authenticity & belief, Behaviour Change, believers soldiers & cynics, brand guff, corporate cowardice, Create & capture Value, dreamers, Identity, managing the room, operational disdain, people powered, politics of desire, profitability from sustainability, purpose beyond profit, the tyranny of positivity, wizard of oz
Picture the scene: the Conference Suite (named after a president of some distant windswept yet troubled corner of the world for a reason no-one can remember) in a contemporary style, world-traveller hotel (reasonably priced, and reasonably placed at a point where the ley-lines of plane, bus, rail and car intersect – substantial rooms, fragrance in the lobby, free wi-fi in the room and all off-set by the set-price ‘graze & boost’ conference working-lunch special)
The Conference Suite’s windows look out onto the car park, which is pretty full – top of the range saloons mostly and the odd sporty number show that there are some bosses attending the 3 conferences running simultaneously – or their advertising PR, and media agencies have been invited.
In the conference room sit 6 espresso-sharpened, buffet-boldened execs – the words ‘Blue-o-sphere Innovation’ illuminated on the touch screen outside the double teak-look doors revealing the conversation within.
We meet them at a perilous ‘pregnant-pause meets Spaghetti Western stand-off’ moment. Something has been said that we are not party to. But it is a moment of consequence.
Doug ‘Ozzie’ Oswald – CEO – sits side on to the conference table, hands behind his head and leaning back on the sprung chair to reveal the nascent underarm salt lines he is renowned for. He looks down the table into space, looking through and past Dorothy in search of an answer.
Doug is both Believer & Cynic – ‘Ozzie’ (his nick-name due to his Black Country accent, and his love of 1970’s heavy metal played loud in his petrol head sports car) believes the business has to embrace bluer thinking, smarter technology and more engaged employee culture because a) he read an article on it in HBR b) it’ll big him up in the legacy department and, most helpfully, c) it will save them a shit load of money which will set the capitalization of the business at a nice level come earn out time. But he feels a powerful need to denigrate all this fervent sustainability thinking. The ultimate saint and sinner, his conscience struggles with the fact that on the one hand the business and he are inextricably linked at a DNA level; but on the other he struggles to give a shit frankly, being only one year off his earn out. He is very tech savvy, and loves kit, but this is a simple smoke screen to hide his terror and confusion with the progress of life – and its impact on his dreams of a small quiet life carp fishing.
Dorothy Scarperosso – MD – sits at the far side of the table opposite Doug, one hand playing with a loop of hair while jabbing a smart phone and i-pad simultaneously– to her left sits The ‘Vitsch”, to her right, Bob ‘Sleeps Tonight’ Lyon.
Believer – she’s on a journey to future-proof her business – shaking the tree with root and branch reforms at every level – systemic, operational, human resource and product innovation – and all done with her killer intellect and signature scarlet Louboutins to the fore. Dorothy came to the world of sustainability champions through the back door (the front one being not exactly seductive or magnetic to the average person) and entirely by accident. To save money and too much effort on the part of anyone senior, an employee engagement initiative got dumped into the ‘who cares?’ action tray along with an energy mitigation drive and a small product upgrade launch. Quickly rolled together and given to the employees to play with, POW it was an instant facebook success. One small moment of truth and a slice of proof later, and she was a believer. Staunchly, and against all the odds, Doug’s recidivism and a couple of other notable female bosses points of view, Dorothy is a great champion of flexible and home working practice to engage and retain more women at a higher level: for which her catch phrase currently is – “there’s no place like home”. Run-ins and clashes are regular but she knows where she’s going and her irrepressible optimism keeps her punching through.
Bob Lyon – COO – sits slouched, short-sleeved arms crossed both defiantly and defensively across his chest.
