Awakin Calls » Scott Elias » Transcript
Scott Elias: Designing Companies That Are Loved
Intro to Scott Elias:
Scott Elias is a serial entrepreneur, growth consultant, and business mentor who pioneered in the use system that allow business to harness music to generate power bonds between companies and their clients. He’s responsible for launching, growing, or repositioning nearly 40% of the top 1000 global brands and has won 750 industry awards for his work, including 2 Emmys, hundreds of Clios, AICPs, and London International Awards. He believes that business is mostly caught in an obsolete transactional worldview, and his work is around evolving companies to find their unique purpose and embody a relational worldview. Scott is also a professor and mentor at universities in New York, Shanghai, and Helsinki. We’re delighted to have Scott share insights from remarkable life journey. Scott, thank you for being here today.
Aryae: Good morning, good afternoon, good evening everyone. My name Aryae and I'll be your host today for our weekly Awakin call. Welcome and thank you for joining us. The purpose of these calls is to share stories and tell stories. Stories that help plant seeds for a more compassionate society while fostering our own inner transformation. We do this by holding collective conversations with guest speakers from all walks of life who inspire us through their actions, to live in a more service oriented way and behind each of these calls is an entire team of service space volunteers whose invisible work allows us to hold this space. Today our guest speaker is none other than Scott Elias and someone who really embodies today's theme of designing companies that are loved Thanks again for joining today's call. Let's start with a moment of silence to anchor ourselves.
Our guest this week is a serial entrepreneur and visionary, passionate about the role in business in making a better world he believes that although business has long been among the most powerful agents for man's progress but business thinking has been stuck in an increasingly obsolete mechanistic view of the world. How can businesses make the leap into the world as it actually is now to a networked interconnected interdependent world to foster mutually rewarding relationships what is the new way to grow sustainable profitable companies.
We have the pleasure today of a remarkable moderator Rahul Brown who is uniquely suited to be involved in this conversation to give you some context for all in his career is very much involved in business innovation and how business can contribute to a better world. His current role is with Smart org, helping new companies turn their research and development into innovation and business growth. Prior to Smart org he held executive positions with Infinote and with Blue Earth Energy Management Services. He has a B.A. in economics from U.C.L.A. Rahul is also one of the early members of the ServiceSpace community where he's been a volunteer and a respected leader for fourteen years since 2003. Thank you so much for joining us and I'll turn it over to you to kick off the conversation.
Rahul: Thank you so much your warm introduction. And Scott thank you for making time to be here with us today. It's really remarkable and I'm so delighted to be in conversation with you.
Rahul: Scott, you were a Pioneer in the use of music in creating these unique bonds with companies and I think that you had lived with early experience of losing your hearing in your childhood in kindergarten, losing 80% of your hearing which was then surgically restored a few years later. It's about understanding how you actually experience music today. Because I get the sense that you feel it at a deeper level than most of us. So very curious about how you process that?
Scott: I want to first say that I wasn't aware of the impact of the loss of my hearing on my life in the way that I experienced the world for many years. Accepted it as part of my life experience and I think in terms of music part of it is that I hear music, but I hear sounds in the silence and a lot of musicians will tell you that the power of the sound is really shaped by the silence. And I think in that regard for me it's not so much just hearing the sound of music it's very much a matter of of hearing the sound of silence and in that that also connects me to when someone says something to me, I seem to for the good and also being quite honest for my detriment and sometimes others that I work with, I feel things at a very deep level and that was part of my road to understanding the world around me when I was deaf.
Rahul: Are you saying that the loss of hearing aided that deep feeling or was it something was it perhaps a gift you had of being a highly sensitive person which then had this added dimension of musical awareness as a result of loss of your hearing?
Scott: It's hard to for me to know, it's a chicken-and-egg situation but I don't really see myself as someone who is really extraordinary or a remarkable visionary. I think that I have been connected from the time that I lost my hearing, I believe that I was connected to the world in a different way and that my connection wasn’t just an awareness of the physical but that I was equally connected to the world of the emotional sensitivities or people’s yearnings and in a sense experiencing people's desires for their longings, for their dreams and hungers. And also my intuitive awareness was heightened I think from that experience. Whether or not we are talking about that I had some sensitivity before, I think that it's hard for me to know but it certainly gave me afterwards thought of as superpowers. And they were super powers for hearing but also for an awareness of how other people felt.
Rahul: At what point did you become aware that you had these superpowers?
