I'm a big believer in performance measures, including profitability. I think those who deny that profit is a motivating factor in their work are shooting themselves in the foot at the onset, and usually the ones who find that particular performance metric evasive.
However, even with a healthy respect for performance metrics and money, the philosophy of a business still comes first, and for 3 reasons in particular.
1. Philosophy determines behaviour
Philosophy is the contemplation and study of general and fundamental problems regarding matters of existence, reason, values and mind. It's also the collective set of ideas, motivations, values and ethics that represent an entity - an individual or an organisation.
A business exists, most fundamentally, to represent a solution to a problem or a fulfilment of a need. A brand's philosophy then, and its success for that matter, is going to largely depend on how well it asks high quality questions about its existence and purpose. And the answers to those questions will in turn determine how the brand (and the business for that matter) behaves, both proactively and in response to the changing wants and needs of those the business is serving.
2. Philosophy fosters consistency
Once a regular habit is made of asking enough questions about the existence, purpose, values and motivations of the business, a consistent set of answers will begin to emerge, coming together to form an articulation of the brand philosophy. Having a clear, specific, relevant and well articulated philosophy attributed to your brand not only ensures a consistency in how your business is perceived by your clients, customers and communities, but also how you and your inside circle perceive and interact with the business. In other words, it also determines your real organisational culture.
This is also why simply coming up with pithy vision and mission statements, and some words or phrases to represent your values, is typically useless, at least in the long term. Unless you, as a business leader, take the time to really think about what it is that you want your people to value, and invest the energy in explaining what that can look like, at best your philosophical commitments are ignored, and at worst you end up with vastly inconsistent interpretations that leave room for manipulation and exploitation.
3. Brand philosophy guides consumer philosophy
With the proliferation of social media and online shopping, communities and markets are becoming more discerning when it comes to buying products and engaging with brands. There was a time when businesses could compete largely on price, position, or quality of product alone. Terms like integrity, honesty, and fun, were words relegated to PR and marketing departments, with not much measurable impact outside of advertising campaigns.
Now, brands are scrutinized for their honest (or not so honest) commitment to using such terms and how they live up to them. In other words, people care about how true a brand actually is to its philosophy.
The most successful brands around the world are realising the value, and necessity, of creativity and social consciousness - not just in their products and services, but in their relationships with their customers and their staff. They're not just creating products, but striving to create movements, cultures, and belief systems.
We're gradually shifting from a world of producers and consumers, to a world of creators and communities. You and your organisation can no longer rest after just creating a product or service. You have the responsibility, whether you like it or not, to nurture your brand and ensure that the philosophy it presens to, and shares with, your communities is a positive one.
How to get started
There are plenty of consultants out there who get hired to work with organisations to develop a vision statement, mission statement, and a set of values. This often gets thrown down as an unspecified holy trinity of organisational philosophy and culture. The problem is that this usually starts and ends with the priority of what sounds “catchy” enough, and unfortunately this results in superficial statements that either get thrown in a dark drawer somewhere to never be looked at again, or splashed on office walls in bright colours - but also not to be really looked at and considered again!
Facilitating a conversation about how you want to market your brand (both externally and internally) is significantly different to facilitating a conversation about what your philosophy actually is, and that’s why when I facilitate such conversations with organisations, I always start with a few interactive, self-reflection exercises that have little to do with coming up with catch-phrases and inspiring buzz-words, and more to do with meditating on what actually drives the current and desired behaviours of your leaders, staff, and customers.
Self-awareness, and deliberate determination and communication of these things, is what’s going to translate into tangible, measureable and meaningful results.
If you’re interested in having this kind of conversation in your organisation, I invite you to get in touch.