? How did it change your conversation?
Join us in our mission to get more empathy fit! #empathyfitnesschallenge2021 #EFC2021
One of the secrets of stepping into someone else’s shoes is to find common ground. Not an easy task in a society that is increasingly becoming more and more polarizing. But we need to challenge ourselves and exercise our empathy muscles and remember that in the end of the day, there is more that unites us, than divides us and narrowing labels are the root of disruption.
Share what you have learned with us! How did it go? What were the common grounds? Has this game changed the way you interact with others?
Join us in our mission to get more empathy fit! #empathyfitnesschallenge2021 #EFC2021
Welcome to day 5, our last day of the empathy fitness week!!! Thank you for sticking to us and challenging yourself this week.
Yaw Sarkodie, business humanizer at #innatemotion, will talk you through the last challenge! We want you to think about a situation where your point of view is different from someone else. Today, you will put yourself in their shoes and try to understand why they think, act, feel the way they do. For inspiration, on completing this exercise, you can check out this talk: https://www.ted.com/talks/lori_gottlieb_how_changing_your_story_can_change_your_life
Share your stories with us and tell us how this has impacted your perspective!
Join us in our mission to get more empathy fit!
The Unilever baiters had often cited this particular Achilles heel as an example of the tricky rope walk that is embracing brand purpose.
But what years of sagely advise could not achieve was made possible by changes in the global cultural climate. Gigantic ripples emanating from the Black Lives Matter made it to the Arabian coastline and the walls of the Hindustan Lever office.
HUL finally announced that they would drop the word ‘Fair’ from the household brand ‘Fair & Lovely’ (or FAL as it is popularly called by the marketing community). Everyone heaved a sigh of relief. Better late than never. The industry was awash with opinions and perspectives.
One wonders if dropping the word ‘Fair’ is enough and if FAL should adopt promises of glow and radiance; like all fairness creams seem to have done in the last few weeks.
What is the real transformation, if any, that FAL could attempt? Curiously enough, does the path forward lie hidden in today’s popular culture?
I suspect the answers lie in the movie series ‘Frozen’. Indeed, a strange name for a franchise that has unfrozen solidified feminine stereotypes and created new archetypes of feminine identity.
Anna is seen saving Kristoff, a counter point to older Disney movies and traditional male roles in general, where the male character is almost always seen saving the female. Her final moment of gender ambiguity comes when she single-handedly saves Elsa without the help of a male. Angry Anna as she punches Hans delivers a final strong punch to traditional feminine identity and patriarchy.
FAL should look towards the success of ‘Frozen’ and what that says about the changing world of global and Indian feminine identities.
Geena Davis, popular Hollywood actor and head of the Geena Davis Institute of Gender in Media had this to say ‘what I love most about it is that it’s from a female perspective, a female point-of-view and gaze. It’s so important to see female characters taking risks, making mistakes, and having to deal with the consequences of their own mistakes and being in charge of their own fate. That’s really what I most love about it.”
FAL for too long has catered to the male gaze, making the transformation from the ugly duckling to the beautiful swan, seeking validation in a world dominated by men; either as a cricket commentator or as a determined career woman; good enough to be the bride of the “lucky boy” in a tale of role reversals.
Indian women marching to the steady beat of modernity, that employment and education brings have broken through the flimsy glass ceiling of patriarchy. Today, they are no longer dependent, support actors but the lead protagonists of their own life; and they certainly don’t look searchingly for the approving male gaze.
Readers wondering if Frozen is too distant an example only need look at movies like ‘Queen’ and ‘Thappad’, to see the rise of a new feminine identity that has taken full control of itself and no longer require the certificate of merit from the man prince.
This is the real change FAL needs to make. FAL has always been the Svengali, the benefactor rescuer, salvaging the life of the helpless woman helping her transform to reach her dreams. But today the Indian woman does not need saving. She has the agency. She has her sisterhood. She is doing things for herself. Her transformation is for her independence, to feel thrilled about what she has become. To let her own aura shine through, without any hindrance.
FAL ought to no longer be a surface solution, skin deep, but work from within to amplify her natural best. No longer the pity taking Henry Higgins in ‘My Fair Lady’ but more like your everyday trainer, manifesting your core strength. Beauty for the Indian woman today after all, is the ‘curation of her self-expression’. A confident beacon signal of her fundamental uniqueness.
FAL needs to root itself in these stories of a woman in a woman’s world, exploring her boundaries at her own pace and knocking them down one by one.
As ‘Frozen’ would have said, FAL needs to ‘Let it go’ and reinvent itself completely, without any half measures.
As a white (or a non-black) person do you sometimes feel fake to support the Black Lives Matter cause? Or even as a non-American person do you feel supporting the Black Lives Matters feels fake? Are we just jumping on the bandwagon?
I certainly felt fake at the time back in South Africa in the Apartheid era. Yes I had black friends, yes I co-started a student movement to improve the conditions and the dialogue with black students, yes I was picked up by the police and I was pressured to leave the country. But still it was not my story and hence I looked at the cause as not my own. What I know today is that you have to own the story to truly own the change. And it was the idea of “the rainbow nation at peace with itself and the rest of the world” that helped me own the story of change in South Africa.
To stop feeling fake about supporting the Rainbow Nation transformation I had to change my frame of reference around the cause. I had to humanize the cause and see it for what it is, an injustice to humanity and abuse of power on the basis of skin colour, something I cannot tolerate for myself nor for others. Hence, together with a group of innate social justice strivers, we created Innate Motion, a global consultancy business focused on humanizing business. Together we strongly believe business becomes infinitely more valuable for everyone when humanized and today we believe this too about the Black Lives Matter movement.
So if you are hesitating to support this movement, don’t, rather ask how it can become part of your story that you and your business can live it everyday. Here are 5 ways of how we at Innate Motion strive to contribute to the fight for social justice and inclusion. We strive to live the story through our practices, values and the people we are:
In practice we help organizations and brands become empathy fit, so they can connect with greater human and business sense. Like Rene Brown so beautifully illustrates “empathy connects, sympathy drives disconnection.
We champion feminine values like generosity, co-creation, empathy, intuition, flexibility and play (maybe the last one is just me). We make them part of who we are and want to be.
We work hard to improve our #BCorp scores so we can use our business as a force for good
We assure we are a 100% transparent company ensuring that people across the world and across gender or colour divides can benefit from our incentive and remuneration systems without discrimination.
And last but not least, we believe in ownership of inclusion. All people in innate motion have a right to ownership if they choose
Is this enough? Surely not, but we will become better each day.
Co-founder and Chairman of Innate Motion
Lockdown. It’s a unique situation to be in that none of us expected — a far cry from the hustle and bustle that is our usual everyday life.
For many of us it is the first time that we have been really, truly “home” in a long time. The home is often more of a base where we keep our stuff, sleep, and stop briefly to fuel ourselves to continue with our busy schedules.
To be confined has been a revelation for some — about how they keep their space, what bothers them about it, whether they can see themselves reflected in it or not. How many people do you know who took the lockdown as an opportunity to declutter and organize? But that’s not the only way people have dealt with rediscovering their home, or releasing their pent up frustration into the spaces they’ve been stuck in.
Our environments can have an incredibly significant impact on our mental and emotional wellbeing. I wanted to know more about how people’s space has impacted them now that they have the time to really dwell in it, and how they have been putting their energy into their home during this time.
To explore this idea, and the motivations behind it, I talked to some of the Innate Motion Business Humanizers. Despite the idea of a home office being nothing new for them, the extra time spent inside sparked something that caused them to make some changes.
For many years Moniek’s reality was being constantly on-the-go, traveling to meet clients, manage projects, spending holidays away. When the world shut down she was suddenly faced with the fact that she felt like a visitor in her own home. She also became overwhelmed by all of the organization projects that had piled up over the years.
The lack of travel, social obligations and family visits gave her the time and the mental and emotional space to tackle the organization bit by bit, and in the process put a bit of herself back into her home. Her biggest project has been decluttering the family’s extensive book collection.
“It did help me with landing in the house. That was kind of confrontational actually; because of the life I live I am kind of disconnected from the place. It brought a sense of groundedness, but also a bit of panic. Where does it stop? What else do I have to do?”
Though she has more tasks on her list that she’d like to accomplish, she notes that she has gained a sense of calm and focus from the progress she has already made. It has helped her to take charge over her space, and to ground herself more in her environment.
Benoit – France
Benoit’s home in the South of France is usually enjoyed by one or two people at a time. So when his family of 7 agreed to quarantine there together, he quickly realized that he needed to make some changes to better accommodate so many people in the house.
He moved the TV from upstairs to the common area, and rearranged the furniture and added an additional table to make it a more comfortable communal space. In parallel he made a private workspace for himself so he could better concentrate during the workday. By rezoning he created the distance needed to coexist for such a long period of time. Even more important it provided the space to better enjoy moments of togetherness.
“The TV room downstairs has allowed us to watch a few movies together, though to be honest the biggest use is for the boys in the house to play on the PlayStation. Not bad, that gives the room a cosy feel.”
Katie had noticed before that her living room felt a bit cold. Between meeting friends after work and volunteering, most of her time spent not working was out of the house, so she didn’t prioritize warming it up.
Once COVID changed her evening activities she realized that she didn’t have a desire to be in that cold room — it felt uncomfortable and uninviting, and limited her ability to feel at ease in her space. She felt that she really needed that comfort and feeling of safety. Not only because she spent more time at home, but also because she felt more anxious about the world around her and needed a place where she could cocoon and retreat from that anxiety.
To solve it she brought in a beautiful Persian rug that belonged to her grandmother, and she rearranged the space to be more comfortable and inviting. It completely changed the environment and gave her a cosy place where she can spend her time peacefully, feeling secure and protected.
“It’s amazing how changing something so small in your space can make your home feel really different.”
For Muriel, lockdown has been spent in her home away from home. Her family’s temporary escape from the UK to their holiday house in the South of France unexpectedly turned into an indefinite stay.
Since she is usually only there for a few weeks at a time she never really takes the time to decorate, so she decided to use this opportunity to unleash her creativity to make the house a more beautiful place to spend time. But with the reality of being confined in the same space for weeks at a time with the whole family, her decorating endeavor also turned into a pleasant form of escapism.
“It’s my me-time, a way to have a little self time away from the family. It’s the only little bubble I’ve had during lockdown, so it has definitely been a bit of an escape.”
She has a stunning rose garden that she rarely gets to enjoy, so she decided to use that as inspiration and bring the beauty indoors. She took photographs of the flowers that she plans to frame so that she can beautify the house and appreciate the roses any time of year.
Cilla’s home office was situated to not only be her workspace, but to also facilitate a moment of connection with her daughter each day. She had a long desk with two chairs situated next to each other, and for about an hour each day she would get to enjoy working side-by-side with her daughter as she did her homework.
With the abrupt shift to homeschooling that hour suddenly turned into the full workday. Between her own calls with clients and colleagues and her daughter’s calls for school, the situation was no longer workable for either of them.
To adapt she created a new workspace for herself in another area of the house. What seemed like a very practical change was also a bit of an emotional push to give her daughter a new level of freedom.
“We had to do it, but to be honest I kind of already wanted my own little office corner, so it’s the right opportunity. It’s really more about my daughter though, giving her more independence.”
When the COVID crisis began, like many of us, Rachel experienced a sense of helplessness over her ability to control the situation. Something in her compelled her to start buying plants, despite the fact that in the past she couldn’t even keep a cactus alive.
She explained, “Having some kind of living thing I could care for was very comforting. Something clicked inside me that said, there’s chaos out there that I can’t control, but plants, if you take care of them, they grow. You give to them and they give back.”
As a result she has developed a new skillset, and a deep respect for the plants she has brought into her home. She now knows precisely how much water and light (and love) each type of plant in her home needs. The ability to master something that was once seemingly impossible has given her a sense of satisfaction.
More importantly, the addition of vivacious green plants in her life has brought her joy, and a reminder that despite all of the chaos out there life does go on.
This unique moment in time has given us a jolting reminder of how profoundly our surroundings can impact our emotional state and wellbeing.
Yes, home is a functional habitation, but it’s also a social zone, an outlet for creativity, a space to feel safe and a place to be anchored. The beauty of it is in recognizing what we need it to be — identifying where our own tensions lie and adapting our space to resolve that need in our own way.
After long existing as the backdrop to our lives the home is on the forefront again, reminding us of its many facets and what it has the potential to be, in lockdown and beyond.
It’s become pretty clear that the world is not heading for a re-start after lockdown, but a serious re-think. What will it mean for the environment, consumption habits, business as we know it?
This session will look at the 4-step approach to strategizing in the times of Covid: 1. Design scenarios | 2.Build options | 3.Measure & Act | 4.Repeat
Studies have shown that businesses that embrace traits traditionally viewed as feminine like empathy enable people to thrive. And leaders like Jacinda Arden have demonstrated that now more than ever, feminine values are instrumental in creating lasting change for people and planet.
