For the past 15 years I have led thousands of structured conversation with people in various settings when there was something important at stake: deals, interviews, coaching and advisory sessions, fund raising, various projects, etc.
One practice that proved to be very useful is to always identify dominating patterns.
So what is a pattern?
A pattern is of course a returning theme (over years) in identity (not by the psychological definition). What’s interesting about it is that it is not a part of the “personality” , but the other way around! So the pattern is stronger than the person and as such the person has no “control” over the pattern, unless he/she consciously works on getting rid of it or perhaps making it stronger.
I’ve noticed individual and “social” patterns. In both cases, the patterns create recurring situations that seemingly control all participants.
Examples I have seen recently among CEOs (individual patterns):
a. incredible opportunities keep up presenting themselves, but consistently wasted by the person
b. the person attracts deals but drives away his team
c. respected by the team, delivers results, but not taken seriously by peers
Examples of social patterns:
d. the unresolved issue of succession planning issue at multinationals in the CEE. term after term new expats are coming.
e. decision making patterns in particular industries (steel and software comes to mind immediately)
f. the unresolved issue of integrating minorities/immigrants in Western Europe
How you can benefit from being aware of patterns (using the examples above):
a. you maybe presenting one of those incredible opportunities, or you maybe taken in by the excitement surrounding the person, but you will be cautious before signing exclusive deals for example.
b. you also trust the guy instinctively but if he wants to sign a long term deal with you, you will make it contingent on key members in his team; if he wants to hire you, you’ll politely say no
c. if you are his/her boss, this anomaly is a good enough reason to take some initiative to prevent the disintegration of your team. If you report to this guy, get ready for changes.
Being aware of patterns is beneficial when things look very promising on the surface; this is when most people miss them entirely. The trick is of course to consciously look for patterns, to dig and to monitor them, stay aware of them.
I am always entertained by how egos get bruised when (expected) loyalty gets compromised.
The guy in a management role acts hurt when one of “his” top players acts against his interests, or is just not grateful for the chance of being on the team. The vendor just can’t get it when the client moves on; after all he did for her! Etc.
Individuals have absolutely no ground to expect loyalty from each other. The foundation of true loyalty is always supra-individual: principles or values; from another aspect: superiority, since the foundation of vertical differentiation may only be supra individual faculties.
When loyalty is geared towards individual or sub-individual faculties the style elements are always inferior: impulsive, uncontrolled, dishonest, opportunistic, manipulative, suspicious, fearful, etc.
Past examples of true loyalty include that towards the principles of royalty (intellectual and spiritual dominance, control over power, etc.), the principle of virility (independence, detachment, sense of purpose), the principle of wisdom (differentiation).
Current examples of false loyalty include that towards various forms of money, profit oriented institutions and positions/titles therein, character traits (be it positive or negative), or behavior that is driven by a sense of sin, self deprecation or sentimentalism.
As we go from south to north we come across with wine nations, beer nations and of course spirit nations. Wine consumption however is growing globally, including in beer and spirit nations and as a result of this the wine selection is getting wider in all major super and hypermarkets.
People buy cheap wine, expensive wine and wine in between. Wine lovers are well educated: they pronounce merlot, savignon, pinot appropriately, they are aware what are the native grapes in particular regions; some of them are even aware of what years were the best in which regions; so wine buyers are clear on the price value of a particular bottle of wine.
They perceive wine on sale to be just as irresistible as Nike shoes, LV bags or other products on sale. More or less this is the case when people are browsing at the wine section of Tesco, Lidle, Loblaws or other denominations.
Wine has become a product, like sneakers, shaving blades, hilti rock-drill and other practical products. The fields of applications are also well defined:
- I am going somewhere, gotta bring something
- Someone’s coming, gotta have something
- for movies
- for dinner
- everybody’s favourite: intimate times
- for conversations
- for forgetting, for celebrating
- for parties
- for closing business deals
- etc. etc. etc.
By “gaining” function, wine has degraded to the level of consumer’s goods. Since the mass views decline as progress, I should probably say: wine has horribile dictu advanced to the consumers’ goods category.