Scott: Well the physical part I was aware of early on and I used to play these parlor games where I could hear what people were saying tables away from me or a distance away from me and be able to repeat back what was being said through a combination of hearing things or -- it’s not uncommon for young people who have lost hearing and that’s more frequent than we would imagine, at least it was when I was growing up, because if you had adenoid problems and you lost your hearing, you learned to lip read. But what I didn’t realize until 15 years ago was understanding the emotional connection that I had and that showed up in my work where I was really interested in what it is that we were doing and how music was moving people.
Rahul: So there was definitely it sounds like an early awareness of just this heightened hearing and this deep visceral feeling you would have in terms of people’s longings and their relationships - how did you first start thinking about applying those gifts in the early part of your career? What led to you making the first decision on what to do with your unique gifts?
Scott: Before my experience with work, what happened was I had a grandfather that I was very close with. We used to share stories together and the stories were spiritual and my first connection was that I had a deep connection with my religion that I was born into which was the Jewish faith. When I was not young, I was fourteen when my grandfather contracted cancer. I was very close to him and we would spend time together through that and I just felt when I was 15, I needed to do something before that if I died, I would have given nothing back to the world that had given me life. So, I went to work on a reservation in Montana, the Northern Cheyenne reservation. I left feeling pain because my grandfather was in and out of the hospital at that time. When I came back from the reservation I was wearing a cowboy hat and a Native American bolo and I walked in, he gave me a big smile and that was the last recognition that he had of any people and he passed away that evening. For me that was a powerful experience and I continued with my Jewish faith until I read Siddhartha, the Hesse book, and at that point I was really no longer able to put the pieces back together. So in college, what I studied at that time someone that I looked up to was Ralph Nader and I was really interested in how one could through economic incentives and legal constraints get corporations to act in ways that at that time we called socially responsible. I studied economics and sociology and political science and worked in Washington DC as Congressional intern and speech writer. When I went into business I wasn't really thinking about this in that way.
Rahul: That's so rich, thank you for sharing that deep story. Your grandfather, his passing certainly had a large impact on your life. Before we get into the theory around your work and the aspects of what you have done in business, I wanted to touch a little bit more on what you shared around how reading Siddhartha shook your worldview. What was it about that book that changed things for you?
Scott: I grew up as a person in a household and a family where no one had gone to college. We had very limited means. I was fortunate to be able to go to college. I went to Northwestern and I was deeply interested in how I might be able to serve. What struck me about that book was his journey from wealth, and then renunciation to involvement in a corporeal world, a world of materialism, and finally his awakening that he is a journey man. That he will take people from one side to another of the river, and in a sense that's the way that I look at myself. I believe there is a chasm and the chasm is layered but in one sense the chasm is from success to significance. In another sense, the chasm is from consumers and consuming, to seeing people, and recognizing that everyone has gifts. So when I think about it, I think I am here to help people make that journey across the river and to get to the other side where they see their uniqueness and are able to embrace their own original medicine. Perhaps that's the work of not business but commerce.
Rahul: Tell me about what you see as the difference between business and commerce.
Scott: Well just simply put I’ll say that business as I see it is transactional. It focuses on consumers and focuses on revenue and frequency and demand. It looks at people as the way that we had studied in economics, where people are self-optimizing, consuming machines and that the market is rational because when you get enough people deciding together they are going to, because they are optimizing their situation, the market will behave rationally. So that whole part especially the rational part never sat well with me. Nor did I really feel comfortable with this idea of the consuming machine. And what we've seen now in so many different ways, whether it's the science now around compassion, my wife is a therapist and she does work with people in trauma, and there is the science of compassion, or we're looking at behavioral economics or we're looking at things like give and take, we recognize that competition is powerful as a force to move us forward, but I see commerce as something where it recognizes that it has another route, the route is community its communication, its communion with yourself and others, and in that sense the consumers, we see them as people. And the objective there is how to help them move forward to understand what their hungers are. And we sort of framed seven hungers.
Rahul: That's truly remarkable for business to see people in their fullness and wholeness rather than as simply consumers. I'm curious about when you first realized that business was stuck in this outmoded way of being, and when you did realize it, what were your first attempts around doing something to change it?
Scott: Well as I said I don’t see myself as remarkable because I think that we’ve had a lot of unsatisfying endings. I guess my first work in my own company was really around telling stories, and saying that music had a very different role than traditional storytelling. So oft times within the context of the story you can make up the story, but I think within music, it speaks to us on a level that we understand and we know when music diverges from the authentic story. And the first hunger that we look at is a hunger for recognition, for being seen. And all the recognition that we get, all the awards and all the money and all the power, we don't see or don't feel that we are being recognized because that's not the recognition that we're talking about -- that first hunger is around authenticity. So within music what I found is when you told stories -- so we did the music for the trailer for Aliens and Altered States and Blade Runner and Gandhi and Ghostbusters With each of those, it was making sure that you understood the authentic story and that you were able to give voice to that. And so for me that was really the earliest part of an awareness, that music had a very different role and a profound role.