The world needs to be brave to live stronger feminine values.
This session will showcase how brave brands can ignite the way forward and be the catalyzers of positive impact by harnessing stronger feminine identities through their leadership and storytelling.
How to connect on a human level with people when they exist in two dimensions on your screen? How do you build team spirit when you don’t have opportunities for face-to-face contact? These are only some of the questions we can ask ourselves. As psychologists, interested in human feelings and emotions rather than neurons and synapses, in this session, we will explored the ways that are innate to us in connecting with each other.
So often a company’s marketing and sustainability agendas are divorced from each other, with sustainability initiatives simply being a sideline activity. It consequently comes as no surprise that sustainability initiatives aren’t as successful as one would like them to be, and they struggle to mobilize employees and stakeholders to get behind them and make them a great success. This webinar discusses the guiding principles to make sustainability more wanted and introduces the concept of a “mobilizing change idea” that provides a future narrative capable of mobilizing employees and other stakeholders behind your sustainability initiatives.
So we thought the 50 people who work for Innate Motion across the world probably had tips to offer to those new to the art of remote work.
This week we opened a Google doc, and collected the tricks that make Innater happy and efficient home workers. Going through the contributions though, I was a bit underwhelmed.
Make sure your work space is comfortable and with enough daylight (Annemarie).
Do Skype meetings with image, so it’s human (me).
Set clear time and geographical boundaries between life and work (Arya)
Exercise daily, ideally outdoors (Mark).
Forbid the family/friends to spontaneously pop up or even enter your office, unless someone is bleeding or the house in on fire (Mai).
Proactively plan digital coffee breaks, to share and socialise with your colleagues, like a coffee break in an office (Aurelia)
I mean, they are really good suggestions, and they actually help. But I wondered, do they make the difference? That’s when I realized where the magic is. It’s not about our individual habits. It’s about our collective culture.
You see, we work remote ALL THE TIME. So we know each others’ boundaries and messed-up organizations. I know Cilla might return a WhatsApp message at 11pm on a Friday. I know Femke’s kitchen with the sticker-covered fridge and I know Moniek will gladly speak with me after her early Dutch family dinner. I know the sound of the birds in Muriel’s garden, and I know Rachel’s bedroom and her kids popping on the bed that serves as an office: they’re not a stain to their professionalism, they’re a chance to put a smile into a conversation. And everybody knows that I’ll interrupt a call to kiss my wife goodbye when she leaves to work!
For most people, the office is the place where you surrender to your company from 9 to 7pm (on lucky days). Body and soul, as if nothing else existed. In exchange for that, home is your island, off limit to the firm. We’ve never built respect for these boundaries, so we built respect for people instead. In our ways of working, it’s OK to ask a colleague to call later because the homework needs to be done. To schedule work calls around yoga classes. To relocate to Bali for 3 months. To just say you can’t do something because you’re busy. It’s OK because it’s also normal to finish a piece of work at night to ensure a document is ready for the client. To step in for a friend who is sick or needs help. To ask someone for a quick chat at 9pm, as long as the kids are in bed.
The vulnerability that we show others by opening a window into our imperfect lives, we exchange for the extraordinary chance to trust that they all will put everything in place to deliver and help. By opening our homes, we embrace each other, not just as colleagues, but as human beings. We create a closeness that make us perform better, and live happier.
We’ve created a culture that’s not about working “remote”, but genuinely about working “from home”. By accepting that the boundaries between our work and personal lives and time are muddy, we’ve grown able to value each other’s full lives. And that makes us richer.
This is life at Innate Motion of course. But if the virus leaves this legacy in more companies, we’ve gained something, no?
‘The art of living is a continuous task in the shaping of Life and the Self’. Continuity is essential, and under the looming haze of COVID-19, the art of learning how to continue living is particularly important. That is what I saw and found amazing when the circumstances became rough: people searched for a way to create a life of beauty for themselves.
Just before Chinese New Year, we knew that we would have fieldwork in Wuhan after the holidays. The simultaneous translator who had worked with us for ages warned me that “The SARS is coming back, this time in Wuhan”, and I was like, “Nah… rumour!”
It was during my middle school years, when China was devastatingly hit by the SARS epidemic, and the boarding school I studied in was totally locked down. There was speculation and conspiracy theories everywhere, and the Internet was not even thriving back then!
When it came to SARS, there was simply no ‘competition’, or at least that is what every Chinese thought then. Well, it turned out there is a competitor, in the heavyweight class. On 20th Jan 2020, senior Chinese government medical advisor Zhong Nanshan confirmed that this new virus can be transmitted interpersonally, thus kicking off the national battle against coronavirus. Things escalated quickly, I remember waking up in shock on the morning of 23rd, the day before Chinese New Year. Wuhan was put under lockdown, the motorways were sealed off and the public transportation system was shut down. This was unprecedented. The slogan that was shared during this time “lock a city, save a country” touched the hearts of many.
Overnight, I saw everyone pacing through the streets wearing face masks. The news, entirely dedicated to informing the public on the Covid-19 updates. Soon, like dominos, all the shops, gyms, restaurants, tourist spots got shut down with a pink seal saying “due to the coronavirus, we are closed, we will update you when the situation changes”. Only a couple of shops and supermarkets were left open to sell the essentials. Shanghai applied the most rigid precautions and measures in the county just next to Wuhan, and I experienced something that I had only read in books: a ration system… on face masks.
It came almost too quick for people to even turn their heads around. How a holiday that was supposed to be a reunion became drowned in loudspeakers saying “Everyone stay at home, minimize going out to visit your relatives”. How a buzzing city turned into a ghost town, how people that should have been on their way to their annual overseas holidays had to be locked in, and how others should have been out on the busy streets, bargaining on the last purchases for the new year dinner. The virus stole the thunder.
So, I was ‘stuck’ at my parent’s house for two weeks, and in the end, I can say that in a weird way, the virus was a blessing. “This is the first time in 5 years that you spent 2 weeks at home”, said my mom. And it was true. I started to develop a routine of taking regular walks in the park with my parents chatting about my childhood and their younger days. This was, until the day that the whole compound we lived in was put on restrictive quarantine, as a confirmed case lived there too. Not even taking walks were allowed. So, my mom suggested we climb over the fence and go for a walk! I was astonished partly because it would be a bit of an unusual thing to do in this ‘civilized world’, and partly because I didn’t realize that I have such a rebellious mom! It’s usually children who encourage parents to do ‘unlawful’ things, but I really enjoyed this, you know, discovering life could be a journey filled with excitement. From that moment, we became the fence climbing experts in two weeks. It’s funny to think we’ve been climbing over the fences just to do something that would have been super usual on ‘normal days’ – take a walk.
August, a colleague of ours was also locked in for a whole month! After two weeks, it was hard not to fall into depression, but then, he started to adopt new life rituals. During the Chinese New Year Holidays while being locked in, he read the famous Japanese book Danshari (about refusal, disposal and separation) and watched a Japanese TV drama called There is nothing in my home. And all of sudden, he had an epiphany of minimalism. He took the time to throw away boxes after boxes of stuff. It turned out to be the perfect opportunity to reflect on the relationship between himself and his belongings. And this went beyond physical things, to his mobile apps, to digital assets, to the one thousand facebook friends, and eventually, to all relationships. Through decluttering and organizing, he experienced ecstasy from order and method, which he admits to being addicted to now!
At the end of the day, it comes down to… when the situation doesn’t work, you make it work. Having a positive and hardworking attitude towards difficulties helps people make life manageable under quarantine. I hear some people referring to this moment as a brilliant opportunity to start cooking, baking cakes, making milk teas, and creating fusion dishes. They can also finally appreciate a moment to fully relax. Lying in bed all day is in a way contributing to fighting the battle. E-commerce is trying out new approaches like delivery drones to make contactless delivery possible, to ultimately minimize the risk of cross-infection, school morning exercises, work recruitment and museum visits, even doctor appointments have gone online.
As the crisis accelerates the ‘internet cloud’ of people’s life, the thoughts around what opportunities lie beneath are also circulating fast. Some say Chinese is only language in the world that translates crisis as “Danger+Opportunity” (危机), maybe it does so with a reason.
“I have never seen the sky so blue in my hometown Shanghai.”
“We stopped shaking hands and hugging in our group of friends. One feels strange about it, but it seems the best for all of us.”
“No more meetings, no more travel. Only video calls. My work became easier in a way.”
“My business suffers because import from China is impossible. There is not enough production and there are no empty containers for transport. It is all a mess.”
“It’s finally possible again to see the sun rising in Angkor Wat without thousands of tourists around.”
“I am not scared about getting ill, but I am scared that I give it to someone.”
After a few months, it is clear that COVID-19 (CoronaVirus Disease 2019) leaves a greater impact on the world as we know it than just the health consequences. COVID-19 disrupts our existence. But this disruption is not only negative. Crises are often catalysts of change. Crises impose a re-evaluation of the actions, structures and systems we have become depended on. COVID-19 seems capable of changing the behaviour of people. Let’s look at a few positive consequences of the COVID-19 crisis.
To keep the spreading of the virus to a minimum, companies impose habit changes in ways of working that can also be a benefit for people and planet in the long run. Working from home, video conferencing, avoiding unnecessary travel create more time for people in terms of work/life balance. We are re-considering our priorities. In the long run this can lead to more remote working and reduced travel. With a positive impact on the climate.
The move towards using more robots and AI to substitute manual labour is unstoppable, but the COVID-19 situation seems to accelerate the urge for implementation. The virus has been a wake-up call for supply chain managers and risk managers across the world. While there will be an initial negative effect on some labour segments, robots and AI increase productivity, lower production costs, and do create new jobs in the tech sector. However, the human consequences of this will ultimately ask for a fundamental revision on human resources and labour in the 21st century, that can’t be fully fathomed at the moment.
Pollution levels across China have decreased tremendously. Two months into the COVID-19 crisis, reports started to appear in mainstream media that showed Nasa maps with falling levels of nitrogen dioxide. The decline in air pollution levels coincided with restrictions imposed on transportation and business activities. This is a positive consequence, but most probably not forever. If production picks up, the pollution will be back.
With supply chains slowing down or coming to a stop, more than ever the world’s reliance on China as “the factory of the world” is starting to be felt. A trend that will most likely follow the coronavirus outbreak will be a further acceleration of the shift towards shorter supply chains on personal, community and industry levels. Shorter supply chains are seen as key in increasing sustainability through the reduction of transportation costs and consequently of CO2 emissions.
Without downplaying the fears and with respect for everybody that currently suffers from the outbreak, the implications of COVID-19 are not only negative. And who knows… they might even offer us a push to a better, more sustainable future.
As a B Corp, we at Innate Motion are always looking towards making business a force for good and maybe this crisis will be the rise of new opportunities for businesses to reinvent itself.
By: Ben Bogaerts
As the world changes, so does the politically correct. As we (hopefully) evolve as human beings, we come to realize that what was once considered to be ok, might nowadays actually be racist, homophobic, sexist, or just purely offensive. We at Innate Motion think of the politically correct as being empathy fit: the ability to understand, see the consequences of and act upon our changing environment.
Empathy fitness is a skill that needs to be trained and put into practice and it will be increasingly required in our personal and business reality. To give more clarity on what we mean, we have gathered a series of examples from around the world where big entities and society found themselves unfit for modern times.
“But carnaval has always been like that!”
“Everyone makes such a big fuss about women now!”
I grew up with Globeleza. A character created by Globo, Brazil’s biggest television network, and elected yearly by the spectators. Her job is to dance on TV during carnival, practically naked, covered only by body paint and glitter. Sounds like carnival right? Maybe so, but having existed for over 20 years, Globeleza over the last decade has been a motive for discomfort for many women.
It wasn’t until 2017 that Globo did something about it, not spontaneously, but rather as a reaction to the chaos that was generated at the 2016 voting sessions. Then it became clear that women would no longer tolerate the objectification of the female body – in particular, the body of women of African descent.
To give context to the 2016 debates we need to look back at the history of Brazil. Globeleza is always, as referred to by Globo, a “mulata.” This is still a common word used daily to talk about a mixed race woman, but this word was introduced to the Brazilian vocabulary during the slavery period. Lasting for over 350 years, Brazil was the country to most receive enslaved people, with a count of over 50 thousand Africans. Seen as bodies purely used for commercial purposes, the women that sparked any attention from the “big houses” were raped and a large number got pregnant. The baby would then be considered as a mulato or mulata. Descended from a white father and a black mother, the child was referred to as being half human and half mule – the mule itself being an animal that results from a breeding between a horse and a donkey.
Although the name gives a pejorative connotation, “mulatas” became a symbol of desire because of their mixed features and historical context of domination. In 2016, a woman was rejected from winning the Globeleza competition because she was seen as being “too black”, so she did not fit that image of white desire.
This was it for a lot of women, who had for over a decade accepted Globeleza because it was part of a carnival tradition. The black feminist movements, in particular, started to make a lot of noise and to demand respect. They demanded for their bodies not to be treated as a product, and to put an end to this rooted colonialist and oppressive views still so present in society.
