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Freedom, Purpose, And The Opportunity To Achieve Success

Rohan Light

In discussing freedom and opportunity within an organization, Nilofer Merchant wrote, in the forward of Dan Pontefract’s 2016 book The Purpose Effect:

“When people know the purpose of an organization, they don’t need to check in or get permission to take the next step; they can just do it. When the organization is demonstrating purpose, the likelihood of employees going above and beyond the call of duty greatly increases. When organizations stand for something, it brings coherence to everything and a real advantage to what they offer.”

The purpose of good business

If a good business has purpose, what is the purpose of a good business?

It’s not to make money. There has been enough work done on the poverty of the shareholder approach to management that we can accept that path as a dead end. Even the general idea of making money or generating wealth is insufficient to understanding purpose in general and the purpose of business in particular. We’ve had a clear view of this since Aristotle wrote the Nichomachean Ethics in the 4th Century BC:

Wealth is evidently not the good we are seeking; for it is merely useful and for the sake of something else.”

If wealth is not the good that the good business seeks, why does the “bottom line” remain the preeminent goal of business? People have advanced many explanations, but the simplest may be that the bottom line can be counted. What can be counted is easier to understand and therefore to manage.

Profit and purpose

It would be going too far to claim we can live on purpose alone. Money doesn’t serve as a proxy for purpose. Whenever we survey the wreckage of the business world, financial mismanagement is a common factor. This tells us that money is important… just not all-important. Peter Drucker touched on this in his 1973 book Management: Tasks, Responsibilities and Practices:

“To attain any of the [business] objectives entails high risks. It requires effort, and that means cost. Profit is, therefore, needed to pay for attainment of the objectives of the business. Profit is a condition of survival. It is the cost of the future, the cost of staying in business.”

So profit is a condition of staying in business, which means staying in pursuit of business’s purpose. What helps us make sense of the purpose of a good business? The people who take part in the organization’s activities and the society that provides a place for the business. In other words, a business doesn’t exist in isolation from society. The purpose of good business can only be found by trying to understand the role of people within a society.

Responsible enterprise

I wrote a manifesto of six articles to help me understand the purpose of business, or “responsible enterprise,” as I called it. Article V:

“Responsible enterprise brings together people’s need for aspirational achievement and society’s need for productive contribution. Responsible business takes people’s and society’s needs and transforms them into opportunities.”

Our need for aspirational achievement is the thread that links our various experiences in life. Business management is no different. And we encounter this aspirational need the most when it comes to hiring. How we hire determines how well we are able to take society’s needs and transform them into individual opportunity. Which raises the question, how effective is our track record in hiring?

Hiring and opportunity

That’s an interesting question. Robert D. Hare wrote in his 2006 book, Snakes in Suits, how contemporary management culture provides the opportunity for psychopaths to find a niche. He noted that because the hiring process is subjective, psychopaths are able to bring their primary tools of lies and charm to good effect. And we shouldn’t for a minute think that defective hiring mechanisms will only be found in the likes of disgraced firms like Goldman Sachs. The Silicon Valley hero entrepreneur culture is equally open to abuse.

Both environments have in common our broader tendency to elevate the social status of certain roles, professions, or industries. We form an idea in our mind that these positions are of great value, and in an effort to be the best we can be, create competition for them. For some of us, competition provides an opportunity to show the best of who we can be. But for others, the race to the professional top becomes a race to the moral bottom. The way we view people, their places in organizations and the place of organizations in society contributes to many of the troubling outcomes we can observe.

Disabled opportunity

But this article isn’t about the obvious challenges we create for ourselves in our hiring practices. If we should hire with aspiration and opportunity in mind, we should hire with the opportunities people have to bring their aspirations to bear in pursuit of purposeful business. This becomes an issue of deprivation. There is no more deprived group of people in the world than those with disabilities, mental, physical, and social.

