‘Let’s hit the ball out of the park’, ‘go for the kill’, ‘bite the bullet’ — business vocabulary is filled with war and action sports metaphors.
Leaders, today, favor language that incites excitement and fervour and tactics that ensure the instant gratification of a dopamine kick. A high level of aggression, playing to win, throttling down the competition has become the norm.
In reality, though, businesses are nothing like war or sports. There is no enemy. There is no reason to rush. There is no need to get everyone to fall in line. Business is not a zero sum game, a finite game or an infinite game. In fact, it is not a game at all.
A business, like a community, is bigger than the sum of all its individuals. It has the potential to outlive the humans that founded it. It can foster diversity, creativity, community and purpose.
The definition of growth needs to look beyond revenue and embrace the value we’re creating for our customers, people, partners, society and our competition. Organizations must break the shackles of the quarter-on-quarter commercial metrics that we’ve constrained ourselves with.
This article explores key questions that leaders should ask themselves as they begin their journey towards holistic organizational growth.
#1 Who grew along with us? And who did we lose along the way?
Through the course of the pandemic, the time needed to close “the global gender gap has increased by a generation from 99.5 years to 135.6 years.” Revenue growth at the cost of diversity, representation and inclusivity will only continue to widen this gap.
In pursuit of revenues or market share, are we leaving a trail of cultural destruction in our wake? We can build a business that actively fosters diversity — not as an afterthought, but from the grassroots.
#2 Did we uproot other businesses as we grew or did we build an ecosystem for many to thrive within?
We can set up ways of working, a culture of innovation, knowledge sharing and business models that go beyond the competitive business framework to enable an ecosystem of players.
If you argue that the nature of the business determines whether it can create an ecosystem of this kind – you will be right. However, nothing should stop us from exploring alternate models to support our vendors, suppliers, partners and employees.
#3 Are we hoarding assets or sharing them to enable others?
Let’s take the example of data. The world is moving beyond 'data as an asset', and talking about data, as a product. Even governments are exploring ways to democratize datasets as public goods. Today’s inequalities are a result of the lack of access to opportunities, information and network as they are from money.
While building businesses leaders should encourage transparency of information, pay parity, affirmative action, and actively reduce bias in decision-making (human or AI) among other things to enable better access to opportunities for everyone.
#4 Who is excluded from our products and services narrative?
The Minimum Viable Product (MVP) mindset is valuable when quickly validating the viability of an idea. But, it can also become a trap when building products for a specific target segment, which in many cases is the 'male default.'
It is not enough to discuss inclusivity at workplaces. Our products and services must also go beyond being just commercially viable and be inclusive by design, and in end-to-end customer experience.
Answering these questions will not be easy. If we are honest, leaders will realize that you have to make important trade-offs.
However, asking these questions will help you create intentionality about your growth. And, it will be an acknowledgement of not being in a race to capture the biggest share of a diminishing pie, but making the pie bigger so everyone has a share.
Be deliberate and purposeful about measuring the value created for the (entire) spectrum of players in your business ecosystem. Jeff Bezos’s letter to Amazon’s shareholders gives a great glimpse into holistic thinking around value creation.
'Winning at any cost' is a race to the bottom. Growth is possible only when we take everyone along – no matter how long it takes.