Rahul: Sure -- you've obviously been responsible for launching, growing or repositioning almost 40% of the biggest brands in the world, and won so many awards for these, including Emmys and hundreds of Clio awards and London international award. But I'm curious about the early days of your work when you were crafting music in this sort of new way was it something that other people understood -- was it necessarily a recognition around this bond-building?
Scott: I think you have your finger on the pulse of something that's much larger and that is -- no they didn't have that. And I'm not sure that if they did that they would have felt more comfortable I think that there were enough people that were uncomfortable with the approach that we were taking and that this has continued to be a journey. We did the original logo for Apple computer, worked with Jay Chiat, the Greenbergs (Bob & Richard Greenberg) and Steve Jobs and we also worked on the Think Different campaign doing all the music for that. And in both of those were dealing with a situation where people -- even those people would be very uncomfortable with the kind of conversation that we are having, and yet I think that if it were off the record and more intimate environments, which is why I believe it's important to break bread with people, and to recognize them as people, that you open yourself to truths that are hard to share often in the boardroom. And within that one example, we were working with Nike on something, and we had been called in by a group called the Advanced Concept Team, so they had three different pillars within the organization at that point, and this is probably about ten years ago, and so the pillars were apparel, gear and footwear and we were suggesting to them -- they were in stasis and looking for other ways to grow beyond acquisition, and we suggested that instead of thinking about a product oriented focus that they might want to think about how it is that they could enhance or grow the relationship that they had with the people that they called clients. We thought that the fourth pillar for them might be training, so that they would have a more intimate relationship with the people who are actually using their in this case it would be software and coaching and whatnot. It just never got off the ground. But they thanked us for our role and instead what happened was we met a fellow who was on that team and who was really frustrated because he had a concept and no one within the organization that was high up and he reported directly to the president and to the team and it was this idea for a yellow bracelet called Livestrong. He and I we were out to dinner with a group of people and he probably had a few drinks and he's like, "I want to talk to you about something in the bar, I haven't had any traction on it," and so I would be there with him I said," Scott I think that's a great idea!" It was what if yellow was the color of strength. And if it was a bracelet and in any case, the first question was, what if Nike could own the color yellow? And eventually Nike moved away from it they took their logo off of it and they just had Livestrong on the bracelets. But the initial run had the Nike logo on it. So I was there helping him, I think on both the personal level coaching but also helping him with what I think was his vision, and how to get that across the finish line. We helped delivering music to him to sell it in, and I think that was one case in which it was successful, but also seeing beyond the consumer, and recognizing it’s really the power of the relationship not the object.
Rahul: It sounds like in this particular case the process for helping them find this pretty unique purpose came through the route of an individual who is sort of reaching out and looking to be heard or divergent idea. I'm curious about whether there is a sort of formalized process that you're able to pick companies through or finding their unique purpose and if you can just share a little bit more about that there is.
Scott: So imagine that you have two lines that cross in the center and form an X and then through those lines there is another line that runs east west. So what we do is let's look at everything above the line that's what we call the original medicine. So on the left hand side we have clients with identifying what are the unique skills or gifts that they have and on the right hand side we ask them what's the one thing that they want to be able to make better if there was whether it's a pain or a passion and then in the center we look at the why and the why has purpose and values. So when we do that we say, OK look let's just start with something really simple. What do you see in the world and it could be that you see a world where technology is very powerful and yet in the case of medicine it was not so long ago even in the sixties when seventy percent of the people in the United States lived within twenty minutes of a family member and then less than twenty years later we're looking at a situation where now it's less than five percent so that's what we see then we'll talk about what do you believe. We believe that if people felt connected and felt closer and they felt that it wasn't just about family that they could expand that circle that they would be healthier because they understood that people you know cared and then the third part that we talk about is what is it that you want to do about that and then we bring it back to that X and we look at so what is that one thing that you want to do in that upper right hand quadrant now where the X meets the line that's what happened, that's what happens in the now and then now keeps changing. Below the X, we look at the landscape and we say what is right now, what's happening within the landscape and what do we think is possible and then we talk about how it is that we think we can impact that.