I used the word psychopath earlier to make a point about culture, but psychopathy is not a psychiatric diagnosis. There is a “burn the witch” association to the word. Mental disability in general is widespread, nuanced, and easily stigmatized. We do ourselves a great disservice in our search for purposeful business to think only in terms of people with education, experience, and perfect teeth. If the task of purposeful business is to link the aspirations of people together, then we must also pay attention to relative deprivation  of opportunity and its corollary, neglect. As Amartya Sen wrote in his 2009 book, The Idea of Justice,

“People with physical or mental disability are not only among the most deprived human beings in the world, they are also, frequently enough, the most neglected… The magnitude of the global problem of disability in the world is truly gigantic. More than 600 million people – about one in ten human beings – live with some form of significant disability… The impairment of income-earning ability, which can be called the ‘earning handicap,’ tends to be reinforced and much magnified in its effect by ‘the conversion handicap;’ the difficulty in converting incomes and resources into good living, precisely because of disability.”

Harnessing aspirations

opportunity

The purpose of good business is to harness people’s aspirations and direct those aspirations toward meaningful opportunity. To those ends we owe it to ourselves to take a closer look at how we include or exclude people from our ranks. Not everyone can be made in image of the hero leader.

We can’t all tick the boxes that indicate a good fit. We can’t all grow a good hipster beard, write witty Twitterisms, or make sagacious points in front of a giant screen. But we do all have aspirations and we do all have something to contribute. We deserve the opportunity to do so. Some of us, by a twist of fate, have had less opportunity to contribute and have come further in our quest to do so.

For more insight on how to tap a diverse workforce to foster purposeful business, see The CMO Personality Vs. The C-Suite Personality.

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Why Youth Will Determine ASEAN’s Success In The Digital Revolution

Michael Zipf

Don’t let the European Union and all of its troubles fool you. At least one regional integration has a lot to celebrate: The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) turns 50 this year.

Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand, and Singapore founded the association in 1967 to facilitate economic and political collaboration among its members and to accelerate economic growth and social progress. Five more countries joined ASEAN in the 1980s and 1990s, helping to make it an economic powerhouse with a combined GDP of US$2.5 trillion. (If it were a single country, ASEAN would be the seventh-largest economy in the world.)

But ASEAN is in the middle of the same digital revolution as the rest of the world. Technologies such as artificial intelligence, robotics, machine learning, 3D printing, autonomous vehicles, and nanotechnology, along with accelerating progress in genetics, automation, and materials science, are shaking up the planet’s economies.

ASEAN taking over as the world’s factory

We are at “an inflection point in the history of our economies and societies because of digitization,” according to economists Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee in their latest book, The Second Machine Age. “It’s an inflection point in the right direction – bounty instead of scarcity, freedom instead of constraint – but one that will bring with it some difficult challenges and choices … The choices we make from now on will determine what kind of world that is.”

Brynjolfsson and McAfee are optimistic about the future, but they argue that technology may “leave a lot of people, organizations, and institutions behind.” They point out that especially workers with only “ordinary skills and abilities to offer” will suffer since “computers, robots, and other digital technologies are acquiring these skills and abilities at an extraordinary rate.”

The low cost of labor in Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar, and Vietnam is a competitive advantage for multinational firms – and for ASEAN. Experts from ANZ Bank believe “Southeast Asia will take up China’s mantle of the world’s factory over the next 10 to 15 years.”

Preparing the next generation

Much of what lies ahead for ASEAN will depend on how the younger generations will handle digitalization – and the challenges described in the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Almost half of the region’s population will be younger than 30 by 2020. It will be a young, diverse, and digitally savvy population – so ASEAN could be in a good position to benefit from the digital transformation.

But getting into that good position will not be easy. Youths need to be prepared for the digital economy and be sensitized for what’s needed to ensure prosperity in a sustainable way. The challenges ahead are so fundamental that ASEAN will need help from all its stakeholders: public and private sectors, academia, and civil society.

Global partnership for sustainable development

The ASEAN Foundation is rolling out three initiatives in 2017 to address ASEAN’s economic, environmental, and societal issues. The projects are based on three focus areas:

  • Education: The data analytics competition “ASEAN Data Science Explorers“ (ADSE) is already underway. University students across all 10 ASEAN member states from any discipline are invited to deliver data-driven insights for ASEAN across six U.N. Sustainable Development Goals cloud-based analytics.
  • Volunteerism: In collaboration with the United Nations Volunteers (UNV) program and the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, ASEAN Secretariat, ASEAN Foundation, SAP, and other partners have launched the Youth Volunteering Innovation Challenge (YVIC) in ASEAN. Under the theme “Impact ASEAN,” the initiative supports young volunteers throughout the ASEAN countries in their journey to catalyze youth-led innovation for social impact and sustainable development.
  • Entrepreneurship: Through social sabbatical programs, employees from companies such as SAP are supporting social impact intermediaries through mentoring and pro-bono consulting. The program, in association with several partners, will impact close to 20 social enterprises across Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam in 2017.