Finally, in 2017, women saw a small victory, as Brazilian homes watched the newly elected Erika Moura, who appeared clothed and accompanied by other dancers. She was portrayed as a beautiful woman and a professional dancer, performing traditional Brazilian dances in traditional clothes.
I remember this being huge! People of all ages, were revolted with this “nonsense” because in their view Globeleza was just a character. And I wondered why they could not see that this was a necessary change. Could they not empathize with women? Could they not see that the world had moved on?
Times change, points of view change, societies change. Globo, as the main broadcaster in Brazil, should and could have shown empathy for women in general and women of mixed race specifically at least 15 years earlier. But Globo lacked what we call empathy fitness: the ability to feel the direction the winds of change will take, the capability to uncover the yet unseen forces behind this change and the understanding of why these forces have a justified point of view by going against the path the majority in society still follows.
Of course Globo should have shown respect far earlier for more than half of its audience, and she could have taken an active role in making change happen, leading by example, inspiring others to do what is right and gaining credibility as a societal leader. Instead, Globo behaved as a laggard, merely correcting what was wrong in the first place. Interested? Give us a call!
By: Marcella Nigro
The Change Now Summit is the largest positive impact gathering in the world. Over the course of 3 days, we received visionary talks from a diverse range of speakers, including global business leaders already implementing impact strategies (both purpose or sustainability based), social leaders, academics, investors, and entrepreneurs who have developed sustainable solutions to some of today’s challenges. Around a packed timetable, several hundred solution providers, ranging from Engie to MUD Jeans, showcased the products they’ve created which contribute to a better world. These centered around Circular Economy, Education, Food, Green Mobility, Wellbeing, Low Carbon Energy, Sustainable Fashion, and Tech for Good. The magnificence of some of these creations made it feel like we were navigating the mind of a utopian sci-fi author. Meanwhile, the simplicity of some solutions begged the question how they hadn’t become mainstream already.
Provided below is an overview of the key take home messages from the event. For the more inquisitive amongst you, I propose taking a glance at the event’s website where you’ll be able to take a closer look at many of the solutions displayed at the show. Who knows, the answer to your existing challenges may lie amongst them…
As you can imagine, the entire event was doused in inspiration. The opening keynote (Bertrand Piccard) set the tone by emphasising that many of the solutions to today’s problems already exist. He implored that we don’t need to plough time and resources into ideating, creating, and inventing new solutions. Instead, we need to seek out, implement and scale-up the sustainable solutions which already exist, some of whom were exhibiting at the event.
Interestingly, Piccard’s perspective, shared by several other speakers throughout the event, was that the answer to curbing our damaging impact on the world is not to live a lesser life. He sees this as a potentially detrimental notion which curtails the natural development of humanity. Instead, he sees the solution in growth, deploying sustainable solutions to our challenges and, more importantly, losing old, destructive, habits. Front of mind for him was the prospect of reducing carbon emissions from airlines based on the fact he had single-handedly flown around the world based on solar energy little more than three years ago. Proof it can be done (in primitive form). The challenge lies
with industries to scale the solutions and make them fit for mainstream use.
Some large organisations (e.g. Adidas) acknowledged their contribution to current problems (e.g. environmental destruction) and explicitly took a responsibility to be part of the solution, making changes in their operations, processes and strategic priorities. This appeared to be authentic. Sustainability is now a fundamental part of their R&D process, meanwhile they recognised a need to ensure the welfare of the 1M people in their supply chain. Clearly the scale of making changes for such a large organisation is huge, so it is on partners, their customers and third party observers to simultaneously hold them to account and recognise that meaningful change in an ecosystem as large as Adidas is a marathon, not a sprint.
Beyond the corporations sharing a sense of duty to change course, there was a sense of co-ownership of the problem across the entire event. The fact that it is our shared societies, and planet, which are in such precarious condition means that we all share a responsibility to change the current course.
While this wasn’t an event aimed to dramatise the current state of affairs, there was no escaping the reality of our current plight. Given the predicament, and the shared sense of responsibility and desire to find solutions, there was a recognition that we need to extend beyond our traditional paradigms of competitive business in order to implement category and industry-wide sustainable solutions. Examples of collaboration between Unilever and P&G were shared, notably for the product re-use service (a step up from recycling) called Loop. Through category and industry level collaboration to incorporate better business practices, we mitigate the risk of competitors stealing a short-term advantage through non-compliance and facilitate meaningful behaviour change across the board. Courage, respect and integrity are needed for the process, with some academics and corporate representatives suggesting that objective, neutral, facilitators could have a role to play in the process. Elsewhere, there were cross-industry collaborations between insurance and pharma to help deliver better health solutions, and collaborations between academia, industry experts, entrepreneurs and big business across a variety of behaviour change programmes.
The requirement for collaboration is nowhere more salient than the the food industry where one third of food currently produced worldwide is wasted. Married up against the knowledge that 800 million people worldwide are malnourished through a lack of food, and 650 million people worldwide are classifiably obese (with a further 1.3bn people overweight) it clearly shows an imbalance in the system.
Exemplifying Piccard’s opening message, there were several examples of solutions which have the ability to significantly reduce these imbalances. Some lie in technology, some require the removal of regulatory obstacles, and some require a mindset change at a societal level. A genuine desire to tackle these injustices at the event suggested an aire of nobility returning to business which, at its essence, originated to serve society. Those businesses who take on this baton for change in a meaningful manner stand to make some serious gains, both in short term market performance, and in longer term brand equity. With food waste currently costing $18 billion in the US alone, in a food industry whose profits amount to half that at $9 billion, it begs the question how long we’ll have to wait for potential solutions, such as Wasteless (a dynamic pricing service which reduces the requirement for heavily slashed retail prices (and subsequent leftover waste) on the “use by” date), to become a mainstream reality.
It was notable amongst several speakers representing large organisations that economic reasons were key propellants of change in several situations. Leading figures from Axa, Roche, and Danone highlighted the economic reasons behind significant changes in strategy. Furthermore there were examples of sustainable drives having significant consequential financial benefit; Adidas’s first trainer made out of 100% recycled plastic became their fastest selling shoe. By taking a true market-orientated approach – showing a desire to truly understand their customers and how they can be served better – they were able to apply commercial creativity and provide innovative solutions to meet those needs, increasing market share in the process. The result appears to be a win for customers, a win for the business’s brand equity, a win for society (business being done with societal consideration), a win for employees (knowing their work is making a difference), and a win for shareholders. Notably, the executives sharing such stories did so with a sense of pride and joy, two emotions which are too often distant from the stereotypically serious and financially obsessive world of business.
My overarching feeling from being at Change Now Summit is that the rules of business are changing. We’re seeing increased ESG investment, although the (self-reported) commitment amongst investors towards ESG investments does appear to be overstated. In the marketplace we are seeing sustainability increasingly integrated as a key consideration and more purposeful business being rewarded with increased market share and brand equity, and a return of the noble marketers and business leaders who meaningfully seek to meet the needs of the people they exist to serve.
Change Now served as a teaser trailer of what the future of business can look like. With a plethora of sustainable solutions on show at the event, business leaders providing proof of positive financial returns from incorporating purposeful strategies, investors excitedly exploring high-growth, sustainable, opportunities, and a recognition that we need to collaborate together to swing the tide, there is much to be hopeful about.
By: Mark Hauser
If we look at how the world of work has evolved, even just in the last 3 decades, we realize that it is one of the greatest revolutions that have taken place, and still is.
This major shift goes back to globalisation and the relentless technological progress, that are in fact at the base of what is called the Fourth Industrial Revolution. The effects of this revolution, also impacted the world of work, which became more dynamic and unpredictable, given the many variables implied in it.
The traditional organisational model based on a full, permanent work contract, to be performed in a given place, at given times, likely in the same way, has been subverted. We have gone through a great evolution in terms of being able to work, often in a more agile, flexible, and freer way.
Everything around work has changed. From a technological and from a human point of view. New jobs and new ways of working have been created by necessity of the ever-evolving contexts. Positions and professions unthinkable just a few years ago, sprung and are now becoming the norm in this new volatile market.
And while the world of work underwent great, we also dramatically changed the way we look at it. From mere way to sustenance, today people (and this is more true in the higher social segments across cultures), think of work as a tool to express and develop themselves. Like never before, people are exposed to a culture that promotes and romanticizes the idea of open possibilities in life. We can dream to do whatever job we like, in whatever context. And we can dream of changing it along the way if we are uncomfortable with it. At the same time, technology and an encompassing idea of democracy fuel these aspirations, in different ways, in different parts of the globe.
Yet, across countries and at different degrees, never the world of work has been so unpredictable and unstable, subject to laws that people have little influence on, and that often do not include them. Work has actually become imperfect in theory as in reality.
If in fact, while work gained a whole new human meaning in terms of the values it is charged with today – self expression, self realization, development, improvement, empowerment, success, capability, advancement, achievement just to name the main ones -, it also brings a heavy load of frustration.
In a world where nothing is fixed anymore – from roles, to necessities, to solutions – the world of work requires from people a continuous evolution and improvement that can even be overwhelming. Humans need to adapt learning new skills, new capacities, becoming more creative and versatile within structures that are always more fragmented, themselves subject to constant change. No job seems to be ‘perfect’ as such anymore; because no job makes our lives easier anymore; and because no job can be done perfectly anymore.
It is now clear how improvement becomes vital. Vital to make us adapt and survive in the environment where today we primarily need to do so: work. In times of fast change, improvement also needs to happen faster, hence we need more instruments that can further it.
Feedback is one of the greatest tools for improvement. An engine that help us enhance for the better. A mechanism through which we learn about ourselves, and about us in the world, including that of work. And yet, rather than looking at it with benevolent eyes, admiring it, we live feedback at best with unease, if not with terror!
But, even though it makes us panic, even though we fear it because as human beings we all want to be validated, we fully need it! We therefore need to make the cultural shift to consider feedback as an ally, crucial for our survival. We need to start detaching feedback from the old idea of evaluation; sprung in the times after the industrial revolution, where the necessity was the standardisation of performance, the repetition of the same offer, through the same processes. We need to move from evaluating top down, unilateral and fixed; to feedback that is shared, reciprocal and ongoing. The old evaluation, had the goal to level and align. Whereas what we need today, is a “Feedback Fit” culture to empower each individual, so that each one can give his best for all to benefit.
And to greatly improve, we need to train ourselves to feedback, and become feedback fit. At Innate Motion we have built a solid experience working with different cultures and different generations, for how we are structured as a company, borderless and brickless, and for the variety of projects we have conducted. Below are some points to consider when approaching and applying feedback: The current times, the generational gaps and the culture of people within a company.
The magnification of perfection pervades modern cultures. Failure is denied and is no longer an option. The emphasis on the ideal, culturally instills and fuels biased beliefs and behaviors that are somehow the new reference. This determines our struggle with any form of personal assessment. But there’s something very inhuman about the ongoing search for limitless perfection and overall about the struggle that this puts people into. Yet it is undeniable that there’s some kind of admiration for an unrelenting perfectionism in modern society and culture, which is seen as the emblem of success.
The myth of perfection, places reality in a space (all in our minds) of idealization which rarely materializes, but often sets the bases for constant frustration and unhappiness, and causes in people a disconnection from reality.
This unrealistic benchmark hampers our readiness to face our own weaknesses and our openness to change to improve. Feedback becomes frightful for the fact itself that it could be negative. Turned it into a positive tool, it can dismantle a shared misleading cultural presumption that ultimately limits people’s advancement.
Today, there are new pressures, unprecedented pressures. The way different generations face them, has a link to how they experience feedback. What they have in common however is that both do it in a not confident way.
The older generations (Baby Boomers and Gen X) were grown with a more top-down sense of authority, especially in work environments, and are therefore more open to be evaluated and judged but from higher ranks, in a top down mentality, and less in a peer to peer, horizontal way.
Together with this difficulty, older generations are by definition working on stabilizing what they gained and what they have, in practical terms as well as at a psychological level. This is why in a work relation they are those more loyal and more steady. But this is also why dealing with feedback can cause them great internal pressure as they relate observations to criticisms, hence loss of points of reference.
On the other side, the younger generations (Millennials and Gen Z) show two common traits; they are the first native digital generations, grown up being offered the shortest possible distance between desire → search → find. Hence they yearn for what they want very fast, which makes them impatient and easily disinterested. This is why they struggle in accepting that it takes time and effort to evolve and become better at something before reaching an objective.
In addition, they are the most educated generations in history, which convinces them that they deserve the right place in the world, a place that for the first time is openly required to offer positive relations, good work-life balance and inspiration. This makes them brave, positive and bold but also demanding in the workplace, and troublesome when not positively appraised.
