I mentioned recently that I felt that the resiliency of a company’s storytelling: its ability to tell a singular differentiated, robust and authentic story through its value chain, across its social reach and around its stakeholder constituency, is one of the greatest factors in defining that company’s resilience.
The ability to tell a story that fuses the nature of Mutual Desire and Shared Resilience in the company – one that ignites and feeds the Desire of every stakeholder embraced within its parameters – not just some precious few – is critical to capturing and securing value in every link in the chain.
So, having said that, I thought I might just unpack the Satchel of Desire so to speak. Then I shall follow up with a like-minded piece on Resilience.
Now when I talk about desire at its basest level. I am talking about the ‘core motivator of all human action’ version: the psychoanalytical one, where desires are fundamental to human existence because they are directly attributable to bodily organs and their needs.
Belly empty. Gonads full. Get club. Hit Mammoth. Mammoth dead. Woman eat mammoth. Man eat mammoth. Woman like man. Man like woman. Belly Full. Gonads empty. Repeat as necessary.
This seems terrifying bleak and basic to our terribly self-aggrandising and civilised selves. Thankfully, things have moved on a little (ish – a night out in your average Harvester or TGIFridays might say otherwise!)
There is also the philosophical nature of the word desire. Hobbes (1588–1679) proposed the concept of psychological hedonism, which asserts that the “fundamental motivation of all human action is actually the desire for pleasure’.
(Some might go further and say that desire at its most basic physiological level is an addiction to the dopamine surges that we interpret as ‘pleasure’ or a pleasurable feeling.)
But dopamine addiction aside – somewhere between the psychoanalytical, physiological and the philosophical lies the basic nature of desire. My particular interest is in regards to the consequence of it on us individually, collectively and communally: especially in context to what motivates out working personas and culture and our concepts of recognition and reward.
As we get further up the civilizing ladder – and the increasing skills/increasing value axis of measurement – the relationship between desire and motivation and emotion and action increase in their levels of sophistication and complexity.
I stated in the previous piece that I had chosen the word DESIRE because it carried within it two profound and powerful dimensions, notably those of IDENTITY and UTILITY.
I believe that developing compound indices around IDENTITY and UTILTY could allow us to set DESIRE up as a rich yet defined enclave within which to further calibrate far more nuanced degrees of relationship between the functional nature of something being desirable and the aspirational nature of its desirability.
I also ventured that to qualify these dimensions with any authenticity we would need to appreciate that there are positive and negative versions of both.
The positive and negative dimensions would help stop us being too over simplistic in our assumptions.
They would allow us to make (and measure) the point that it is possible to choose a Desirable lifestyle that is very heavy on IDENTITY but suffer none or perhaps very few of the negative aspects that we have come to associate with ‘shiny living’ as an assertion of IDENTITY
The usual suspects in our current version of ‘a shiny life’ are traditionally based upon a toxic rendition of the old ‘American Dream’ – a dream of having infinite everything.
The positive/negative axis would allow us to view IDENTITY not only in the terms of the old aspirational underwriters of what constitutes a ‘thriving life’: McMansions, disposable fashion, gas guzzler vehicles, industrial food consumption, endless consumables, palm oil rich beauty regimes, and the accompanying incontinence and profligacy of water and energy use that accompany them.
(This is where we see Desire as motivator run riot – too many mammoths, overstretched belly, shrunken gonads & Viagra – a delivery system for negative impacts on individuals and society.)
It allows us to see and recognise that a life of IDENTITY includes positive choices – one constituting a state-of-the-art neutral footprint apartment in a carbon savvy city, punked-up electric super-bike, up-cycled fashions, Tai-Bo regime, smart ‘block’ phone, green IP run on renewables, smart meters, and a diet of locally grown and raised foods and stay-cations. DESIRE, if you are that way inclined, can be rendered wholly positive and regenerative.
Equally you could view UTILITY, through an explicitly negative filter. Utility as a word which, whether it is associated with basic infrastructure supply stuff like water and power or alternately in product and lifestyle terms, delivers an ‘aspirational’ state of Amish-like dour and sparse ‘being and doing’, rooted in plain unadorned functionality.