These and other collaborative efforts will help many of ASEAN’s young people excel alongside Brynjolfsson and McAfee’s “computers, robots, and other digital technologies.” Beyond justifying the two economists’ optimism, these efforts will help equip youth in the 10 ASEAN countries with the skills they need to meet the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals – and to thrive in the digital economy.

Applying artificial intelligence (AI) to complex decisions has clear benefits. But it also increasingly means automating ethical choices that can alter human lives. Learn more about how scientists are Teaching Machines Right from Wrong.

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Big Ideas For Banking That Helps More Than The Privileged Few

Susan Galer

People using the latest technologies are often well-off, younger, urban, and tech-savvy – or none of the above. This was the disruptive reality that 20 students from the London School of Economics imagined during a recent design thinking workshop. The three-hour session, conducted as part of the school’s relationship with SAP, challenged the non-techie undergrad and grad students to brainstorm how innovations in banking could help people with disabilities – physical, social, and psychological – realize their business dreams. It was their first-ever experience using design thinking, and a revelatory exercise that broadened their minds.

“We wanted to shake them up and bring them out of their comfort zone,” said Martin Gollogly, director of SAP Next-Gen Innovation Community for SAP Leonardo. “One of the first ‘aha moments’ came during the warm-up when we asked them to design a chair. They realized everyone had similar ideas narrowly related to physical disabilities and banking environments. We challenged them to have the broadest possible definitions of both being disabled and banking.”

Twenty students from the London School of Economics envisioned how the internet of good things could bring banking to non-traditional customers.

Twenty students from the London School of Economics envisioned how the Internet of good things could bring banking to non-traditional customers.

Applying Internet of good things

Working in small groups, the students created several personas of non-traditional banking customers. The challenge was to apply an “Internet of good things” approach to meet each person’s unique requirements.

Persona 1: A high-powered businessman-turned-monk, disappointed with his previous life, seeks a more spiritual existence. Now living in Tibet, he aims to build a non-profit temple supporting the local economy. He uses cashless transactions-in-kind and barter from his remote location. Drones could fly in small-denomination cash and smaller barter goods. RFID chips could track livestock and materials for farmers and people making small crafts, turning the temple into a source of security when animals go astray or materials are lost or stolen. A digital voice assistant could automatically translate words and enable basic transactions between two people who speak different languages. The temple could house a local 3D printer station creating objects to help maintain local goods.

Persona 2: A flight attendant dreams of opening a café on a boat that would travel the world, allowing him to pursue his hobbies, playing the guitar and sailing. People with disabilities would be able to book ideal locations, travel times, and rates using banking services powered by Big Data and analytics. A currency conversion selector would allow customers to set and receive the best ticket prices based on purchase dates, trip timeframes, and destinations. Travelers could also request and buy specific supplies sourced from local businesses at various ports along the journey.

Persona 3: A retired, divorced soldier with PTSD is living on a lake in Africa, forced to travel over an hour to pick up his monthly pension from a bank that is often closed. With cybersecurity fears, he checks email only once every couple of months in a remote Internet café. He also needs to purchase equipment to build his sailboat. Using biometric input plus virtual reality headsets, the local Internet café could become this ex-soldier’s bank. Virtual reality headsets can create the impression that he’s in a bank branch, while avatars based on facial reproduction technology allow him to transact business at his convenience while talking to a “face.”

Creative disruption

Even for these top students who will likely go on to assume senior roles in banking and economics, it was a stretch to consider the less-obvious, which is critical to disruption.

“Some of these ideas might seem unusual or far-fetched, but they are actually viable, said Gollogly. “SAP University Alliances has 3,000 members, and if we get one viable idea from one design thinking session out of ten, that’s 300 disruptive ideas. We’re helping students expand their education for creative disruption to do good in the world.”