A company must have knowledge and sensitivity when facing with generational differences, fostering ad hoc development and mentorship (almost tailored on individuals and personalities) to ensure a longer lasting, healthier pipeline of talents. Companies that do this successfully, will thrive being able to mingle and make flourish the new kids on the block, as more of Gen Z moves into the workforce, together with the older core.
A company’s culture expresses the identity of a company. It includes many aspects, all of which are null if not lived by all, from within. Companies that thrive today have strong identities. Whatever you decide your personality is, all members of the group should grow and develop, embracing your values and your codes which are kept coherent by your company culture.
It is proven that people tend to enjoy work when their values are consistent with those in the workplace. Workers who fit in with the company’s culture will not only be happier, but more productive and loyal, whereas companies with poor or nonexistent culture face an increase in turnover. Exactly as consumers prefer consistent brands able to inspire them around values they want to share because aspirational to them. Thus, a strong company culture can raise the level of productivity, company image, employee retention and happiness. This means that all workers should embrace it. People who don’t, simply scatter the power of the group. The analysis that can be done out of ongoing, reciprocal, honest feedback, allows right this understanding.
In closing, beyond all the cultural and individual clashes, we need to open up to feedback, which is learning about ourselves through each other’s eyes, and a lot more:
It is recognising the others, hence it is about respect.
It is having an adult attitude, hence it is about accountability.
It is embracing our vulnerability and frustration, hence it is about being human.
It is a conversation, it is not about shaming nor passive acceptance, hence it is about maturity.
It is not about you, it is about collective improvement and growth, hence it is about generosity.
Feedback is a gift we do to ourselves and to others.
For our sake and the sake of the work we do
feedback must be taken seriously,
must become a habit,
all must be encouraged to share it,
all must give and ask for more,
time must be found for it.
Serving companies that navigate in this new sea of work, and need constant enhancement of their people and their systems, we offer processes and tools to humanize feedback, and help its application within group cultures for a healthy growth! We want to turn feedback from a cause of panic (useless for anyone), to a source of pride (useful for all). From a hassle in the should-do list, to a source of positive advancement, making it valuable and fun. Ultimately, human.
Come enjoy the ride with us!
SOURCES: https://hbr.org/2019/07/are-companies-about-to-have-a-gen-x-retention-problem https://www.forbes.com/sites/ashleystahl/2019/09/10/how-generation-z-will-revolutionize-the-workplace/#652ecf724f53 https://arena-attachments.s3.amazonaws.com/2437076/4f43f54288b6782b9cb110b219d8a207.pdf?1531758351 https://www.thebalancecareers.com/what-is-company-culture-2062000 https://hbr.org/2018/01/perfectionism-is-increasing-and-thats-not-good-news
MADRID, 11 December 2019: As the UN Climate Change Conference, COP25, is underway in Madrid, over 500 companies are publicly committing today to accelerate the reduction of their greenhouse gas emissions to reach a 1.5 degree trajectory leading to net zero by the year 2030—20 years ahead of the 2050 targets set in the Paris Agreement.
These companies, including Patagonia, The Body Shop, Allbirds, Davines, The Guardian, Aguas Danone Spain, Intrepid Travel, Ecoalf, and ourselves, are part of the global community of Certified B Corporations, businesses that meet the highest verified standards of social and environmental performance, transparency, and legal accountability. There are over 3,000 B Corps in the world, hailing from more than 70 countries and 150 industries, harnessing the power of business to solve major social and environmental challenges facing the world today, including the climate crisis.
This commitment to significant carbon reduction leading to a net zero future by 2030 is part of the most accelerated climate action effort by as large a constituency of businesses in the world. It demonstrates true leadership in a time of severe environmental and economic unrest and uncertainty. Below is the full statement issued by the Certified B Corporation community outlining their commitments.
We are living in unprecedented times. The most important global climate conference to address accelerating climate change and ecological breakdown has been forced to move to the other side of the world four weeks before the event because of the most recent example of a more immediate and growing threat to our global social order, persistent social inequities and increasing inequality.
It is clear to us that these twin crises are being driven, and responses constrained, by an economic system that rewards the single-minded pursuit of profits while untenably externalising environmental and social costs. This results in decisions that prioritize short term financial returns often at the expense of people, communities and the natural world on which all life depends.
As business leaders, we recognize these crises as threats to healthy markets and healthy businesses. As human beings, we recognize these crises as threats to our quality of life and the quality of life of our children and their children.
We will have more to say in the near future about this underlying system failure, but in the context of COP25, we believe the science shows that a 1.5°C increase in average global temperature is the limit to reduce the worst impacts for our planet and its inhabitants, especially communities on the frontlines who will be impacted first and most significantly. At the current trajectory, it is estimated we will reach this limit as early as 2030.
We believe, therefore, that it is imperative for all businesses to demonstrate leadership in eliminating emissions, drawing down carbon, and ensuring a just transition for displaced workers and communities to a net zero emissions economy. In addition, we believe it is imperative to use the power of our collective voice to advocate for policy changes necessary to remove impediments and align incentives that will drive meaningful climate action.
A Commitment to Climate Action
The Certified B Corporation movement is about leadership. All B Corps sign a Declaration of Interdependence stating the belief, “That all business ought to be conducted as if people and place mattered […] and thus we are responsible for each other and future generations.” All B Corps make a legal commitment to conduct business with consideration for the environment and all stakeholders, not just shareholders.
Therefore, the B Corp movement is taking the following urgent actions:
Today, we affirm our commitment to collective and immediate action to halt and reverse the current climate trajectory and to build an economic system whose purpose is to create shared and durable prosperity for all and for the long term. We not only call on our community of B Corps, but all businesses to champion meaningful climate solutions to secure the health of people and our home planet for future generations.
Business communities globally have long been committed to bringing businesses in making impacts to the environment, economy and human resources. In other words, “Using Business as A Force for Good”. The spirit was manifested through B Corporation (#BCorp), an international certification led by B Lab that recognizes organizations that not only care on the impacts of their operations to the workers, customers, and suppliers, but also to the communities and environment. The certification is given to companies that during the audit process are able to prove that their business processes – starting from supply chains, operational systems, and products marketing – can have positive impacts and add values to the society and environment. B Corp certification focuses on five areas: governance, employees, environment, community and consumers. As of now, there are over 3,000 certified B Corporations across 150 industries in more than 70 countries.
As an effort to continuously promote sustainable business operations as well as increase awareness towards Certified #BCorps, On the 5th December, 2019, we are organizing, together with Danone-AQUA, SIAP,a barn raising entitled “B Corp Forum 2019 – Using Business as a Force of Good”. The annual event gathers all relevant key stakeholders, including Government, business communities, civil society organizations, chamber of commerce, students, and media.
The main objective of the event is to increase awareness on Certified B Corporation and its benefits among the business players in maintaining their social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose.
5 December 2019 | 8h30-16h30
Kedasi Thamrin, Graha Niaga Thamrin Building, Level 6
Aliyah 0812 9646 6113
Fikbar 0857 1583 2417
#daretocare #bcorp #bthechange
Society is changing faster than its institutions, and people feel the urge to take matters in their hands: speak up, raise unaddressed matters, join efforts to drive change. Isn’t this what happened when over 7.6 mil people rallied the streets in 185 countries during the Global Climate Strike this September 2019? The reality of the past years has proven repeatedly – the gap between institutions and people is only getting bigger. From the B Corp Summit in September in Amsterdam, I left with this feeling, that more than ever, people are demanding change. And they want it to be exponential change.
Institutions, law, technology can have a strong impact when they fit with people’s demands. And brands are NO different. We are long passed the time when companies succeed by chasing the sole purpose of profit. But we are still a long way from having businesses build themselves around the needs of people and communities. Instead, the tendency is to focus on structures and its managers. I want to share two examples of businesses that stepped up.
Loop is an example of how a brand can become a force for change and social impact. The company is reinventing the milkman by offering reusable containers that they deliver, pick up, replenish and return to people’s homes. To do so, they engage leading manufacturers, retailers, all with the same goal: to develop supply chains that are more ‘circular’ from design through to consumer use. By redefining groceries shopping through a lens of durability in a context where people are voicing a strong desire for a more conscious consumption, Loop succeeds not only to tap into people’s aspirations, but also to create support systems for an exponential change.
A second example I would like to give is Dopper, a company that goes far beyond the bottles, and is all about clean water. They transformed the brand into a platform that mobilizes, inspires and supports people to step up in the challenge of crystal clear waters in every ocean and from every tap. Entrepreneurs, pupils, young researchers, companies and individuals, can all join efforts for a common mission in an easy way. And this makes Dopper transition from serving consumers to empowering community and its activists.
In times when people demand bigger changes, companies ought to step up in the game and drive this change. One way to do it, is by creating value around people and communities. As such, companies will become relevant in the lives of the people it serves and ultimately unlock more meaningful growth. B-Corp is a live expression of companies that already took the lead. Because, as individuals, nowadays, we no longer need to work in tech or law making to be at the core of driving exponential change. We can build brands that are platforms for change. We can do so by humanizing our businesses.
By: Aurelia Petrov | cultural decoder & business humanizer
Austyn Allison, Editor of Campaign ME speaks to one of MENA’s leading marketers, Asad Rehman of Unilever to consider the topical question, “Can brand purpose alone convince the consumer to buy?”. Joining him is Kanchana Moodliar, business humanizer at Innate Motion give her insights on purpose.
Ben & Jerry’s is a company I love and worked with. They have done great at giving and gaining the support they need. Right from the start they positioned themselves as “the people’s ice cream”, cultivating a strong philosophy of direct to the customer relationship. They built trust by letting people feel that they were “one of them”, and in this case “one of them” meant representing people with strong liberal progressive values who care about bettering their world. Like no other, Ben & Jerry’s did extremely well by making it fun to be a responsible and progressive citizen. And like their support groups in general, they were ready to use business as a force for good. Ben actually scared people when he said that businesses are the most powerful institutions in the world, and they could become the world’s most powerful forces for social change. This is something that many people with liberate progressives’ views like to buy into. Some people would even go so far as calling this a radical vision of business, while others would call it just as a good way to portray a bad thing anyway: a profit seeking business.
The “together in this” idea that did the most to help transform their business to pursue social and environmental justice, was the concept of “linked prosperity”.
It stated that as the Ben & Jerry’s company prospers, all of the employees, suppliers, customers, and other living things that had contributed to its success should prosper as well. Jostein Solhein, the CEO of Ben & Jerry’s after Unilever bought the company, even goes so far as saying that “we see ourselves as a partner to communities. Linking the company’s prosperity to employees means not just paying a livable wages but guaranteeing a dignified life. Linking it to farmers, processors, and suppliers means eliminating poverty from our supply chain. And linking prosperity to customers means measuring the social mission and making sure it grows faster than sales.” He goes on: “we need to keep optimizing for linked prosperity, which is not easy.”
Ben & Jerry’s did not, however, start out this way. They started out with throwing parties in their early days and by giving away huge amounts of inventory. Ben and Jerry are rare generous spirits who build a great business but never wanted to be businessmen. If they could afford it, they would make every day a free cone day. This certainly made them a nicer company, but in the beginning they just wanted to make enough money to live on while they enjoyed themselves.
As their business got bigger, they started getting more serious about using fun and ice cream for good, and they started to imagine what the world could look like if business got serious about pursuing social and environmental justice. They also realized they needed to put the company’s beliefs in writing. They needed a mission statement.
This led to three-part company mission that were equal and interrelated.
The product mission is to make, distribute, and sell the finest quality all-natural ice-cream and related products in a wide variety of innovative flavors made from Vermont dairy products. In short: They wanted to make products that were good for the belly and soul.
The social mission is to operate the company in a way that actively recognizes the central role that business plays in the structure of society by initiating innovative ways to improve the quality of life of a broad community: local, national, and international.In short: They believed and advocated that business can be cattle-ist for social justice.
The economic mission is to operate the company on a sound financial basis of profitable growth, increasing value for our shareholders and creating career opportunities and financial rewards for our employees.
Ben & Jerry’s needed to apply a lot of ‘together in this’ strategies to make this work in ways that more people could take ownership of this three part mission beyond the circle of the board, beyond the leadership, beyond a department and beyond the structures of its own organization.
Brad Edmondson writes that Ben & Jerry’s started to get more serious about their social mission and linked prosperity vision on April 26, 1984, the day the company made its first stock offering. On that day the Ben & Jerry’s company started sharing the company’s wealth with the communities that were closest to it.
The company needed to raise $750,000 in equity to finance a $3.25 million ice cream plant in Waterbury. Business was booming, and the prospects for expansion were bright. However, the banks thought differently about this. The company leadership tried to get a loan and they applied to dozens of banks before they found one that would even consider lending money to anyone who looked and acted like they did. Naturally the bank officer added that he needed to see some equity first. To address this Ben came up with the idea to restrict the stock offer to people who live in Vermont, with a minimum purchase of twelve shares at $10,50 apiece. At that time, crowdfunding platforms did not exist yet. Nearly everyone who heard about the idea said that it was naïve and impractical. They told Ben that the stock offer could not reach its goal under those restrictions. Clearly these advisors did not understand the power of affinity yet.
