In 2006 Miguel dos Santos shared the secret to success that is not a secret. Thanks to technology, freely available to each and every one of us, it has become easier to apply this secret. Three days of thinking later, we then added the people you Instant Message & the RSS feeds you read, as Web AddiCT(s); definition of Success 2.0. Excuse the decimal, it was 2006 🙂
The Secret hasn’t changed. A recent instant message conversation with Marcia Conner lead to her Fast Company article which is also the answer to the question of this post:
For all the time I’ve spent on making workplaces more humane, I’ve overlooked the monsters in our midst. Large companies increasingly employ destructive practices in the name of corporate profit. Very few executive strategies look at the total cost of business impact and commit to restoring the natural and human resources spent along the way. Many leaders feel powerless (or too busy) to think about what they should do. What they will do. And that won’t do.
After spending my summer with scientists, business leaders, artists, technologists, and philosophers considering if there might be a fundamentally different way to be in the world, I began a reconnaissance mission on saving the world.
I wondered if asking leaders to re-imagine their part in creating a healthful world would elicit defensiveness or blank stares. Could the finite game, where a few win at the cost of everyone else, be reworked to be an infinite game where we all can keep playing? I discovered people across industries, demographics and incomes relaxed their shoulders and looked relieved that someone finally asked. It seems
Many of us are ready to work on the long play. Are you?
What exactly is the long play? Simply put, it’s a long-term strategy for how you’ll make an impact in the wwworld. Thanks Seth. 🙂 Over the past few weeks the timelines have been filled with articles penned by the same people I have been instant messaging and whose feeds I’ve been reading since before the existence of Facebook or Feedly. It’s as if we’re all seeing the wave that’s about to hit and sounding our alarms based on ideas generated by serving others. The focus of the work we do and what we push our passions into may all be very different but the common pattern spotted amongst those who I am fortunate enough to call on when in need of seminal wisdom is:
“Leadership has been redefined. Most business & educational systems haven’t updated their definitions yet.”
Hear are some examples of the leadership lessons they are sharing and applying to their own lives which further highlights what work will look like on the long play:
So where did it all go so very wrong? The rot really is a result of a putrid combination of bad management, recklessness and the company’s poor business model. The first two points are self explanatory and best reserved for articles in The Economist, but what was wrong with the design of the African Bank business model and what can be learnt from their mistakes?
- It’s not all about the money: African Bank is a micro-lender, which means in the South African context that they lend money to desperate people at crazy, unethical rates and conditions. This is neither sustainable nor acceptable. Morally the design of their business was flawed. It’s good business practice to make a fair profit, but to do so by taking advantage of vulnerable people just results in bad karma. Although you can’t list this on a balance sheet, good karma is real and should be starting point of any business model design.
- Transparency: African Bank saw an opportunity to sell more credit to desperate people by selling them over-priced furniture through Ellerines (the furniture retailer). They owned that business and it ended up biting back hard as a result of uncontrollable bad debts. Cause when you rip people off by taking advantage of them for not knowing any better, it will come back to haunt you. The lure of a new TV set or a comfy couch for the family room came with complicated terms and conditions that got a lot of people into serious financial trouble.
- Keep it clear: On that point, business models that are too complex in their design are difficult to manage. A bank owning a furniture retailer sounds like an innovative idea on the surface of it, but when used as a front to fleece your customers it gets messy to manage. Bankers and retailers do not mix well. Business units need to compliment each other and add to the overall mission of the company.
I don’t particularly like the title CEO. It is useful because it carries with it the perception of influence and significance, but the truth is the definition of CEO is pretty broad. You don’t have to report a certain amount of revenue, or employ a minimum amount of staff or achieve a published list of successes to claim the title. You just adopt it. As businesses grow, so the responsibility and accountability of the title grows too.
Now, when people join Cerebra, they get introduced to me as the CEO and they believe it. Like I’m a different species. It results in a dichotomous loneliness – you’re relatively popular and widely recognised in the business, but nobody is really sure they want to connect with you because you’re that guy (or girl). As a result, either people avoid telling you the truth because they’re worried you’ll react badly, or they avoid telling you the truth out of some misplaced sense of protection for you. Either way, getting out of my proverbial ivory tower and spending more time in my staff’s comfort zone catalysed some very real, very beneficial conversations that I don’t think would have happened before.
A culture that prizes narcissism above individualism. A politics that places “tolerance” above acceptance. A spirit that encourages cynicism over reverence. A public sphere that places irony over sincerity. A technosophy that elevates “data” over understanding. A society that puts “opportunity” before decency. An economy that…you know. Works us harder to make us poorer at “jobs” we hate where we make stuff that sucks every last bit of passion from our souls to sell to everyone else who’s working harder to get poorer at “jobs” they hate where they make stuff that sucks every last bit of passion from their souls.
To be bored isn’t to be indifferent. It is to be fatigued. Because one is exhausted. And that is precisely where—and only where—the values above lead us. To exhaustion; with the ceaseless, endless, meaningless work of maintaining the fiction. Of pretending that who we truly want to be is what everyone believes everyone else wants to be. Liked, not loved; “attractive”, not beautiful; clever, not wise; snarky, not happy; advantaged, not prosperous.
It exhausts us; literally; this game of parasitically craving everyone’s cravings. It makes us adversaries not of one another; but of ourselves. Until there is nothing left. Not of us as we are; but of the people we might have been. The values above shrink and reduce and diminish our potential; as individuals, as people, societies. And so I have grown fatigued by them.
Ah, you say. But when hasn’t humanity always suffered all the above? Please. Let’s not mince ideas. Unless you think the middle class didn’t actually thrive once; unless you think that the gentleman that’s made forty seven Saw flicks (so far) is this generation’s Alfred Hitchcock; unless you believe that this era has a John Lennon; unless you think that Jeff Koons is Picasso…perhaps you see my point.
I’m bored, in short, of what I’d call a cycle of perpetual bullshit. A bullshit machine. The bullshit machine turns life into waste.
The bullshit machine looks something like this. Narcissism about who you are leads to cynicism about who you could be leads to mediocrity in what you do…leads to narcissism about who you are. Narcissism leads to cynicism leads to mediocrity…leads to narcissism.
Let me simplify that tiny model of the stalemate the human heart can reach with life.
The bullshit machine is the work we do only to live lives we don’t want, need, love, or deserve.
There are numerous other examples of Leadership (the key ingredient) required to answer the question, “Many of us are ready to work on the long play. Are you?” Do you have similar examples of the definition of Leadership that you’d like to share with us? Please share them below.