Cynic – He usually can side-step the green tree hugger bollocks that comes with sustainability wonks and activists at the factory with ‘I’m busy making stuff so we can sell it’ deflections. He doesn’t like what the expense of a production line conversion to an innovative refill packaging line – and improving some of his supply chain partnership management is going to mess with his figures short term and ‘Ozzer’ (his derivative) is watching his projections like a hawk. Most problems are salved with the easy familiar masculine ‘phwoar’ of golf bravado. BUT Bob has a dirty little blue secret – he has been teetering on the verge of a Damascene moment for a while now. He is struggling to find the courage to face his inner hippie – and admit he’d follow Dorothy over broken glass. And no-one has yet noticed that his Jag’s been dumped for a Prius.
Li Tin Gei – R&D Innovations Packaging specialist – is slumped across the conference table amongst files and scattered sticks, furiously tracking back through his Time Machine application to find the presentation where he is certain he emphatically stated the long term impacts of the packaging recommendation in regards to mitigating vulnerability to global oil prices over three years.
Dreamer – Li is strangely whimsical for a biochemical engineer and uber-nerd. He believes everything in the visioning presentation is great and should happen immediately regardless of cost to the business. Bob can’t help sneering at him, not because he dislikes him (though Lin’s buttoned up purposefully nerdy looking gingham shirts irritate him a lot) – Bob just despises ‘fluffy-ness’ in a tech guy more than in than anyone else – “you’re an engineer for chissakes. Cut the fluff” – But Li is one of Dorothy’s favourites, so Bob likes him in her presence. Li is a hyper-rational believer in everything blue but lacks the heart to really make anyone, let alone everyone take notice
Jean Scayrcro – CMO – She teeters at the far end of the table next to Doug – so near yet so far. Her eyes are fixed on her hero Dorothy, her body language coiled and ready to strike if needs be.
Soldier – Jean’s nickname is Jean Scayr-Cro-Straw-Pants – as she spends her life getting her team and her agency partners to build endless straw man presentations but to little avail as she ends up writing them herself. Her presentations reveal that she runs her own little off-set strategy – balancing the lightness of her more academic intellectual rigour with a substantial instinct for how to turn some of the ‘cool stuff’ that Li’s team are doing into some great storytelling. POW! She’s no visionary but she’s got heart and the marketing nous to know exactly how to use cool stuff to grab some extra brand bucks for the business – give her the tools and the info and she’s unstoppable. But she’s on a professional iceberg in a warming sea – enjoying an ever-reducing platform with the CEO. And a slightly suspicious relationship with Rick from the ad agency isn’t helping! The ‘Vitsch’ will see to that.
Mike ‘the bitch’ Vitsch – Head Of Global Brand – who currently seems to be almost hovering in the middle of the conference room table. His perfectly moisturised lips are drawn into his signature ‘wicked’ grimace, the product of continuously having to disguise a smug smile behind a picture of faux pinched contemplation or concern. The air that floats between Dorothy and Mike couldn’t be less poisonous. He needs the next three minutes to go his way
Dreamer of his own success, Believer in his ability to deliver it, Soldier to his own cause and Cynical user of anything to get it, Mike takes no prisoners. An ex- management consultant and Fund manager, he eats Bob for breakfast, and makes Doug very nervous, in both a good and a bad way. Though scary, he has a very vulnerable though utterly sociopathic side which he tucks neatly away from sight behind pressed Armani and razor sharp Prada boardroom shoes. Speaking of which, Dorothy’s are the ones he wants to step into – and he will make it happen or die in the pursuit! With his therapist and his life coach on fast Dial, Mike plays the Blue line when he needs to and then slips off and debunks it in every direction at every dinner party and junket he attends – but always in an ‘I couldn’t possible say that’ manner. He adores all things shiny and sexy, and thinks that’s what everyone buys. Not geeky scractchy knit your own yoghurt worthiness. Conscience is just not a gene pool imperative in his beautifully tooled and exquisitely embellished brand book world.
Welcome to a world of BRAND X vs. BRAND S Diplomacy – a world populated by Dreamers Believers Soldiers and Cynics and the perilous strategies of managing long term Sustainability truths into short term Profitability businesses.
Watch this space for more on how a profiling-lite approach called ‘Dreamers, Believers Soldiers & Cynics’ might help you navigate the journey more efficiently and insightfully, turn a more interesting social strategy from the inside out and ground up – and have some fun along the way