Ben’s idea succeeded brilliantly. They sealed the deal by handing out free samples of ice cream and they easily raised the money, and that was just the beginning. The offer also generated a tremendous amount of publicity and goodwill. By the time it was done, nearly 1 percent of the households in the state owned shares of Ben & Jerry’s.
Restricting the offer also made it unnecessary to register it with the Securities and Exchange Commission, which reduced the banking costs. And more importantly the sale built a support system which was priceless. It aligned thousands of patriotic Vermonters who would hassle the corner grocers if ever they ran out of Health Bar Crunch.
‘Together in this’ we fight strong-armed competitors. This support system was especially handy when the company faced strong arm tactics from Pillsbury, its chief competitor in the premium ice cream business. Pillsbury, which spends millions on ads featuring a character called the Doughboy, owned Haagen-Daz, the first super premium ice cream in the United States. When Ben & Jerry’s started selling in Boston, Pillsbury told its distributors there that they wouldn’t get any Haagen-Dazs unless they agreed not to deliver Ben & Jerry’s. It was a blatantly illegal move, and the company did not have enough time and money to rely on the courts.
Ben & Jerry’s did explore a legal route to address this, but their non-legal strategy worked better. They put notices on their packaging, using their pints as an engagement tool, inviting their support base to join them in a campaign called ”What’s the Doughboy Afraid of?”. They mailed out packets with bumper stickers and form letters to customers and support groups to send to Pillsbury’s CEO. Many of their co-investors jump into the action because they were not only in this with a financial standpoint, but also shared a common purpose. As a group with social progressive liberal values they thought it was socially unfair when big business, like big government, was applying bullying tactics to people and smaller players in the market, something social justice activists could not agree with.
The Doughboy campaign generated an avalanche of positive publicity for Ben & Jerry’s, and it put so much pressure on Pillsbury and its CEO, that the big company was forced to back off. It set a pattern the company would use, with specular results, for decades. They turned marketing into a social justice activity using their product and pint as activist tools to enable social change. They would market to taste buds through sampling, and also to an ordinary person’s sense of fairness and justice by taking on social issue with serious fun. It was also the first time the company realized it could use its voice in a different way, a voice serving people and communities on things that mattered to them rather than mattered to the category or the organization.
When Liz Bankowski was appointed as the first woman on the board of Ben & Jerry’s it was a great deal because the company prides itself on its progressive values. But her value to the company went far beyond symbolism. She was a political professional who knew how to generate support for social initiatives. The three part mission gave her the opportunity to unlock more meaningful growth. What also helped her was the fact that the founders saw their company as a laboratory for innovation and progressive business and they got a buzz in doing things differently.
So when Liz, after a few hit and miss social initiatives, told her fellow board members that it seemed funny that they all agreed that social mission part of their company was important and was a point of distinction in the marketplace for them, but no one on the staff was devoted to the social mission part. The board agreed and they appointed her to be staff. She accepted and set some goals. The first was to spread acceptance of the social mission throughout the company so it could move beyond scattershot ideas of Ben and others.
With a ‘together in this’ mindset she focused on getting ownership of the social mission across departments. She understood that power works by division, but influence works by multiplication.
Liz encouraged people to speak their minds, even if they did not agree with the initiatives. She invited Ben & Jerry’s to take on a longer term view of projects with a social purpose. Ben & Jerry’s was always open to use its sourcing and supply chain partnerships to support whoever advanced certain social missions and supported people who were at a disadvantage in communities. She suggested better screening their supplier and partnership on the feasibility of the idea, the availability of a good intermediary to make it happen, the resources available, the likelihood of the project becoming a success, and the commitment the company wished to make to it. Liz was stating the obvious. The trick was to find a way to honor the culture of Ben & Jerry’s, with all of its compassion, spontaneity, and fun, while also finding a way to express these qualities in numbers. This is a culture where interpersonal trust is valued more than the institutional trust, hence numbers needed to matter more. And they needed to count across departments. Ben especially wanted to see how all the tools of business could be used to contribute to its social mission. It meant that each department had to provide progress reports of social performances.
The report discussed success and failure for a long list of activities in six categories:
Products and marketing
Internal policies and operations
Relationships with suppliers and franchisees
Taking a standThese were clearly measures that invited more people across departments to take action and ownership of the social mission.
Ben & Jerry’s is a great example for anyone who wants to succeed in the marketplace by creating value with, and around, people and communities they serve. This is easier when you already believe that we need an economy that should serve many and not just the few, as is the case for Ben & Jerry’s. However, I believe that most organizations do not know how to apply ‘together in this’ strategies because they lack the tools and habits to apply them. For us, meaningful growth is never created alone. A ‘together in this’ mindset, culture and set of practices are required. And here Ben & Jerry’s can serve as an inspiration to us all.
Read Ice Cream Social, by Brad Edmondson, to learn more about the struggle for the soul of Ben & Jerry’s
By: Christophe Fauconnier, Business Humanizer & CEO
Across 71 countries, school kids have pledged support to Greta Thunberg. They demand a better world for themselves through immediate interventions against climate change. Millennials, meanwhile, have sworn themselves off buying houses and cars and are instead choosing shared homes and vehicles.
Near-sighted mindless consumption seems to be declining; replaced by an emergent aware enjoyer of goods and services. This new consumer can visualize the web of connections around their object of fascination. They are driven not by the lust of consumption but guided by responsible enjoyment. They for instance, understand that their love for the brew is at odds with the small coffee grower who is being exploited or with the whale watcher who is trying to prevent their death from plastic, that comes from our shopping sprees.
Brands need to re-think their belief systems; if they intend to forge bonds with this audience. We have moved into a post-image world. Seductive brand image may prove to be impotent in inventing desire and launching a million products into shopping bags; to be taken back home and devoured to make our incomplete selves better and move closer to the Joneses.
Increasingly, brands today need to stand for a shared belief that are backed by actions that attend to their ecosystem. It signals, therefore, that the brand as an ‘idea’ one buys-in to needs to be less individualistic and more communal. It needs to be a co-owned belief that speaks to the entire ecosystem as it were: the raw material supplier, the factory worker, the vendor, the planet, the farmer, the NGOs, the government, etc.
We see this kind of thinking reflected in the shared belief of Walls ice-cream that speaks of ‘Happiness for all’ (and not just the joy of ice-cream); as it creates employment opportunities for marginalized street vendor
Moyee coffee calling itself Fair-chain coffee uses blockchain technology; so, you can see how the dollars from your coffee purchase ends up into the hands of the coffee grower
Tony Chocolonely sheds light on the unfairness of the chocolate trade for the poor harvesters. It defines its brand not on sensorial pleasure but the heightened joy of enjoying a responsible product. This warmth reaches places other chocolates don’t reach.
This shift in thinking demands that we no longer identify the people we serve as a singular entity but visualize all the actors in the ecosystem, replete with their worries and dilemmas. Brands today should acknowledge that they don’t just satisfy individual desire but resolve collective dreams. It is time to shift mental mode of brand shaping from catering to individual desire to supporting shared beliefs. This would be a good thing to do.
By: Subodh Deshpande
Partner & Business Humanizer
There was a time when hosting European football championships was a worry for nations, certainly when the English were involved. The English hooligans could show the sort of unified resolve their team has historically lacked, roaming wild, smashing shop windows, beating up bystanders, and battling riot police wielding batons, fire hoses, and tear gas.
According to most social scientists, this reality was both logical and historically unavoidable, as English hooligans embodied the working-class aggression known as the English Disease.
Luckily for football, Clifford Scott, a social psychologist at the University of Liverpool, challenged this thinking, claiming that the issue to address was less about the hooligans and more about how to police the hooligans. In short, he stated; bad police make bad fans.
Putting his theories into practice, Clifford Scott and his colleagues designed an experiment during the 2004 European Football Championship in Portugal. In one part of the country, he and his team trained the police to interact positively with fans, to treat them with consideration, and to do what they could to meet fans legitimate needs.
Makes human sense to me.
In another part of the country, the team made no intervention and traditional public order tactics were used. These involved maintaining an intimidating presence on the streets and deploying “zero tolerance” tactics.
Scott then examined the dynamics of interactions between the police and England fans in these two areas. In the area where Scott had intervened, there were certainly occasions when individuals acted aggressively. But in no case did they exert influence over other fans and so the police found them relatively easy to manage. By contrast, in the area where traditional methods were used, there was a growing antagonism between police and supporters. In particular, there were two occasions where the police champed down indiscriminately on England fans after some started behaving rowdily. When some supporters responded by attacking the police, others joined in. They felt attacked as a group and responded as a group. On both occasions, this dynamic led to full-blown riots.
To solve this dynamic, Clifford Scott focused on changing the police first before focusing on trying to change the dynamics of the fans or hooligans. He focused on selecting and training a different type of police. He trained them to know more about what matters to the fans and the teams they support, he selected and trained a crew of liaison officers for their social skills rather than their riot control skills: friendliness and ability to banter. Today, Scott’s theories and practices are famed for taming the English hooligans at football tournaments across Europe. The key to policing riots was to essentially stop policing riots. Scott focused on letting both the English fans and police feel that they are together in this. He focused on creating bonds of collaboration and support between them rather than war-like competition.
The question you must be asking right now, I assume, is, “what has this got to do with making marketing more noble again?”
When Paul Polman became the CEO of Unilever, he proposed a vision around making sustainable living commonplace to help shape future growth ambitions. Paul Polman outlined that business growth should benefit all people, and the next generation of people too – not just shareholders. He understood that business and brands have a powerful role to play in creating sustainable living habits and as the second-biggest advertiser in the world, with more than 400 brands who together strive to improve 4 billion lives by 2020, he called upon his marketing- and brands leaders to help make sustainable living commonplace. He was well aware that Unilever could not achieve these goals alone, that they would need to engage other stakeholders in this transformation. They would need to get others to step into the same boat and feel that they are together in this.
Marc Mathieu was the senior vice president for marketing at the time. He loved this type of challenge and his job was to help turn Paul Polman’s vision into a marketing reality. He called upon our business humanizing skills to help him transform and onboard 7000 marketers and together make marketing more human and noble again.
Clearly, marketers are not the police and consumers are not hooligans, at best they are fans, but the work of Scott on English hooligans inspired us in many ways. To make sustainability commonplace, we first had to change the way marketers think and create value, so they could weave sustainability into people’s living realities. And into the normal working practices of Unilever. We had to nurture the marketer’s abilities to ‘feel and imagine’ better ways to improve the lives of the people they serve. We had to nurture the marketer’s abilities to relate differently to the people they serve. We had to sharpen their empathy skills just like the newly trained police had to do. They needed to see consumers as people first and understand how they wanted to better their world, not just Unilever’s business context. To do, so we developed a “People immersions”-program and a Brand Deep Dive-process. The program was designed to help craft brands that stand up for more meaningful goals and more meaningful connections. Like was the case for fighting English hooligans, the Unilever marketers had to see their job as the noble art of interacting with care and consideration.
Today Unilever is a different company, a loved company that continues to succeed in diverse ways. Many of the marketers who participated in the change-program, shared with us that, learning to create value again as people for people, was a turning point in their career. It unlocked their contributive capacities and their desire to drive more meaningful growth. Ten years since the program was implemented, Unilever has all the hard evidence that putting people and purpose first, works. The brands that delivered best on people and purpose delivered best for the business too. Getting into the same boat as the people they served transformed the way Unilever built brands. And Unilever became a company where young people wanted to work again.
Paul Polman decided that Unilever can do better by solving bigger, more meaningful issues, something he plans to do a lot more of in his next venture. His greatest contribution was to create a high purpose-environment that encourages people to make a difference. There is still a lot to do but the direction has been set.
Founder & CEO
Business is business – and it’s a global force. Now people around the world, including in Indonesia, are making it a force for good.
In August 2018, the first B Corp event was held in Jakarta to socialize the presence of B Corp certification in Indonesia. Today, there are only two Certified B Corporations in the market, however the number is expected to grow. Although two seems like a small number to start with, as of now there are about eight million people who are involved in social entrepreneurship in Indonesia, or about 3 percent of the population, showing the innate desire to work in businesses that also have a social impact on their communities.
Next to that, the growing number of unicorns such as Go-Jek, where social progress is inherent to business progress, shows how the B Corp spirit is already living and breathing in the Indonesian business world. Indonesia is and should be a promising market for more Certified B Corporations to surface.
About B Corp
Let’s understand a bit more about what B Corp is about. B Corp is a certification that is given to companies by a nonprofit organization called B Lab. B Lab serves a global movement of people using business as a force for good. Using business as a force for good is in essence accelerating a global culture shift: to redefine success in business and build a more inclusive and sustainable global economy. The ambition of Certified B Corporations is to balance profit and purpose by meeting the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency and legal accountability.
