The unquestionable truth for businesses
What is an ‘unquestionable truth’? Well, it’s a term used in marketing for something which has to ring true with people to work. Something that everyone thinks, to which the business slogan is the answer. It’s used by many companies to generate their slogans and messaging. Some good examples are:
|People like to travel and explore
|Toyota, let’s go places
|Everyone thinks they’re special
|L’Oreal, because you’re worth it
|We all want to belong somewhere
|Airbnb, belong anywhere
You get the idea? It’s about tapping into those ‘unquestionable truths’ in people’s minds to create brand messaging that immediately resonates with people and speaks to them, so they connect with it. This method is used by many brand agencies to help businesses to understand how to effectively connect with audiences and consumers.
Now if we look at why businesses are created, there are some unquestionable truths to think about to consider their purpose.
Why do businesses exist? Why does anyone bother creating these organisations? Why do people who start them concern themselves with growing those businesses? Well there are several reasons that are usually the prompts for entrepreneurs to start something. These fall into several categories like:
- They found a better way to do something and want to change the world with it
- They want to create an impact on the world which makes them famous
- They want to help people
- They want to enjoy the work they do
- They want to make money
If we look at those reasons, they actually all boil down to the last one. However virtuous a business owner is, they want to make money. In fact, they need to make money to continue to exist. That could be just enough money for them to live on, or it could be enough money to create a living for other people as well, or their ambition in life could be to become a billionaire. Whichever way you look at it, a business needs to generate profits to continue to exist. So, this means there’s an ‘unquestionable truth’ here….
“Every business wants to make money”
If we take that as a starting point, there are some things we need to consider about how businesses can maximise the money they generate and the profit they make.
Let’s look at another unquestionable truth; for a business to exist in the first place, and for it to continue to exist, it needs constant innovation with a steady stream of new, creative ideas. This is what will generate the money the business needs. It is a steady stream of new ideas for products, services, and how to do things which will keep the company in business. So the next unquestionable truth is:
“Every business needs creative new ideas”
Creative crazy ideas
Right, so we need lots of creative ideas, some will be ‘crazy’, some ideas that seem crazy will turn out to be the best ones, and many of the ideas will need creative thinking, discussion and involvement to bring them to life. Organisations use a variety of methods to generate ideas and get to their best innovations; anything from workshops to brainstorms, and many things besides, can bring together different ideas and help the group decide which ones to take forwards. These are not limited to product or feature ideas, this can be services to offer, or how to do things, or even how to run the company. They can be about what colour to paint the walls!
Now set aside how things are actually done in places you have worked at, and think about this for a moment. If you need brilliant, creative, crazy, different ideas to make money, you need lots of creativity and different ideas and perspectives to get all the input you need for your brilliant money-spinning ideas.
If this is what you need, are you sure you are actually getting it? Have a think about it; is it really the case that you are getting all the creativity and varied thinking you need for your organisation? If you’re not, it could be this which is stifling your business growth and, in the end, will lead to your business running out of creative ideas.
What actually happens
There are well-known and well-shared statistics about all of this. Guess what? They show that in most businesses, the decisions are made by fairly homogenous groups. Here are some stats which illustrate this:
- All male teams make around 38% of decisions in large companies
- 6% of management roles are held by ethnic minorities
- The number of FTSE 100 company directors from BAME backgrounds declined to just 8%
- 18% of firms globally are led by women, and only 22% of board members in OECD countries are women
- When an all-male team makes decisions which are then implemented by the whole company, the group underperforms by 15%
Then there are some fascinating business stories about this too. Let’s start with Apple: women are more than 50% of the consumers of iPhones, but the phones are designed to be too big for women’s hands and pockets. It’s not just Apple, it’s actually a very common problem in product design. If a product design team does not include women, then crucial perspectives are going to be missed, risking alienating more than 50% of the potential market when it comes to selling that product. In case anyone is still wondering about this, just making a product pink and putting flowers on it will not make it instantly more appealing to women! Some companies try to get this right, but spectacularly fail: Ms Monopoly by Hasbro is a good example. For more research on this subject, I recommend you read the fascinating book by Caroline Criado Perez, Invisible Women. She cites so many examples of where women are simply forgotten in thinking and research.