This has not always been like this. Like everything that has anything to do with luxury, wine is not “goods” or product. The “luxury goods” category from this point of view is an oxymoron.
According to the definition I propose: luxury is a field that has no practical considerations; to put it differently: it’s not bound by (practical, inferior) conditions; we could also say: it’s independent, which is in analogy with superiority.
When looked at from below, the superior is always luxurious. It’s likely that the expression “luxus” originates from “below”, since luxus, as a “surplus” may only be perceived as such from an inferior position; from a superior position this “extra” is integral, natural.
One who surrounds himself with luxury goods while he builds a career, “serves” clients, etc. and perhaps makes such statements like he likes luxury or that he leads a luxurious lifestyle, is in a grave contradiction. This is true also when one backs up such a statement with something like:
I only buy Mercedes because I can relate to the philosophy of striving for perfection. Coming up with ideas for this may occasionally birth very funny statements, which however are meant dead seriously at the time:
- I am a princess so I deserve royal treatment: the only brand that is appropriate for this is prada, gucci, etc.
- “a BMW is like a predator in a suit (someone with more imagination may go as far as specifying: like a cheetah, a panther or a lion), EXACTLY LIKE ME!”
It’s typical of the sometimes downright stupid “business thinking” that they seriously ask questions like if you were a car, what brand would you be; or which brand expresses your working/leadership/personality type the most.
To summarize before we move on: the luxury industry is the mass’ perception about the style elements of superiority.
Back to wine.
Wine is not a product. It’s also obvious that it didn’t become from “below” so to speak. It was not an highly observant ape man who accidentally started to grow grape, and then accidentally left it to ferment, etc. I don’t want to continue because it wouldn’t be worthy of applying inferior speculations (how it was discovered, “invented”, etc.) to things like wine.
Wine was not invented, it is a natural phenomena. Conceptually, in relations to certain principles, wine had always existed even before its first manifestation. If certain conditions are present on the manifest plane, wine will also appear.
The creation of conditions for its manifestation used to be a ritual, whereby one “plays” with time from a “position” (of creation) “above” or “before” time, just like in metallurgy, where man eliminates time as it relates to the ore in earth thereby accelerating the manifestation of the potentially existing metal (see Eliade: Forgerons at alchimistes)
To elaborate on the ritual of bringing the wine from potentialities to actuality is not relevant here. Much more interesting is the ritual of knowing the wine through tasting it (by no means CONSUMING it).
The birthplace wine is obviously very important; grapes native to a particular region are prerequisites for (near) perfect wine, since it is not by blind chance that a particular grape is native to a particular region. Shiraz from Australia maybe without doubt great, but by no means may it become perfect…and this is true even if we consider that after all of the shiraz plants died out in France, now the oldest shiraz grapevines are supposed to be in Australia.
Today of course this kind of “geo mixing” is pervasive and it is driven mostly by marketing. “Shiraz has been incredibly hot this year”. “Last year the Australians made a killing in the “shiraz-merlot” segment, etc. …and the marketing guys are thinking (or not): why is cabernet-shiraz more popular than shiraz merlot?
When it comes to the masses there’s nothing to think about: the stronger the taste the more popular the wine. The more unsophisticated the (person’s) taste, the stronger the taste (of wine) must be.
This is probably the foundation of the popularity of Chinese fast food as well.
To keep it short, just the bottom line:
The basic rules of tasting wine:
- get to know the wine where it appears: go there
- before getting to know the wine more intimately, explore the area, talk to the locals, taste their food with their own regional spices, try their water, notice the smell of air, etc.
- it is incredibly important that you get introduced to the wine by the grower personally, in the cellar, preferably straight from the barrel; if he’d good, he’ll tell you about his family, the history of the land and the cellar and many other crucial information.
All these are part of the conditions facilitating manifestation so they are incredibly important from the point of view of getting to know the wine appropriately.
It is easy to see that the grower is not introducing a product.
