Guided by Values

Peter Jones Wu Wei

In  the latest HBS Working Knowledge, Rosabeth Moss Kanter makes the case in SuperCorp: Values as Guidance System that an organization’s strategy is best steered by establishing a clear and committed foundation of values. Organizational commitments to a way of being, not the meaningless kind that sit flat on the wall plaques in most of corporate America. For vanguard companies, grounding strategy—which businesses to pursue and how—in a sense of wider societal purpose provides many significant advantages and only a few potential disadvantages. Values and principles of this sort not only speak to high standards of conduct but also stretch the enterprise beyond its own formal boundaries to include the extended family of customers, suppliers, distributors, business partners, financial stakeholders, and the rest of society. Vanguard companies gain both a moral compass and an entire guidance system. The range of advantages for vanguard companies through their strategic use of values and principles include the following. Competitive differentiation Public accountability via end-to-end responsibility. Common vocabulary and guidance for consistent decisions. Talent magnets and motivation machines “Human” control systems—peer review and a …

Innovating as if your Future Depended on it.

Peter Jones Innovation, Wu Wei

So we’re in an everlasting downturn and nobody is really sure what’s next in store for any industry, newspapers, broadcast, publishing, financial, automotive, retail, construction, food production, energy, healthcare. If the rational, reasonable Western world is in such a fit of uncertainty, we clearly need to be innovating our way forward. Designers have always been up to this task, although we often are not asked. Henry Dreyfuss started his design office during the Depression, and was never wanting for transformative projects. His work defined the look of that bold era. And George Nelson was quoted in June’s Metropolis as having said: “Design is returning humanity to society. If design doesn’t work for people, then there isn’t much point in doing it. I’m not so much interested in designing things as I am systems. That is what is important.” So what will our design legacy be for the post-millennial “long emergency?” Booz delivers a set of 6 guidelines on sustaining innovation for senor management, Innovating through The Downturn: A Memo to the Chief Innovation Officer. “Yet, past history also shows that …

Innovating in the eternal downturn

Peter Jones Innovation, Wu Wei

You know we’re in a very unusual downdraft cycle when articles on keeping the faith with innovation during downturns remain popular. The perpetual (or is it eternal?) financial crisis has lasted long enough to sustain a cottage industry of books and workshops intended to help the waning innovator and entrepreneur. My colleague Walter Derzko in Toronto has just such a book coming out any day now from Wiley, Hard Times, Golden Opportunities. When you expect the situation to remain dire for another year or so, even publishers will buy the normally pessimistic premise. To be fair, Walter’s upcoming Opportunity Clinic workshop offers a glimmer of hopefulness: “Spotting and designing Opportunities in a Recession and later in the up-turn.” “Green shoots” notwithstanding, the corporate mood has turned and uncertainty reigns. It is a great time for innovators, if not for the classic IPO-seeking “pump and dump” entrepreneurs. And while everyone in our line of work will of course insist that innovation is essential, we also need a set of guidelines sensitive to the creative destruction mindset. We need to be able …

Values integrity: Leadership means keeping it real

Peter Jones Human Values, Transformation Design, Wu Wei

One of the central distinctions in the US presidential election that I’ve seen is that of the candidate’s integrity with their stated and perceived virtues. Barack Obama has led an exemplary campaign, and unbiased observers (of which I cannot really claim to be) would notice that he has maintained a consistent focus on several distinct NEW values which have captured the imagination of millions. Barack redefines what it is to be a leader, by creating a new framing of venerable, even old-school values: Solidarity Doing good, serving everyone in the country Asking people to give their fair share And new values, or at least expressed wholly anew: We can transcend partisanship Hope = faith in ourselves Responsibility: We must grow up and handle the problems we have created as a nation. But he also “holds” integrity by making declarations that are not yet proven “true” in our experience. He claims we can rise above partisanship when we haven’t yet, and may still fail. We have not yet taken responsibility. But Obama is creating a place in language where these assertions …