The B Corp community invites people to take business to the next level, understanding that society’s most challenging problems cannot be solved by government and nonprofits alone. The B Corp community works towards reducing inequality, lowering levels of poverty, a healthier environment, stronger communities and the creation of more high-quality jobs with dignity and purpose. By harnessing the power of business, B Corp businesses use profits and growth as a means to a greater end: positive impact for their employees, communities and the environment.
B Corp forms a community of leaders and drives a global movement of people who envision a global economy that uses business as a force for good. This new economic model is purpose-driven and creates benefits for all stakeholders, not just shareholders. In simple terms, it transforms the old model of maximizing profits for shareholders to focus on benefits for all stakeholders, moving from the exclusive gain of the few to the greater good. These key values and aspirations are embedded in the B Corp Declaration of Interdependence, which states that B Corporations and leaders of this emerging economy believe:
To do so requires that we act with the understanding we are dependent upon another, and thus responsible for each other and future generations.
Using business as a force for good is also a long-term commitment. In order to maintain the commitment and renew this spirit, B Corp certified companies are required to go through periodic recertification. The recertification process has been changed from every two years to every three years, which means companies will be required to be recertified every three years. B Corp certification will bring a new level of focus and set of norms to Indonesian businesses. “Using business as a force for good” invites transformations in the way business should operate.
From powerhouse to positive
If businesses used to get away with earning respect because they were powerful and rich, today they earn it from being a dynamo for positive change. That means being more responsible in the way they treat employees, communities and the planet. Take Patagonia and how it has established new norms within the global clothing industry. In a world where fast fashion is the trend, Patagonia stands for the concept of “built to last” fashion.
The logic of B Corp is to invite businesses to take a bolder role as a real player and solution provider in the quest to put our world on a better course. Take TOMS, known for its for-profit “One-for-One” model, where for every pair of shoes sold, TOMS will donate a pair of shoes to a child in a developing country. Since its creation in 2006, the TOMS community has provided shoes, sight and safe water to millions of people around the world. As TOMS says, it is bigger than the shoes, it is what we do in them. What TOMS has built is a great example of inclusive economy, showing that business success can include more people and communities benefiting from that success.
With the new way of thinking and operating, businesses should embrace social leadership beyond financial gain. If in the old days, businesses put more weight on making profits for shareholders, today the B Corp model emphasizes that aside from financial gains, every business should be a force for good for as many people and communities as possible. Businesses should aim for financial growth that is in harmony with societal growth. The power of business should be put at the service of nurturing its ecosystem – solving issues, improving lives and caring for the environment. The transformation required is from focusing on profit to putting purpose at the center of its ecosystem.
Today, there are more than 2,600 companies from 60 countries that are B Corp certified. In Asia, there are 81 B Corp certified companies in 17 countries, which seems like a relatively low number.
Business success can include more people and communities benefiting from that success.
However, this number has grown tenfold since 2014. In Indonesia, there are two companies ahead of the curve that are B Corp certified: Percolate Galactic, a creative digital agency, and Danone Aqua, the largest packaged water producer in the market.
Looking at business as a force for good cannot be separated from the context of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, which address three dimensions of sustainable development: economic, social and environmental. With a large population of 265 million people, it is essential for Indonesia to look at the sustainable goals for the benefit of its own society. Today, it is known that the balance of economic, social and environmental development is yet to be achieved. The presence of B Corp is aimed at changing business orientation to focus on the welfare of the many instead of the few, and the well-being of earth as a place where we all live, instead of a planet of exploitation.
The fertile grounds
Different markets have different urgencies to bring a positive impact. In Indonesia, the following issues are in need of immediate attention, where business can start playing a major role to provide solutions:
It is obviously a major issue in Indonesia, but the B Corp paradigm can help businesses set goals to help the poor get better access to better incomes. An inspiring example can be seen in TaniHub, a company that may not be B Corp certified today, but its simple mission surely embodies the B Corp way of doing business. TaniHub’s mission is to empower local farmers to get better market and financial access. Next to being simple, this mission is life-changing. Among poor people in rural areas, more than two-thirds are farmers. TaniHub, utilizing digital innovation, helps connect farmers directly to customers, MSMEs and regular consumers without the need for middlemen, who normally take a significant cut for the fresh produce being sold by the farmers to the market. This indirect chain has had direct negative impacts on farmer incomes for years. One hopes that the likes of TaniHub will improve the incomes of farmers and in the long term contribute to solving poverty in Indonesia.
The success of certain initiatives also lies in the cultures in which people operate. In the context of Indonesia, there are fundamental qualities where using business as a force for good should prosper.
Across many qualitative research studies that I have conducted, speaking to hundreds of Indonesians, the majority state their desire for progress, “hidup itu harus maju”; life is about making progress, so they say. To give us a bit of flavor, take Tika, a woman who lives in East Jakarta and runs a small beauty
The four richest men in Indonesia have more wealth than the poorest 100 million.
parlor aside from taking care of her family. Her husband lost his job a few years ago, just after they had a baby. She was awakened by the fact that it was in her hands, too, to change things and make everything better. Starting with a one-seat makeup and blowout hair service in her living room, Tika finally began to make money. From there, she was able to rent a place. When she was able to save up a little bit, she took a beauty course to expand her services for her local clientele. Her business keeps growing and so does her income. Along the way, she hired relatives who needed extra money to pay for evening higher education classes. The domino effect was triggered by the simple spirit of making things better, of progress.
In one of my visits to Indonesian communities, I was taken aback, in a positive way, by Rohani, a woman who runs a PAUD, a local early childhood education center. She is self-funding the center despite her limited means. The story began when Rohani realized that children in her neighborhood were mostly playing around; many did not go to school. Generally, the parents were working as laborers, janitors or laundry workers. Since the parents themselves had limited vision about the importance of education, they did not really encourage their children to go to school, which was also quite far from their neighborhood.
Rohani, a teacher, realized the importance of changing the lives of these children. Instead of forcing them to go to school, she brought the school to them. Her 30-square-foot living room, where her family eats dinner, is used as the local PAUD center during the day. The parents of the children are asked to pay what they can so Rohani can buy stationery and study aid materials. Starting with three students, today there are more than 20, divided into morning and afternoon classes. After running the center alone, Rohani invited her niece, who is studying to be a teacher, to assist with the classes. The money is not a lot and sometimes Rohani uses her own funds to keep the PAUD running, but it can already sustain itself and she is able to pay a small salary to her niece. Rohani told her story as if it was all normal. I then realized that her outstanding deeds come from an inclusive mind-set. Using business as a force for good can naturally flourish when people operate as a community, because in that community everyone matters.
Today, there is probably no better example than Go-Jek. A local business that started with a simple idea today has helped millions of Indonesians and beyond earn a better living, have a better life and increase their dignity. Many people do believe that this should be the power of business, but the more people who do believe, the more business will rise to be a force for good. On a recent trip to Singapore, trying out Go-Jek services, I was impressed by how Go-Jek drivers speak about the company. One of the main reasons the drivers said they joined was because Go-Jek’s reputation has preceded it. It is known as a company that has helped millions and that treats the people in its communities with respect and fairness. With that hope, they joined the platform; they also said they refuse to work for companies that do not respect their community, and with Go-Jek they are hopeful that is not going to be the case.
Today, using business as a force for good is probably the best redefinition of what businesses should stand for. This calls for three transformations: from a force to a positive force; from exclusive to inclusive; and from profit to purpose. In Indonesia, one can observe that the spirit of using business as a force for good is relevant in the mind-set of people and the mentioned transformations are really happening. What needs to happen next is for businesses to embrace the transformation and nurture it in the long term. Being a B Corp Certified Company will help them nurture their vision, ambitions and actions.
“Ideas excite me, empathy grounds me ”
These are the words of Satya Nadella. They are very humbling words from Microsoft‘s CEO one of the biggest companies in the world. Satya is an outspoken empathy advocate, his personal passion and philosophy is to connect new ideas with a growing sense of empathy for other people.
For us, as business humanizers and B-Corp leaders, the story of Satya and of the transformation of Microsoft very much serves as a source of inspiration. In his “Hit Refresh, the quest to rediscover Microsoft’s soul and imagine a better future for everyone”, Satya shares some valuable learning for anyone who wants to lead with purpose and pride. I want to extract some strategies and practices from his story that can serve us as leaders and change agents. I have taken on a changemaster lens to distill some learnings.
Empathy is a behavior
There is a lot of discussion going on around empathy: is it a good thing, or is it a bad thing? Some people claim it clouds judgment or makes us poor decision makers. Others claim it sparks our emotions and makes us do more good more often. Some tend to amplify the cognitive side of empathy and others the affective side of it.
What I like about how Satya views empathy, is that he looks at empathy as a vital behavior that organizations can adopt to be more effective, daring, caring, and innovative. He views empathy as having been the vital key to the transformation and renewed success of Microsoft. We all know empathy as a behavior is simple, but we also know empathy is difficult to apply in the business context. Empathy is about seeing the world through other people’s eyes and striving to deeply understand them. The challenge is how to do this in an environment that is strongly efficiency driven.
Like any good changemaster, Satya is practical about empathy. He provides us with some valuable lessons and strategies on how to adopt ’empathy behaviors’ at scale. Like most changemasters he applies diverse strategies for adopting empathy. Here are some of the influencing strategies he used in the context of transforming Microsoft.
When Satya started his tenure as CEO of Microsoft he had realized very quickly that there were many people in his leadership team he admired. What was missing was a deep understanding of them on a human level. He started asking himself questions like, what made these people tick? How do these people bring more of themselves to work? How do these people connect their personal passions and philosophies to a broader organizational purpose of Microsoft?
In short: He started practicing empathy with the people he worked with every day. People he counted on the most to help make change happen in Microsoft. He has a strong conviction that we all spend far too much time at work for it not to have deep meaning. He believes that if we can connect what we stand for as individuals with what a company is capable of doing, there is very little that we can’t accomplish. He created the context and space where people could share their stories, their passions, and struggles.
He points out that as experts we can easily look smart and in control. But life and our human struggles are the great equalizers and common fertile grounds when developing empathy fitness. They enable us to become more accepting, or even comfortable, with impermanence.
We at Innate motion would call this creating more value people to people. We have designed many immersion programs’ for people to have more human conversations with the people they work with or the people they serve in ways that enable these people(all parties taking part in the conversation) to bring more of themselves to the table. The simple message here is that the empathy fitness of an organization grows when we create enough space and safety for people to share their story and discover the stories of others. Stories that are told on the common human level. Stories that enable to bring our whole selves to the table and not just our expert rational selves.
2. Make empathy a means to empowerment
What Satya also understood is that empathy-behaviors are more motivating when they are attached to the idea of empowerment. Certainly in the American context. Most people come to Microsoft because they love technology and they believe their work can make a difference. Under Satya’s guidance, the mission of Microsoft evolved to creating digital platforms upon which individuals and organizations can build their own dreams. He invites everyone to do so with a sense of empathy and a desire for empowerment.
3. Lead with empathy
Satya makes empathy more valuable because he shares it, applies it and lets people understand that in a world where the torrent of technology will disrupt the status quo evermore, empathy is vital. Satya motivates and leads with empathy, recognizing that empathy transformations work best when no one leader, no one group, and no one CEO makes it happen. It happens when it is driven by people who together value empathy and apply it.
Like Satya we have all had our moments of epiphany when it comes to empathy. It is key to treasure this moment, not just for our private life, but for our business life, too.
Satya himself learned empathy in a deeply personal way a few years after his son Zain was born. His son would require a wheelchair and be reliant on others to care for him because of severe cerebral palsy. He was devastated. But mostly he was sad for how things turned out for himself and his wife Anu. Thankfully he credits his wife for helping him understand it was not about what happened to him or his wife that mattered most. It was about deeply understanding what had happened to Zain, and developing empathy for his pain and his circumstances while accepting his responsibility as his parent. Satya considers himself lucky to have had experiences that have helped him build a growing sense of empathy for an ever-widening circle of people. He has empathy for people with disabilities. He has empathy for people trying to make a living from the inner cities and Rust Belt to the developing countries of Asia, Africa and Latin America. Satya leads by sharing stories of how empathy has inspired him at work and encouraging others to do the same. For him, leading with empathy means inviting everyone to listen more and talk less. It means focusing your attention to where you can make the biggest difference in line with your mission and culture rather than where you can get the most attention and media coverage.
Empathy is a force that can help pop social bubbles and bust rigid silos of expertise. It’s what all innovative companies need to do, certainly once they become too successful. Having empathy for an ever wider group of people makes you value diversity more. Luckily empathy becomes easier to adopt when we can make it part of people’s normal social habits and conventions and when we can integrate empathy into our standard business practices.
How can you make it part of the marketing process, the customer experience journey, the decision making process?
Satya tried to put empathy at the center of everything he pursues- from the products his company launches to the new markets they enter, to the employees, customers, and partners Microsoft works with.