It’s about a principle thing so about something that transcends both the grower, the guest and the wine; it integrates the grower, the wine (together with the area, the people there, local food, drinks, history, etc.) and the guest (pilgrim) into an indivisible unity the centre of which is perfection that in this particular moment manifests itself as wine.
An uplifting experience.
Of course after such an introduction you bring home a couple of bottles. It’s important to note that the price given by the grower is symbolical and not subject to negotiation. The indicated price maybe influenced by to what degree the feeling of indivisible unity has been actualized during the introduction. Sympathy may play a role, but not necessarily. The price must be accepted.
When one opens the wine at home he gets only a pale reflection of the original experience; in a way he just relives the memory; but this pale, reflective memory is still incomparably better than picking up a bottle at tesco (loblaws, whatever); the only thing we can learn from such a wine is aromas, smell, %’s, a year that is nothing more than a number, etc. This means that we actually don’t know the wine we’re drinking and our relationship with it is purely physical.
Since the nature of wine is contrary to that of business, the wine business corrupts wine. The only way of preventing the inevitable decline, is that we at the very least maintain personal contact with select growers and since trade is impossible to eliminate, we conduct wine trade in a fashion that corresponds with the nature of wine.
The physicist doesn’t know much about biology, the chemist doesn’t know much about civil engineering, the mining engineer doesn’t know much about anthropology, the philosophers don’t know much about wisdom (Sofia), etc.
It’s not difficult to see the analogies with the corporate world: the HR generalist doesn’t know much about marketing, the branding guy doesn’t care much about finance, the finance folks don’t care too much about solutions sales, the IT guys often feel specifically hostile towards HR, and of course the HR people, dealing with the most important “asset”, are constantly fighting to elevate the function to a “strategic” level;
and here we go, the strategy question: for most, it has nothing to do with reality. “It’s worthless without execution”, “It’s not strategy, it’s the people that matter”, “management, management, management”, “It’s like metaphysics: who cares?”, “It’s just a way for consultants to make an obscene amount of money”, “What the hell is it anyways? Can you explain it in one sentence?”, “culture beats strategy” and the list goes on.
It seems like the question of strategy polarizes. Strategy gets developed, then escalated across the organization, buy-in from staff is BOUGHT often with a great show with star performers and perhaps an air show with fighter jets…yet: all efforts to “align” or “integrate” strategy with operations (if any!), strategy with people, etc. consistently fail miserably. ALWAYS. It’s a fact of life, there is no exception – if you find one and have a closer look you’ll see that it’s only temporary.
Why this is so is more interesting than what field (strategy or operations, or culture) enjoys priority. The purpose of this post is simply to shed light on the hierarchy of priorities and draw awareness to what is important and in what order. Awareness is step zero towards eliminating perception gaps from the organization.
1. Principle based concept (the purpose) is the foundation of
2. both strategy and leadership.
3. Organization is centered around strategy and leadership
4. Operations with its specialized functions is based on the organization.
Awareness of this hierarchy ensures some level of integration across the organization. Awareness of course is highly fragmented and the realization/unfolding never happens linearly along this vertical. Various aspects of the concept may appear simultaneously, having seemingly nothing to do with each other (without actual integration), until somebody connects the dots, and starts an effort of integration.
This guy must be the CEO. If not, the CEO must talk to this guy! If not, it costs more both on the top line and the bottom line, than most people have the courage to believe.
This is supposed to be a thought provoker so I’ve done my best to make it strong.
Slaves negotiate down. Their concern is to please the “master”.
The elite negotiates up: if you’re bringing in guys like yourself it’s a logical impossibility to negotiate down; it would mean compromising yourself (devalue your values) . Bring in the best, impress the hell out of them by commitment, class and appreciation and expect them to impress the hell out of you!
Identities exist on three levels: potentially, virtually or actually.
At this stage we’re not talking about brand identities. Just identities.
On the level of potentialities these identities are pure concepts and they are independent of any particular individual.
