The popular and currently accepted MBA-approach view of business is as a stockholder wealth-creating machine.
MBA PowerPoints reveal a business logic mindset of Gain, Grow, Good. This business logic directs leaders to first think of a way to make money (Gain), then use a more-with-less business model to grow profitable revenue (Grow), and if there’s anything left over – to do some well-publicized, social responsibility (Good).
This is, in fact, the pattern of the old version of the American Dream. Start a business, create a monopoly to get really rich, and then retire as a philanthropist. This was Andrew Carnegies’ and Bill Gates’ pattern. It’s no longer relevant. This “gain first” approach to business no longer works because it kills daring motivation. In fact, a gain first business model creates risk averse cultures that become rigid, silo’d, and bureaucratic.
Trying to build fortresses around business models is a failed idea. The revolutionary forces of technology that have created a new reality in which all information is available to anyone, anywhere (think Google and mobile phones) has changed everything. Now any competitive advantage derived from a gain first mindset evaporates in months by competitors whose employees and consultants are as smart as yours (or even smarter).
The answer to this dilemma is found in the second new success factor. Think Good, Grow, Gain. It means that you, as a leader, begin with asking how much good you can do for people using the assets you have. No, this isn’t a not-for-profit agenda. In fact, it’s the growth agenda of the future. Creating unexpected value grows new demand and benchmark-breaking gains.
That’s exactly what the leaders we most admire are doing. Yet, this “do good first” thinking is such a foreign idea to the trained business mind that I’ve had to come up with a thinking model to jolt some new ideas. It looks like this: When I help retrain leaders’ minds to escape the prison of business-as-usual I teach them a process of answering questions about how they might first use their assets to create unique, innovative offerings that help customers experience a better life through one or more of these six sources of unique value above.
Once you’ve opened your mind to this model, you’ll begin to see how superbrands create consumer insistence (where customers accept no substitutes) and how they generate powerful attractive energy. Brands like Disney, Apple, Nike, and Starbucks inspire us with products and experiences while equally famous brands like Microsoft, HP, Denny’s, and Six Flags inspire only yawns. Just as Google, Harvard, and Oprah create mental energy by making people feel smarter and more capable, Yahoo, University of Phoenix, and Jerry Springer are well known but not for “good” reasons.
As I take leaders through the exercise of discovering the six ways of adding value, I see the light go on in their eyes; that making a difference is the surest way to make money in this constantly disruptive economy. I often see them blow open the cage of old, failed thinking and release their leaders’ personal sense of “unfinished business.” You see, our unfinished business is our personal TRUE work.
The work that most of us never get around to. The work we are designed to do and that our higher selves desire. Work that doesn’t just make us richer but also better. Once leaders understand their best path to personal success is the path that creates genuine value for humanity, their practical idealism kicks in and a new level of courage and conviction takes hold. Yet, even then, after a core mindshift to value-added leadership is set alight, leaders find it difficult to sustain escape-velocity.
The gravity of old ways of thinking and the pressure of short-term investors slows down, and even stops, real change. To boost the energy needed to change, I’ve developed a third step. It’s a revolutionary 21-day brain boot camp based on a set of very short and easy daily habits, designed to literally rewire a leader’s brain to tap their natural strengths and create value-added solutions to tough challenges.
It draws on the full power of new research around personal, positive, well-being to incite permanent change. What’s most rewarding is that these habits light up unique passions and talents of leaders, who want to lead better, but also live fuller lives. As I talk to audiences and work with leaders who believe they have “unfinished business,” I only ever have to ask them to look at their past accomplishments and current work and ask themselves, “Is this the best I can do?”
Those who can imagine that there is more, are those who will change the future, by creating it. For me, releasing a leader’s mind and the desire to be extraordinary is the payoff. You see, I believe that business is the most powerful institutional force that can create the future we want for our children. Imagine a world of sustainable abundance led by value-adding leaders, who redefine winning as the positive difference that only they can make.
Are you doing the best you can do? What is your unfinished business?