Another advice Satya gives us is to get out of the office and meet more the people you serve. It is impossible to be an empathetic leader or empathetic person sitting in an office behind the computer all day. Empathy requires that we are out in the world, connecting, bonding and broadening circles, meeting people where they live and how they are affected by your product, technology and your purpose.
The last influencing-strategy Satya offers us is to make empathy a two-way street. Having empathy for evermore people is great but empathy works better if you can enable others to also have empathy with you and the purpose and mission of your company. Satya writing his book already makes it much easier for me to empathize with Microsoft, something I as an Apple-lover did not naturally do. He provides perspectives and formats to invite others, making empathy a two-way street. Meeting people where they are is great, but it becomes greater if they can get where you are too.
It is certain that Satya has many more strategies and practices to enable the adoption of empathy. We at Innate Motion will continue to learn from him to help other organizations. We look forward to working with Microsoft too and together become more empathy fit.
Unprecedented political uncertainty has shaped and defined recent times in the US, UK and beyond – it has shaken and broken trust everywhere. So much so, that people are starting to question institutions and politicians but brands are still relatively trusted; in fact 81% of people think they have the power to change the world. So, it seems like trust the new currency. And if so, what’s its value?
These are the main insights given over several talks last week during the SXSW festival, in Austin, Texas.
Become a glass-box brand
Public trust has broken down because the internet has become a Wild West with fraud and fake news. As the 26 year old entrepreneur and CEO of Social Chain Group, Steven Bartlett explained, “Social media is like being in the heart of Time Square”. What he urged companies to do therefore I to become a “glass box”. It is only where there is openness and transparency that people learn to trust. So, let people see inside the company and assess every person, action and value.
Don’t forget to do nothing
This was the advice given by Heather Corker, client partner and US relationship director at Foresight Factory.
Uncertain times have led to new consumer behaviors. Acting in a sort of “survival mode” as an attempt to take back control, brands can step in and help people to plan their future, mitigate risks and think of more long-term and sustainable solutions.
Feeling the pressures that are out there to do and achieve more, brands can provide customers with content, skills and experiences that will help them “enhance their lives, achieve their goals and feel validated”.
One more thing that brands cannot forget however is to be fun! In these times of pressure and uncertainty people also want to just relax! Brands should therefore use the time people set aside to be stress free and encourage guilty pleasures: “Stress free is the new black.”
Put people and privacy before profits
Brands must think bigger and understand that they have a responsibility. Misinformation is a dangerous problem in India where people are much more likely to believe all the information they are told on their phones.
As pointed out by Danny Bluestone, CEO of user experience agency Cyber-Duck, “We need to design for different cultures and communities because there are tens of millions of people over the world who are different to us.”
His second statement was that when building products and services, brands must also see privacy as a default setting and offer privacy as a human right and not as an afterthought.
Change culture through creativity
Chris Macdonald, global president advertising and allied agencies at McCann Worldgroup said that too much focus has been placed on volume, reach and eyeballs – hitting as many touch points as possible and creativity has been left behind.
What brands must realize is that they have the opportunity to change culture through thoughtful, relevant and entertaining creative work. Go out with a message instead of following everyone one. Because people want brands to play a bigger role in society. India Wooldridge, McCann Truth Central’s SVP, director, also said that studies show that people “Are more likely to say the brands they buy represent their identity. Half of people have bought a product because it has stood up for something they believe in.”
Character builds culture
System 1’s chief innovation officer, Orlando Wood, and commercial director, Will Goodhand, outlined the brain science behind emotional responses to advertising. Advertising is becoming increasingly left-brain oriented – rational, goal orientated, repetitive and literal. This is in contrast to the nuance and storytelling of some of the best-loved ads from the last few decades.
“Over the last 10 years emotional response to advertising, particularly happiness, has been falling in line with effectiveness,” said Wood. He advised a more holistic approach, that brings together left- and right-brain thinking. “Advertising is a glue that holds society and culture together. Characters are common reference points for everybody who watches TV or looks at their phone.”
Explain “why” in a human way
Will AI wipe out planet or save it? The realty is somewhere in the middle. As we push into more challenging areas with AI, we are finding the need to explain why machines have made certain decisions.
Jamie Sergeant, global CEO at Crowd challenged people to find the humanity within technology. People are defined and shaped by culture, and so technology must “work in a slightly different way” for each audience, he said. Personalization is the only way to ensure we are providing something usable and human. He added that the best effective campaigns are when brands can get customers to become brand ambassadors. It’s moving from “straight advertising to building experiences” he said.
“We’re forgetting some of the basics,” said Sid McGrath, chief strategy officer at Karmarama. He warned brands to stop thinking of people as customers and start thinking of them as humans.
McGrath said there is a “massive gap” between how brands choose to treat people and how people want to be treated – but there is huge money in getting it right. He revealed the results of Accenture Research and Karmarama’s study, Brand Nirvana: Closing the Human Experience Gap: “People will spend up to 47% more money on brands that provide a human experience rather than a customer experience,” he said.
A massive part of this is having an authentic human purpose – a meaning beyond profit. But, he said, this doesn’t need to be about saving the world. It’s about being authentic and human. Empowering and inspiring your employees, and being able to remedy when you fail.
“Move from customer obsession to human obsession. Treat people as people not wallets.”
The world of today has little to do with the world in which I started working.
When I started my career, I did not have a mobile phone. Nor a PC on my desk actually. A fuel-effective car burnt 12L of diesel for 100km, recycling plastic sounded as aspirational as recycling toilet paper, and “social media” was meant watching the news with your mom and dad.
For all the changes since then, I can see two elements in the context of today that really transform the way we do business: transparency, and anxiety.
Anxiety and transparency – a new context.
Transparency is a technology change. It means I have instant access to more data and knowledge than Einstein or Descartes even dreamed of. It means that everybody has access to more data and knowledge. Transparency is insane… Recently the BBC was able to identify the authors of a killing in Cameroon based on a single video. A collaborative team used Google Earth to track the location of the video, used the shadows on the video to calculate the position of the sun and to date it, recognized the army corps involved by comparing the uniforms of the soldiers on the video to a database, and finally identified the 3 guys responsible for the killings based on the posts on their Facebook accounts that week.
Transparency is also a cultural change. People at Google explained it to me in a simple phrase: “because we can know, we want to know”. My mother had no idea where our potato came from. I now can know where the potato I buy at the supermarket comes from, so I want to know – and I chose the most local I can find. In turn, producers work hard to facilitate traceability. This feeds an acceleration of data that exponentially nurtures what I know and what I want to know.
The mindsets of our societies follow anxiety waves, that were identified by professor Helmut Gauss at the end of the 90s. Collectively, we go through a gradual increase of anxiety for about 20 years. It then peaks, and anxiety goes down. We learn to trust the future, ourselves, each other again. Until anxiety gets to a low and starts climbing again. Anxiety waves are connected to long term economic cycles – the Kondratieff cycles. And they seem to not follow them but precede them.
They have profound impact on our societies – shaping fashion, design, culture, politics.
In periods of low anxiety, we deal well with differences. Trust dominates and smoothens social relationships. Men and women embrace closer values and codes. We free ourselves from social norms. Exchange becomes a key value. The swinging 20s, but also the 60’s, the hippie movement, the Vietnam peace protests and the legalization of birth control were all in low anxiety period. So was the election of Barack Obama, the Dove campaigns for real beauty, the rise of the internet and of social media.
In periods of high anxiety, we struggle with differences. We resort to conflict. We seek reassurance in norms, traditional principles, and set identities. The 30’s and 40’s were high anxiety periods. The late 70’s and the 80’s, marked by economic crisis, the beginning of high unemployment, terrorism in Europe, were high anxiety periods.
The work of Helmut Gauss suggests we have entered a high anxiety period again. The election of Donald Trump, the rise of European populism, movements against immigrants and against abortion confirm we get back to more traditional norms. Did you notice Tinder is of the past already? Technology only facilitates the move, as we all get separated into our own algorithmic bubbles, where we only see what corresponds to our own world view. And the theory suggest we are only in the middle of the wave. Expect 10 more years of anxiety and doubt.
These two elements of context transform our business because they bring in three shifts that shake the foundations on which “BIG” business rests.
One, the rise of a me-world.
We deal with the most empowered generation that ever walked on the planet. The reality, but also our culture, is that we can choose our lives. Young generations do not receive (TV programs, education, salaries), they want to make. They develop the content they watch on YouTube, they craft their own education through Mass Online Courses – so much that MBAs struggle to recruit. They want to create their own jobs – the dream job of today is entrepreneur, not marketer at a FMCG company. Knowledge and anxiety lead you to take control and do your thing.
Two, connected awareness.
Because we know, we want to know. And because we know, we make connections. We understand the connections between our modes of consumption and the state of the planet. We understand the connections between the brands we buy and the companies that run them. Already in 2014, Coca-Cola faced a boycott as young people refused to buy its brands because it was closing a plant and laying off workers, but people are also ready to buy a brand because its parent company has a positive action on society… They were simply connecting a brand, and the responsibility of the corporation behind it.
Three, new power.
The term was coined by Jeremy Heimans. It reflects the idea that power today is shifting. Whereas old power was centralized, authority driven, with high specialization and loyalty at its core, new power is participative, open source, sharing, based on short term affiliations, transparency and a “maker” culture. Think the election of Barack Obama or Emmanuel Macron. Think the #meetoo movement. New power is the child of transparency. It defines a world where just a few consumers can kill a brand, because reputations are out of the control of businesses.
Three shifts that challenge “BIG” business.
These 3 shifts – a me world, connected awareness, and new power – fundamentally challenge the way “BIG” business operates.
BIG food companies have been struggling for years because people want to buy local food they understand, from small companies around them. Craft beer explodes. Small baby food brands explode. Big restaurant chains have been disrupted by the preference for smaller players, or for people with a smart, specific promise – thing McDonalds vs Five Guys. Think Ben & Jerry’s disrupting the ice cream industry, being bought by Unilever, and being now disrupted by a smaller brand called Halo Top just because they were smart enough to understand first that people want pleasure with less calories.
Big companies reflect old power. They are centralized, controlled. They build simple, one-size-fits-all propositions that clash with the “me” aspiration of being unique and individual. It might be in what they offer and they uphold – think of big retailers like Tesco or Asda, who find it impossible to challenge the decentralized and individual experience that online shopping can deliver. Or it might be because despite flashing new power values, they still operate along old power ways – think Samsung, Apple, or Uber. It’s hard to be a big company in this world.
A part of the answer from the “BIG” world has been “purpose”.
That started with Dove. Remember: they show you with loads of emotions how much our vision of beauty is distorted. They assign an enemy to it. The fake ideas we have of beauty, largely driven by the beauty industry. Read: by L’Oréal, which is the brand Dove was pitted against. Then they offer you a beautiful idea to buy into: “every woman is beautiful”. An idea that you could challenge, but that rallies the people who want it to be true: that’s why it’s powerful. And finally, they offer you a product that is the embodiment of that idea: beauty products that nurture who you are, rather than trying to change who you are, because it contains nurturing cream.
That kind of purpose is genius. Because you take your own brand history, and you elevate it to make it meaningful. You don’t need to do much more. You do need to do a bit – like create a foundation that will help young girls build a better self-esteem. You can do it really well – the Dove foundation has reached millions of girls, and really helped them. But amazingly, you don’t need to change anything in your business model to become a purpose brand. Which is cool, because it allows many companies to do something kind of useful, without much effort except for savvy marketing and smartly used donations to a cause.
Sadly, for ad agencies at least, this kind of purpose work is deeply insufficient.
Dove is struggling today – after years of success. And many of the brands who join the bandwagon today struggle. This is because they use purpose as a mere marketing tool – and that is not sufficient to deal with the new context that “BIG” business is operating in.
Because of transparency, you can’t come up and speak about a purpose without it being REAL. That means, it makes a significant, measurable difference. That also means, it’s congruent, logical for your business, not some kind of borrowed topic.
Because of the me-world we live in, you can’t build a purpose without being COLLABORATIVE. People do not expect a business to do it all, have all answers. They feel they can, and should be part of it, if it’s good.
Because of connected awareness, you can’t build a purpose that’s not DEFINING. That means, it will impact everything you do in your business, showing commitment.
Because of connected awareness and of new power, you can’t build a purpose that’s not POWERFUL. I mean here that that purpose needs to address the most potent issues that you face, not side challenges. Coke can battle for recycling, but as long as they don’t tackle obesity, they will struggle.
Maker brands and purpose as a business tool.
However, when a purpose is all that, it becomes incredibly powerful, because it becomes vital.
Vital to the people outside the company, who see you do something truly useful and engaging for them.
Vital inside the company, because that purpose becomes a tool to make decisions, to create focus, to rally forces in one direction.
Purpose becomes a management tool: it’s the simplest way to ensure a few thousand people across a handful of functions and dozens of countries all know why they come to work and agree on what is really important. It’s the simplest way to ensure that that what they do delivers what all the stakeholders of the company think is important.