As they emerge from potentiality to virtuality, which means they are still not “real” in the sense of actuality, a particular organization already begins on the level of actualities: among people. They start organizing according to the concept, based on their functions and roles, gradually lifting the concept to actuality.
More often than not the concept doesn’t emerge linearly. Sometimes the product/design aspect seems to be appearing first, sometimes the organization aspect, sometimes the communications aspect, the “cause” aspect, very often these appear simultaneously but without the participants being aware of it; organization may accelerate as people become aware of the already manifest aspects of the concept, which in a way draws them more consciously together…but almost nobody is aware of the concept itself. Since the focus is mostly on particular aspects of the concept, the concept seems to be emerging by itself.
Steve Jobs gave a good example of this, as he was explaining how he was interested in designing fonts way before the idea for personal computers entered his mind, without having any idea at the time what it’ll be good for; only years later did it become evident how the dots connected. The “mac community” already existed back then, it was just on the level of virtuality, nobody was able to connect the dots yet, not having the awareness of the concept that the then unnamed “tribe” was gravitating towards.
Back to the participants. If we simplify the roles and we speak only about users and creators, the more successfully the creators approach a particular aspect of the concept (design, product, communications, organization) , which is practically a platform that synthetically integrates the users and the creators, the more successful and powerful the emergence of other aspects of the concept will be.
From this point of view the question of who makes a brand successful, the users or the companies (organizations) behind it, is senseless. Both types of actors operate on the same platform: the particular “tribe” of users know what’s right, but their role is not to create; together with the creators, the users form an equal part of the concept. Neither of them owns the concept; both of them are just involved in bringing it to actuality. Quick note: from this perspective the point is not to see what the users want, but what the concept demands. In lack of abilities or capacity to understand/perceive the concept, users who are more aware will be helpful, of course, but good luck finding them!
The concept is never fully actual/real, since awareness is never perfect. Once there are conscious efforts for the “development” (I’d say unfolding) of particular aspects of the concept (at this point the terminology is company, brand, r&d, business development, etc.), the life cycle of the so called brand begins. Awareness of course is fragmented, and management is mostly clueless about what integrates finance, hr, marketing/branding, communication, technology, customers, competitors, partners, etc. Tons of alignment initiatives are under way, but at this point the actors are so unaware, so mechanical, so blind that they no longer have any awareness of any valuable aspect of the concept. Awareness is atomized and all initiatives are doomed to fail; “success” is achieved only, when the objective was short sighted from the start. Customers move on to some other “brand” that maybe closer to the original concept that brought them together in the first place…mostly unsuccessfully of course. This is how the decline begins.
The only remedy to stop the process of involution is the ritual. If we apply it to the brand, the ritual is the celebration of the original state of the brand as close to its birth, as awareness allows it to be. The role of leadership is to ensure that awareness goes back all the way: to the concept in the state of potentiality.
This is important because re-birth is only possible in this earliest stage. The more often the ritual/return is performed, the more alive, powerful, fresh, young the brand and the organization(!) remains.
Today there are more artificial than organic identities. The awareness of the system rarely goes beyond pricing, positioning, competitors, etc. The attention is focused on the outside, and the organization acts like a robot without any sign of internal life. Although the reason behind this is clear, awareness is shrinking in proportion to the growth of the already vast literature on proposed solutions.
Attention, consideration, win-win scenarios:
there is intent behind these; intent that births imagination, timing and energy…
…and behind this intent there’s intelligence.
Intelligence always looks good and this look is uniform no matter what area it manifests itself in: business, community or perhaps family. Intelligence unifies, it is simple, it is healthy (normal), it feels good.
The opposite of intelligence is a void that manifests itself as inertia. It may seem like there is an intent there, but it is just a will focused on something quantitative. This will is not owned, it owns! Lack of intelligence and the resulting ignorance also has universal style elements: it’s repulsive. Ignorance divides, it’s always complicated and smells like manipulation, it’s not good for you, and it feels sick.
The game is incredibly easy: focus on good. No matter what business you are in or what function you represent: give attention, be considerate and create win-win scenarios.