Last night I spoke at 300 Seconds Brighton – an event to empower more women in the digital community to do public speaking.
I haven’t done a lot of public speaking before so thought it would be a good opportunity to practice.
I had originally intended to talk about social media. However, as my talk evolved, it became much less about this and I realised that what I was actually talking about goes beyond digital marketing, although the thinking can still be applied to this.
So, I threw the rule book out and delivered this talk anyway.
I talked about a world where businesses reconnect with their true purpose and start delivering meaningful work, connect with its people and become more profitable as a result.
I’ve written the story I told below and embedded the slides here. Enjoy!
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I’m going to start with a story about three masons…
A man came across three masons who were working at chipping chunks of granite from large blocks. The first seemed unhappy at his job, chipping away and frequently looking at his watch. When the man asked what it was that he was doing, the first mason responded, rather curtly, “I’m hammering this stupid rock, and I can’t wait ’til 5 when I can go home.A second mason, seemingly more interested in his work, was hammering diligently and when asked what it was that he was doing, answered, “Well, I’m molding this block of rock so that it can be used with others to construct a wall. It’s not bad work, but I’ll sure be glad when it’s done. A third mason was hammering at his block diligently, taking time to stand back and admire his work. He chipped off small pieces until he was satisfied that it was the best he could do. When he was questioned about his work he stopped, gazed skyward and proudly proclaimed, “I… am building a cathedral!
The three men in the story all started out to achieve the same thing. They all had a sense of purpose. But that been forgotten about and they became disengage with their work.
But what if they all remembered what they had set out to do?
What if we could hold up a mirror and show them what the man saw as he came across each of them?
This story is about more than just masons. It’s about most employees, politicians, NGO’s, CEO’s of massive global conglomerates….
I’m talking about what could happen if businesses remembered that they weren’t just there to chip away at rocks and build walls, but that actually they’re there for a bigger purpose – to build magnificent cathedrals (to inspire people, to support communities and even, to save lives).
I’m talking about a world where businesses want to look at the bigger picture, reconnect with their true purpose and deliver meaningful work.
Because otherwise, it manifests itself in other ways.
Starting with why
Simon Sinek (author of a book called ‘start with why’) makes a case for businesses to start with why and then align everything it does to this.
This is very unusual in the business world – usually businesses know what they do and how they do it, but not why.Those companies that start with why, and then go onto the how and what are really special.
Let’s take Apple as an example. Apple is just a computer company. Yet they have such a loyal following. Even when things go wrong, customers actually start defending them.
Simon Sinek says this is because, unlike other computer companies, they think, act and communicate starting with Why. What they do and how they do it just then prove what they believe. Apple’s Why, their higher purpose, is to challenge the status quo, to think differently. The way they do this is to make products that are beautifully designed and user friendly. They just happen to make computers. This belief attracts a following that also believes in challenging the status quo and doing things differently. Their following is because people are connected to what Apple believes first, and to what they do second.
Looking at the evidence, it’s hard not to argue that companies starting with why also have a huge competitive advantage, especially right now.
“Companies with an authentic purpose do 1025% better than the S&P 500”
This is a stat from a book, called ‘firms of endearment’, which outlines how world class companies profit from passion and purpose.
It builds on something that goes back to a fundamental need within us all – the need to feel a deeper meaning, a deeper connection to things.
This is where authenticity comes into it.
Authenticity is when what you say and what you do is equal to what you believe. So being an authentic business means presenting who you really are through what you do. For companies with a real sense of purpose, this will be very easy. But for others, it’s a struggle.
Some companies like to copy what has worked for a company they admire – like copying Apple’s aesthetic when designing their products. Many companies will simply just tell customers what they want to hear – with the hope that people will trust them more if they say those things.
And that’s when problems occur.
A good example of a brand being unauthentic is from KFC. It’s an example which Simon Sinek would call ‘purpose-washing’:
“Buy a half a gallon of soda for $2.99 and a buck goes to juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation”
Obviously we all know KFC is bad for us and full of sugar, but here they are aligning themselves with Junior Diabetes Research Foundation. They’re not being authentic because what they’re doing here contradicts with their whole business model. This is just an act to reach out to customers and show that they care about this stuff – when it’s obvious they don’t.
But this isn’t unusual and whether it’s something this obvious or not, it happens all the time.
But wouldn’t it be awesome if these companies actually delivered on their purpose? And actually were truly authentic?
Wouldn’t it be awesome if businesses moved from doing things like the KFC example above, to doing things that actually serve people’s real needs and deliver on their own purpose.
Metrobank are a good example of this. They have based their entire business around outstanding customer service and their aim is to create fans not customers – and they’re certainly walking the walk – their entire services are based around the customers need and built for convenience.
I think their reviews speak for themselves – and it just goes to show – even a bank can get this right!
Customers are getting smarter
… and they’re seeing through the bullshit.
A few interactions with a company will help reveal if they’re branding is simply saying what they think will appeal to us, rather than what they actually think.
And this is why I believe most businesses today need to take a step back from breaking the rocks in front of them and start remembering that they are actually building cathedrals. Because they need to reconnect to their purpose, their ‘why’, and start aligning their behaviours to it.