This stripped down approach to aspiration is very fashionable, especially amongst those who celebrate a caustic weathered and slightly cynical view of the world. Everything other than a withered utility is simply hyperbole, sophistry and myth-making.
UTILITY can be a magnet for those quietly terrified that someone is hiding something from them, and a terror of not being taken seriously – people who prefer a candour sparse and stripped down in manner, emotion and function.
This economy of mysteries is the Naturists Camp of Aspiration. Naked. Unfettered by slogans promises and abstract benefits. Does what it says on the tin. Boxy and ugly but safe. It’s big. It’s red. And it eats rocks.
BUT even in this stripped down space the positive nature of your stripped down, no-bullshit utilitarian view of the world can lead you into the ‘negative’ corners of Desire.
Even if you’re being terribly smug about NOT a having a android friendly Sonos system, Samsung TV, i-phone, Primark bag or Walmart carton in sight, you could still sink the whole carbon offset global metric calculation in one small drive from A-B in your 50 year old breaker-salvaged pick up Bronco truck; especially if A runs on an oil fired generator, and B is an abattoir!
ULTILITY can still house a world of ills to both society and the environment. Some would argue that ‘lowest price’ itself is the purest form of negative UTILITY
A lot of stuff that supplies a need – for greatest functionality/delivery matched with cheapest price – is the greatest blight on society.
Take the humble fast food franchise burger with its industrial and environmentally punitive beef farming and logistics distribution supply chain – or those slinky brightly coloured Primark stretch pants shot with petrodollar synthetics for ten bucks a pop – shipped from Pakistan across increasingly emphysemic oceans by the mega tonne.
So, suffice to say, DESIRE framed by the dimensions of IDENTITY and UTILITY qualified by positive or negative impact seems a reasonably simple yet sympathetic baseline framing to start us off.
It creates a simple tool within which to look at the tasks, roles or stakeholder groups with a direct ability to impact on the performance of a Value Chain through a more finely calibrated social lenses – the employees of a company for example – to explore any socially or culturally shaded differences, dissonances or hidden similarities between those who might work in payroll and those in IT and on the production line.
Desire Testing the Links in the Value Chain
It allows us to look at the essential and inextricable Stakeholder Groups – the links of people whose compound performance defines and directs the whole – Supplier Company and Employees, Local Regulatory Bodies, Distribution Partners, market audiences – to see if we can reveal exceptional points of integration and disintegration.
Which all sounds kind of fancy but the journey across the marshlands of consumption as its make-up re-calibrates from a purely functional need to one that is more coloured by more nuanced social and cultural measures of wealth and status comes down to some reasonably simple stuff.
People need stuff to live. That stuff is either still viewed at a basic functional level – and they live a utilitarian life in utilitarian housing with utilitarian diets and jobs. Or they have started to ascend the ladder from Surviving into Thriving – and suddenly the degree of cache around the stuff increases.
Take food: it moves in a circular manner – starting with a move from the sparsely populated bowl or plate to stable consistent access to it, then to the volume of it, then to the quality of it, the badge of it, then the diversity of it, then the provenance of it until everything falls away at the ‘Being’ stage – at which point food deconstructs back to three bean shoots, a mung bean and some agedashi tofu washed down with delicious h2o.
So being able to measure the nature and effect of Desire at a mutual level, across a group of stakeholders along a Value Chain might be quite illustrative. It may reveal flaws in the culture of the Value Chain one would otherwise not have noticed. It may reveal that especially in multi national structures that the subtle shifts in socio cultural concepts of prosperity DO impact on the stability and of the company and its ability to ‘rally the ranks’ around a unified strategy for the business
But more importantly it may well reveal some commonalities inherent in that desire that point to a hidden mutual strength or sense of purpose.
And there the real resilience lies: because it is rooted in something more profound and far beyond the analysts strategists and planners segment frameworks.