Gollogly added that SAP is launching a Next-Gen Community powered by the SAP Leonardo Center with the University of Portsmouth in the United Kingdom this month.

This blog was originally posted on the SAP Business Trends Community.

Follow me on Twitter, SAP Business Trends, or Facebook. Read all of my Forbes articles here.

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Running Future Cities on Blockchain

Dan Wellers , Raimund Gross and Ulrich Scholl

Building on the Blockchain Framework

Some experts say these seemingly far-future speculations about the possibilities of combining technologies using blockchain are actually both inevitable and imminent:


Democratizing design and manufacturing by enabling individuals and small businesses to buy, sell, share, and digitally remix products affordably while protecting intellectual property rights.
Decentralizing warehousing and logistics by combining autonomous vehicles, 3D printers, and smart contracts to optimize delivery of products and materials, and even to create them on site as needed.
Distributing commerce by mixing virtual reality, 3D scanning and printing, self-driving vehicles, and artificial intelligence into immersive, personalized, on-demand shopping experiences that still protect buyers’ personal and proprietary data.

The City of the Future

Imagine that every agency, building, office, residence, and piece of infrastructure has an entry on a blockchain used as a city’s digital ledger. This “digital twin” could transform the delivery of city services.

For example:

  • Property owners could easily monetize assets by renting rooms, selling solar power back to the grid, and more.
  • Utilities could use customer data and AIs to make energy-saving recommendations, and smart contracts to automatically adjust power usage for greater efficiency.
  • Embedded sensors could sense problems (like a water main break) and alert an AI to send a technician with the right parts, tools, and training.
  • Autonomous vehicles could route themselves to open parking spaces or charging stations, and pay for services safely and automatically.
  • Cities could improve traffic monitoring and routing, saving commuters’ time and fuel while increasing productivity.

Every interaction would be transparent and verifiable, providing more data to analyze for future improvements.


Welcome to the Next Industrial Revolution

When exponential technologies intersect and combine, transformation happens on a massive scale. It’s time to start thinking through outcomes in a disciplined, proactive way to prepare for a future we’re only just beginning to imagine.

Download the executive brief Running Future Cities on Blockchain.


Read the full article Pulling Cities Into The Future With Blockchain

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About Dan Wellers

Dan Wellers is founder and leader of Digital Futures at SAP, a strategic insights and thought leadership discipline that explores how digital technologies drive exponential change in business and society.

Raimund Gross

About Raimund Gross

Raimund Gross is a solution architect and futurist at SAP Innovation Center Network, where he evaluates emerging technologies and trends to address the challenges of businesses arising from digitization. He is currently evaluating the impact of blockchain for SAP and our enterprise customers.

Ulrich Scholl

About Ulrich Scholl

Ulrich Scholl is Vice President of Industry Cloud and Custom Development at SAP. In this role, Ulrich discovers and implements best practices to help further the understanding and adoption of the SAP portfolio of industry cloud innovations.

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Why HR Is The New Marketing

Michael Brenner

In a world of infinite media choices, the best way to reach new buyers and new talent might be right under your nose. Your own employees represent the greatest opportunity to create meaningful marketing and to develop human resources programs that increase sales, while also finding and retaining top talent. Is HR the new marketing?

In the battle for new talent, HR departments have been forced to expand their role from hiring and firing, overseeing personnel systems and processes, and handling benefit management to include leadership development and training, employer branding, and diversity initiatives.

HR has been forced to adopt strategies that look, well, very much like marketing. These days, HR develops campaigns to grow employer awareness, to build the employer brand as a “great place to work,” and to retain top talent—all traditional marketing objectives.

While many in HR have embraced these traditional marketing skills, the most effective companies are moving beyond HR simply applying marketing techniques to a whole new opportunity. These effective companies are actually activating employees as a new marketing channel to achieve both HR and marketing objectives.

Proceed with caution

One of the biggest obstacles to achieving the potential of employees as a new marketing channel is the perception of marketing as advertising.

Asking (or forcing) your employees to share product content on their social media channels is just as dangerous as asking them to share (or guilting them into sharing) what a great place your company is to work.

Consumers are increasingly ignoring and blocking advertising messages, with some research even suggesting that promotional messages from brands can have the opposite of their intended effect. These misguided efforts can actually cause sales to decline!

