We are all manifestations of a narrative – a family narrative, a cultural narrative and yes also a business narrative. This conditioning comes from all experiences which we have lived through in our lives. As a result it creates an imprint. As neuroscientist Dr Joe Dispenza puts it “The end result of a thought is a memory whereas the end result of an experience is an emotion.” Which thought we hold in our consciousness in combination with the associated emotion we feel creates our state of being in any given moment. In other words, the narrative and the respective emotion it brings up creates our reality.
Looking at my own life, the business narrative changed dramatically a couple of times. Growing up in socialism-communism, business was all about collective value creation and state-owned ownership of assets. It was dominated by 5-year production plans and the idea to work and share wealth in exact equal parts. This was a rigid binary idea which goes against nature’s innate principle of expression through diversity. As we know today, this experiment has failed badly for various reasons. Going to college in the US and earning an MBA a few years later exposed me to a business narrative of shareholder value and profit maximization.
We are currently observing where this narrative has brought us as humanity when we look at the state of the global economy, at social systems at large and the critical condition of mother Earth. The climate crisis, the destruction of ecosystems, the widening gap of haves and have-nots and the ongoing political polarization in the world are direct effects of free capitalism. The underlying narrative and feeling of free capitalism is scarcity and struggle which expresses itself ironically in the form of the growth maximization paradigm. This survival and dominance mode is characterized by exploitation, overproduction, excessive consumerism and a huge imbalance of wealth distribution. Next to the “Wealth of Nations” which talks about business purpose in terms of profit maximization Adam Smith, philosophical father of capitalism, also wrote the book “The Theory of Moral Sentiments” in 1759. The latter book talks about moral sense and sympathy as integral factors in society. It was supposed to be a complimentary element to the “Wealth of Nations”. Unfortunately, the essence of this book did not make it into general narrative of capitalism.
And here we are today facing 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to fix which was broken through the predatory “survival of the fittest” narrative of free capitalism.
Purenessity’s transformational approach to Purpose-driven Brand Building is based on
5 paradigm shifts in the business narrative.
OLD PARADIGM: If there is a winner, there is a loser
NEW PARADIGM: All stakeholders can win
OLD PARADIGM: Consumers and clients only care about their utility maximization
NEW PARADIGM: Consumers and clients demand and reward purpose-integration
OLD PARADIGM: Lack – “not enough”
NEW PARADIGM: Abundance – “there is enough”
OLD PARADIGM: Infantile “me now!”
NEW PARADIGM: Mature – “us in the long-term”
OLD PARADIGM: Business cannot afford purpose
NEW PARADIGM: Business will thrive more financially through purpose integration
The first paradigm shift addresses the mental change from the idea of “If there is a winner, there is a loser”, the quintessential the winner takes it all-story, to a holistic and symbiotic “All stakeholders can win” conviction. The core of this new paradigm is care and healing. Second, the widespread assumption that consumers only care about their utility is changing drastically. There is plenty of data to prove that consumers around the world are now demanding purpose-integration. This shift is spearheaded by the new generation GenZ. In turn, purpose-driven companies are rewarded by higher brand premiums they can charge and greater brand loyalty. The 2018 Accenture Strategy study “From me to we: The rise of the purpose-led brand” clearly underlines this shift. The third paradigm shift targets the transformation from an attitude of lack to an abundance mindset. Ranging from the “Wealth of Nations” to a myriad of conventional business books there is a coherent thread of scarcity in the narrative: scarcity of resources, scarcity of space, scarcity of capital, a limited number of consumers and a confined market potential. This narrative of “not enoughness” expresses lack in its purest form and is the root cause for hyper-competition and all the unhealthy effects of free capitalism. The truth is the exact opposite: “We have enough”, “We do enough” and most importantly “We are enough”. The 2019 global GDP is projected at 88 trillion USD. Divide this by 8 billion people and you will find that there should actually be enough for everybody on the planet. Once we embody this feeling of enoughness I am absolutely certain that we will create an abundant world for all as proclaimed by Conscious Capitalism, Singularity University and in Lynne Twist’s book “The Soul of Money”. The fourth paradigm shift is from an infantile “me now!”, the default position of a 3-year old, to a mature “us in the long-term” perspective. It is again GenZ who is very vocal about this point and already lives this new mantra to a large degree. Lastly, the fifth paradigm shift is from “Business cannot afford purpose” to “Business will thrive more financially through purpose integration”. Once again there is a wealth of research studies to prove this point. Harvard Business School professors John Kotter and James Heskett have shown in the book Corporate Culture and Performance that purposeful, value-driven companies outperform their counterparts in stock price by a factor of 12. The study “Corporate Purpose Impact” by Swiss business school IMD-CSM is completely in line with this finding and states that purpose-driven companies generate 17 % higher financial results. And Blackrock’s CEO Larry Fink who oversees investments of 6,5 trillion USD states in his 2019 Letter to CEOs called Purpose & Profit: “Purpose is not the sole pursuit of profits but the animating force for achieving them.” He continues: “In the years to come, the sentiments of these generations will drive not only their decisions as employees but also as investors, with the world undergoing the largest transfer of wealth in history: 24 trillion USD from baby boomers to millennials. As wealth shifts and investing preferences change, environmental, social, and governance issues will be increasingly material to corporate valuations.”
There is no shortage of factual evidence and clear future indications. And it is happening. Companies are starting to embrace and live the new business paradigm wholeheartedly. The inspirational stories of companies like Jaipur Rugs, Appletree Answers, Whole Foods and DTE show us how much holistic value inspiring and courageous leadership can create. As for DTE, a Detroit based utility company, bold purpose-driven leadership resulted in employee engagement going up from the bottom quartile to the top 5 percent in Gallup’s global database while being rated number one by business customers in 2017 and generating shareholder return of 275 percent over a decade. These stories strengthen the new narrative. My personal wish is that all business leaders start to act on this new business narrative and become part of this profound change. What it takes to do this is the courage to step out of the known short-term and lack-based business story into a new beautiful narrative of abundance in which all stakeholders will win.
The time is now!