This is why we all love so much the work of Patagonia. They want to preserve the beauty of nature’s work, and it’s real – they are selling products that are better, and they put real money into environment preservation.
Look at Dove, it’s still real, but it’s hardly collaborative – you are not invited to help. It’s not defining enough – they still sell whitening cream and it does not impact much of the R&D or the internal culture. And it has lost much of its power – in part because they actually did their job. Our culture has become more acceptant of diversity in beauty. In part because there are a lot of other issues related to the beauty industry that we expect a leader to cover – from plastic pollution to real women’s empowerment, and because they failed to turn their purpose into a tool that would unite the forces of people across functions: it’s less powerful, and it’s hardly defining.
The job for Dove, and the job for everything that’s BIG, is to create a vital purpose. Because when BIG do that, BIG turn their power – which people challenge because it goes against their own “me” world – into a tool to build the world that people want. And this defines the brands that people want to buy.
In a world of me, of connected awareness, and of new power, people want to buy brands that help them build the world they want. That’s why we call them “maker brands”. Because they make sense, they make things move, they often make your day and, they make your world better.
Your own little world, by solving your practical issues and making you feel good. Your bigger social world, by helping you integrate in a group, and signify something to others. Your much bigger world, by taking political or environmental action.
When you have a vital purpose, that’s what you achieve: you have a tribe of people whom you genuinely help to build the world they want, and they make you thrive. That’s the power of Nike. They speak of empowerment, they sell you great shoes that make you run better, they push the idea of achievement for anyone, and they go against the Donald. When your business works on a vital purpose, what was a liability as a BIG business becomes an asset. Because of your size, you can make a difference, and serve the higher aspirations of transparent me-world.
The question left is: why don’t we all build vital purposes? Why don’t we all do maker brands?
The reason is called: the empathy gap. Empathy is the stuff of legends.
When you say the word in a boardroom, you sound like a tree hugger. But empathy is not a soft, my-little-pony skill. Effective empathy requires us to connect both cognitive empathy to rationally understand the reality of others, and emotional empathy to feel what they are feeling.
Maker brands: bridging the empathy gap.
Interest in empathy grows. There are 30 million answers to the query “empathy in business” on Google. There are good reasons for this. Empathy raises the levels of dopamine and of oxytocin in your brain – in other words, it makes you happy. In times of anxiety, it’s useful. Empathy is also good for business. Research shows waiters with empathy get 20% more tips. L’Oréal sales people with the highest level of empathy sell almost $100.000 more than their colleagues, and debt collectors with empathy collect more debt. Empathy makes better teams and better leaders. Six out of 7 employees would take less money for an empathetic employer, 77 % would work longer hours.
It’s not that empathy makes business better, empathy really is the base for business. Business is about understanding the needs of people and serving them better. That’s empathy put in practice.
Small companies are empathic by the nature of their organization. They are run by people who work in their living room, use the products they sell and try to make these products better for clients they talk to. They genuinely understand the world of the people they talk to, and they try to make things that make sense.
BIG business often works differently. We work in offices. We talk about “consumers”, which is almost insulting as if you were talking about walking wallets. At the least it’s un-empathetic, if you allow the word, because it puts a separation of nature between the person who buys and the person who designs, like we were not both real people, like I did not consume too. We delegate the understanding of these “consumers” to researchers who summarize their learnings into “insights”. We don’t listen to the social realities of the places where we live, because social realities don’t have wallets, only consumers do. We don’t use what we sell because “we’re not the target”. We often actually don’t fully understand what we sell, because it’s too complex and it’s the job of the R&D guys anyway. We don’t fully understand the impact of what we produce and sell on the communities, the societies, the planet we live in because it’s too complex and it’s the job of the sustainability guy.
That’s really understandable. That way to get organized has led to great things too. If you build a rocket to go to Mars, it’s an effective way to work. But in a me-world, in a world of exponential transparency, in a world of anxiety and distrust, that empathy-gap is what makes BIG shake further.
It’s a gap of human understanding. In a me world, when I sell baby food, I need to understand why parents choose to have children, and the challenges of parenting today. Not just baby feeding.
It’s a gap of societal & cultural understanding. In an anxiety driven world, when I sell beauty products or women’s apparel, I need to understand the meaning of femininity and how it evolves. Because you don’t market lip gloss in the same way before and after Harvey Weinstein.
It’s also a gap of technical understanding. In a transparent world, when I sell water, wheat or milk I need to understand where they come from, and what impact their production and their packaging has on the planet and the farmers or communities that are involved.
Bridging the empathy gap is not difficult. But it’s a change of practice. It’s a choice of focus.
When we work with the users of a brand whom we do not know well enough, we take the client team to spend time at their homes. We cook a meal together. We use their bathroom. We play with their kids. We talk about the human fabric that is the context of their brand. It’s incredibly simple. But when a marketer who comes to work in a BMW spends 5 hours in a slum in Bangkok, or in the apartment of an immigrant family in Lyon, his ability to produce a product innovation or an ad that effectively serves the lower-class people in his country increases dramatically.
We worked on products for aging people for a pharmacy company and we had the team wear aging suits. It transformed their level of empathy and changed the way they even design packaging. Ford has a “belly suit” to help engineers try their cars, so they understand how people feel in them when they are obese or pregnant.
Facebook has 2G Tuesday, when people in the office work with the internet speed of a 2G. It’s an amazingly easy way to let them feel what millions of people feel when they use Facebook in the real world, not in Menlo Park.
When we built a “nature inspired” brand of infant formula milk in China, we talked to doctors and sociologists who explained to us how society was changed by the lack of nature. How Chinese kids are scared of ants. How parents think playing with leaves is dangerous. Then we took the Chinese brand managers to a farm in Ireland. Together with the sourcing team, the R&D, the sustainability guys. Nobody in the Chinese team had ever seen a cow. They touched the grass. They saw the crazy work the Irish farmers do to improve the quality of their milk, the 13 different types of crops that the cows graze in to balance their digestion and reduce their carbon emissions. They understood why the carbon footprint of Irish grass-fed milk is half that of milk coming from European places where the cows eat soy in their sheds, year-round.
They returned home and made some connections. Carbon footprint. Nature deprivation. Grass-fed. Strong grass. They did it together, the sourcing people, the brand people, the R&D. They made some hard choices – they moved their milk supply from Germany to Ireland, so they could support better stories. And they built a brand that rocked the entire market – because they integrated in their stories the societal and technical empathy they had built.
When we build empathy for people, for the society they live in, for the technologies that shape their lives, then we think, create, and design brand work that makes sense for people. We make brands that don’t have a purpose, but that serve a purpose.
To build empathic, maker brands, we need our marketing and business toolbox to change, and I want to share with you three empathy-based tools that can totally transform the way we run business.
Three tools to bridge the empathy gap.
One, move from consumer thinking to ecosystem thinking.
We started to work on Axe in 2014. At that moment growth was slow. The brand was running sexist ads that guys found funny, but that had stopped driving the business. We were asked to help rejuvenate the brand by finding it a purpose. We talked to guys from half a dozen countries. But then we also talked to women. And we explored every human and societal theme that had to do with masculinity. We talked to NGOs who were working on causes such as rape prevention, education, bullying aid. We looked at movies, at series. We looked at what made the male culture – the age of first sex, the culture of porn, Tinder.
And we figured that there was a disconnect between what men said – they want to be cool guys, respectful of girls, engaging in real relationships, and what society as a whole pushed on them. A societal view of masculinity that did not offer a real alternative to the old-fashioned macho man. So as soon as they were in a group, the nice guys were back into primal behavior.
We thought of Axe as a brand that served an eco-system. When you are one of the biggest male grooming brands in the world, thinking that the people you should focus on are a few millions of 15-25 testosterone gorged young males is preposterous. Like an infant formula brand serves the parents, the child, the doctors, the people in charge of public health, and needs to be designed as such, Axe serves men, women, NGO workers, educators, because it plays a role in defining masculinity in our society.
Brands define culture, just as much the movie industry defines culture. It seems hard to say, many would say they just reflect culture. But think of Black Panther, the first Marvel movie with a predominantly black cast. Does it reflect a culture that now genuinely makes a bigger space for minorities? Certainly not. But it captures a readiness, it amplifies a movement.
When I say brands define culture, when I talk about serving an ecosystem, I don’t mean it as a burden and a responsibility. I mean it as an opportunity. Black Panther took an idea whose time had come – that of black empowerment. They served an ecosystem of cinema viewers, activists, artists, NGOs, and turned that idea into a business driver, making the film the highest- grossing super hero movie of all time.
We have convictions, but the point here is not even about being moral. It’s this: if you recognize you serve the higher benefit of a full eco-system, that full eco-system serves you too. You get buzz, free media, word of mouth, visibility, better recruits…
Eco-system thinking led to the “Find your Magic” story by Axe. To the purpose of taking men beyond the primal views of masculinity that limits them. A purpose that takes Axe back into growth, because once you find your magic, you need to work on it – and that’s what their products are for.
Two, move from a logic of a working for people, to a logic of working with people.
The Axe work was not done in a vacuum. It was not research based in the classical sense of the term. We went to see guys, and we told them – we want a better Axe. Would you like to help? We went to NGOs and said – we need help to think better, would you join our sessions? The first part of the work involved them to learn with them. The second, to define the actions. We figured one of the biggest enemies to the change, one we could battle against, was bullying. Because this is when guys, as teenagers, are told “be a man” for the first time, and never forget.
Axe has not decided to act on their own against bullying and brag about it. Rather, they partnered with Promundo, and a few other NGOs, and built programs together. They put themselves at their services, and they knew they could – because their purpose was so vital that they would all benefit.
The most interesting aspect of the work, however, had to do with who was involved. The global Axe team at this time was led by 4 South American guys, who actually embodied pretty well the values of primal masculinity! The move of Axe was also their move. Working with people, they accepted to work as people, challenging their own beliefs.
The only thing we did was creating a context of trust, so this could be done safely. In the end, it’s about the people in a business acknowledging their vulnerabilities. It’s about acknowledging that we have issues, that we don’t have all the solutions. Then only we can truly innovate. For Axe, that transformation capability was lifesaving. Eighteen months year later, the #metoo movement would have killed the brand.
Three, move from claims, to stories.
Claiming is become core to marketing – across categories. Ariel cleans better. Evian is more balanced. Chipotle does not contain antibiotics. But claiming is not empathetic. It says “listen, I have it right”. In a world of me and of distrust, you speak in the desert.
Stories are the language of empathy. Working with a food brand, we tested the claim of “the brand helps 100 farmers transition to organic”. It created doubts. One hundred? Is it good? Too little? But when we let a farmer whom the brand was helping in his transition to organic tell his stories, and then another, and a third, there is no doubt. And these stories are shared, because they are real. Claims are not shared.
Many brands have product architectures, we create stories architectures. What stories do you tell to reassure your clients? To inspire them? To convince them of your performance? To unite them into a community?
With a brand of margarine, we figured that the biggest fear of the families buying the product was how processed the product is. Margarine is hyper-processed. You can’t change that. But so is every oil we consume, except for top grade olive oil, because if you press any fat fruit or grain, the oil you obtain is acid, bitter, just inedible – until you have chemically refined it. We could not go against that. But we started telling the story of where the oils used in the product came. In the country where the product was sold. In small farms, in beautiful landscapes, where farmers struggle, but produce great oils. In poor villages where selling sunflower seeds means development, schools. And suddenly margarine did not feel scary. It became a produce of the land – which it is.
In the same time, we built stories of inspiration – showing how baking (the core usage of margarine) was a way to bridge the generational gap in families; stories of performance, talking about the health impact of margarine – vegetal fat is much better then animal fat is for us, and it’s important to remind how rich it is…
Old time marketing looked at a brand as a well-guarded store with a single entrance, and the job of communication was that of a salesman; bring people to the front door of the store with a single pitch, and then the rest is up to luck and good will.
But today the spin-doctored pitch of the salesman has turned into cause of distrust. Brands are more like an open farm. People want to see how things are made. What the farm landscape looks like, how the farmer’s wife treats the cows, whether the farmer’s family eat their own produce, and what the farm employees think of it.
In the times of 30” TV ads, there was no way you could share all that.
In the time of exponential transparency and of personalized, online consumer journeys, you can tell all these stories effectively, each to the people who need them and want them. The power of online media is not that it allows reach and has stopping power. It is that it allows empathetic communication, weaving stories into a compelling collection of coherent, complementary narratives that together, define your brand in all its richness.
Stories have power. That’s because they are a human way of communicating. So is business.
A hundred years ago, a young entrepreneur saw dust-poor workers flock into slums around English industrial cities, living in terrible hygiene conditions. He started a business on a simple idea: if you could make hygiene common place, people, cities and the country would benefit. And he would get rich too. That entrepreneur’s name was Lord Lever, and his idea was a vital purpose. It was put at the core of what later became Unilever.
The world has changed but organizing our businesses around vital purposes is more critical than ever.
It only takes one ambition: bridging the empathy gap.