While some employees may authentically share their excitement and passion for the products they work on, the projects they are engaged in, and the company they work for (and we should celebrate that), this is not a sustainable strategy for getting new customer or talent.

Content marketing and HR

Content marketing has emerged as one of the hottest trends in marketing. Marketers are learning to think and act like publishers to create entertaining, interesting, or helpful content that consumers actually want to read and share (vs. promotional ads). And this approach allows a brand to reach, engage, convert and retain new customers.

The opportunity to activate employees to achieve marketing and HR objectives starts by creating content they naturally want to share.

As the first VP of content marketing at SAP, I learned to tap into the power of my fellow employees to create a marketing program that delivered massive ROI. The biggest lesson I learned: HR is the new marketing!

With a limited budget for content, I asked our internal experts to write articles on whatever they wanted. We had one editorial rule: no product promotion. Our internal experts could explore their professional or personal passions and interests, even if it meant writing about cat videos. Because somewhere out in the world, I believed there was a potential customer, employee, partner or investor who might also loved cat videos. (No one ever wrote about cat videos. Bummer!)

I even created a slideshare deck to explain the value for these employees/budding content marketers:

  • Grow your personal brand
  • Increase or establish your authority on the topics you are interested in
  • Gain new social media followers
  • Maybe even find that new job or get promoted

We also encouraged this behavior by publicly recognizing our top articles and authors each week in a round-up post. We made rock stars of the best performers as their social connections and influence increased. And this drove more employees to sign up.

Today, that site has hundreds of employee contributors. All are growing their personal brand, while expressing their passions and expertise to the world. And many of the employees who don’t write articles voluntarily share the content with their social connections.

As LinkedIn’s own Jason Miller mentioned in his article, the trick is to define what’s in it for them.

Why does this work?

Because you can create massive momentum when we combine the needs of our customers, our employees, and our company based on THEIR own distinct interests:

  • Companies want more loyal customers and talented employees.
  • Employees want purpose and meaningful work that has real impact on their career and the world.
  • Customers want to form relationships with brands on their terms and based on their self-interest

What you can do to activate HR as the new marketing

1. Create a customer-centric vision

Look around your organization, and you will see people above you, below you, and beside you. The traditional org chart still exists to focus on your position in the hierarchy. But where’s the customer? Where is the customer in your org chart? 

Even if your company mission isn’t customer-centric (“we are the leading provider of widgets”), your marketing vision must be. And there is one simple formula to get there:

Become a sought-after destination for which topicin order to deliver what customer value or impact.

2. Create content employees who want to share

According to LinkedIn, the combined connections of employees on the LinkedIn platform is 10 times larger than any company’s followers. And just 3 percent of company employees sharing branded content generate 30 percent of the views and clicks on that content.

Platforms such as LinkedIn Elevate, social selling programs, and other tools can dramatically increase the reach of your content, grow your company’s social presence, and improve the effectiveness of marketing programs — without spending a single dollar on paid media.

But you have to create content your employees want to share. You might even ask them to help you. The trick is to explain what’s in it for them: creating or sharing content can help them build more connections, establish relationships with other leaders in your industry, and grow their personal brand so they can achieve happiness in their careers.

3. Measure the results

Measure the impact of your employee content sharing for your company. Demonstrate how it has benefited the employees (increased connections, awards, and recognition). Discuss ways to profile your best customers as well.

And partner with your colleagues across HR, marketing, and sales to determine the best ways to continuously optimize what is working for everyone.

If you’re in marketing, it’s time to start thinking about your colleagues in HR as your new best friend. And if you’re in HR, it’s time to think about how marketing can help you acquire and retain the best talent — while making the leadership team happy as well.

For more strategies that create a culture that drives business growth, see Employee Advocacy = Engaged Employees.

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About Michael Brenner

Michael Brenner is a globally-recognized keynote speaker, author of  The Content Formula and the CEO of Marketing Insider GroupHe has worked in leadership positions in sales and marketing for global brands like SAP and Nielsen, as well as for thriving startups. Today, Michael shares his passion on leadership and marketing strategies that deliver customer value and business impact. He is recognized by the Huffington Post as a Top Business Keynote Speaker and   a top  CMO influencer by Forbes.