This is not exclusively a male/female issue. Generally, decisions and thinking in businesses do not involve a wide range of people. Offices are often designed with accessibility as an afterthought, working hours are not suitable for many people, especially parents. Decisions are usually made on the ‘stage’ of a group meeting in a boardroom, where diverse voices are not routinely included. So many groups are simply forgotten in the decision-making process. If you expect to create the most innovative ideas, but you’re only allowing for one format to find those ideas, and only including certain types of people, you’re setting yourselves up to fail.
Money and profits
It’s a curious thing. The stats prove that more diversity leads to greater innovation and higher profits. The International Monetary Fund have conducted extensive research on this and found that greater diversity definitely leads to higher profits. The Davies report commissioned by the UK government in 2010 concluded that greater BAME representation on boards could be worth £24bn to the UK economy. Yet companies are routinely failing to tackle this.
The gender pay gap reporting in the UK shows that we are actually going backwards, not forwards, on this matter. There are still no sectors where women are paid the same as men. The Davies report on ethnic diversity in companies was in 2010, yet, 10 years later, here we are with no real progress. It’s even shareholders who are failing to make decisions to take their companies forwards, and make them more profitable!
Is it emotional?
There are thousands of companies who have decided that the way to address this is to set up ‘Diversity & Inclusion’ teams. I am not going to name names here, but I have seen many examples of these groups dominated by the same group of people who are already running everything! Perhaps appointing groups, commissioning reports and setting up projects is not the way to address this?
Does there have to be an emotional pull for something to actually happen? Do we need to make people feel why this is important, more than bombarding them with facts and stats? Emotion does affect how people do business. People generally recruit people who are most like them because they emotionally connect with those people. If someone is mentored, whoever their mentor is, that person is likely to help them progress their career through that emotional connection they have.
Some companies have tapped into this effectively through the use of video. Video is well-known as a good way to connect emotionally with an audience. Accenture’s Inclusion Starts With I is a powerful example. I challenge you not to cry after watching it! So does Apple’s Portrait of Apple video, and a Danish TV company produced a moving piece called All That We Share to show all the things we have in common. Is this the way to tap into the action needed to change things? Do people need to cry to do something about it?
Or is it something else?
Some of those videos are now famous. I have seen the Accenture one at most Diversity and Inclusion conferences I have attended. It’s still not making a difference though is it? Does it boil down to it seeming too big or complex a problem to tackle, so people don’t know where to start? As a result, they continue as they are and nothing actually changes.
Cloverpop’s survey shows that teams that follow an inclusive process will have more friction in the group as they make decisions, but they will make those decisions twice as fast, with half the number of meetings. Less diverse teams make worse decisions, which are then harder to implement in the wider organisation. If you need to make a big decision in a company, maybe you just don’t want the confrontation of having more diverse voices in the room, so it’s easier to include people who are most likely to agree with you?
Teams from different backgrounds are more effective at solving problems and creating effective solutions, but it will involve friction, disagreement and debate to get to that great decision. Adding just one ‘outlier’ for a different perspective makes people consider more options. So, if you imagine that team meeting, there’s one person who doesn’t agree with the idea. They have a different perspective, they push the group to think deeper, and that brings out a better idea. That different perspective could deliver the million-dollar idea, but choosing this type of inclusive process is going to take more work, more thinking and some debate and disagreement to be able to proceed. What do you do in that situation?
You can have a great idea that is going to make you millions
You can have an OK idea which might fail
Which are you going to choose?
I’ll finish with a final unquestionable truth…
“Businesses who include everyone are the ones who stick around”
Something to think about!
If you’re looking to challenge how things are done and imagine a different way, get in touch.