Rahul: Very interesting. I recall maybe about a decade ago there was this film that came out about and it was called “The Corporation” and it was talking about how the way articles and corporation are currently written. Corporations are only beholden to their stakeholders, their shareholders for generating returns I'm curious about how this reconcile with your idea around businesses finding their unique purpose or their original medicine.
Scott: I think it's an important question because it goes back to a question that I think you asked earlier and I didn't answer very well and the question was more around how is it that companies are not only understanding what's happening but what their role and their responsibility is and how do they bring that into the workplace. There's another book called “The End of Shareholder Value” which I think is a remarkably damaging concept when you think that's really where you're going to decide what the value is. I think we need to look at people, we need to recognise that we're no longer playing by mechanistic rules and the corporation was conceived in another time and we need to understand that the role of a company is much greater and its power is much greater as it serves a different set of needs and issues. If we think not so much starting with what if companies were designed for love but if we ask the question if the purpose of law is justice and say the purpose of medicine is health. What if the Economy was Designed to advance Sustainable Evolution? What's the purpose of business or commerce and I think the way that I would answer that is it is really about the evolution of people, of society and the planet. When we look at the world in a mechanistic way, it's it's basically binary and I think much of the challenge that we have has a society today is whether it's political or it's in business is that we're looking at this win loss column rather than understanding that we all do better when we all do better and it's not about who are picking the winners or the losers. It's how do we as sort of the Hans Rosling from Ted and his letting statistics show how as a world we're doing better together I think the mechanistic and the corporate definitions are deeply troubling and that they are always going to deliver for a sub optimal outcomes.
Rahul: Sure yeah and we certainly see that occurring in world today. So you know it seems to me that there there clearly are these sort of divergent impulses within corporations themselves where according to the legal framework and the charter, there is only that responsibility for return and yet as individuals none of us can truly authentically feel or few us can authentically feel that would be the purpose of our work and the purpose of our time on this planet given that it is finite. So I really curious about how given that these two sort of points on the spectrum in, how do you use marketing in a way that actually raises awareness and of entity of a product versus s kind of manipulating into wanting or feeling something they wouldn't otherwise feel to sell a product in a way enhances the very base idea sort of written into corporate charters around maximizing shareholder return.
Scott: I just want to say I don't think that maximizing shareholder return is done through a target push and sell. Target push and sell was the game that we started playing around the World War II when this couple came together and they saw fire in one another's eyes and one of the individuals, they both had the same first name, was mass production and the other one was mass communications. When they fell in love they had three children. I say advertising, P.R. and then later research. We are still playing because of that mechanistic mindset and what's woven into that mechanistic mindset is fear. It's fear around other people, fear of a lack of enoughness and that fear is I think what sort of pushes us to believe that the way to maximize shareholder value is through target push and sell. But what's a more enduring and sustainable approach to growth and profitability than I think growth that grows people and if one earns a reasonable return on that then why isn't that perhaps the best way to grow your business and also the most sustainable because lots of businesses now look at the issue around lifetime customer value. And so my approach in terms of answering your original question is that for me marketing it's about marketing what is truly fair marketing what I think the authentic value is based on a set of beliefs that we've understood to be what they're actually living within the organization and that's another problem. It's marketing often is about how do we sell more stuff rather than what do we believe, what do we value and then when the person has an experience with the organization, is that experience going to align with the expectation that we have set. How again do we develop that as a relationship rather than focusing on the product.
Rahul: You are touching on the seven deep hungers that people experience and alluding to the idea that companies have had opportunities to sort of build more hungers. Can you share more about what those hungers are?
Scott: Well, yes let me just say that the way that I think of it is that within products and relationships, what we really need to do is we need to recognize that there's a functional dimension which includes both the tangible or physical needs and then there's the informational which might include search way of finding the information or knowledge needs. Those two physical and informational are put under the rubric of the functional then there's the relational dimension which talks about other hungers and those are emotional. They're psychic. They are soulful, family and communal but to be specific the way that we look at it is a little bit different. We're looking at saying the first hunger is for recognition then we're saying meaning, belonging, freedom, fulfillment lives in transcendence so each one is fed by a different or nourished by a different food so the hunger for meaning is fed by a clarity of purpose, the hunger for recognition is fed by authenticity, the hunger for belonging is fed through acceptance and resonance and saluting or seeing that holiness within the other. Freedom is fed with agency, fulfillment with joy, love with compassion and transcendence with love.
Rahul: Beautiful and so when you are crafting sort of a message or let's say when you designing a commercial for one of these large brands, are you consciously doing something to build in some kind of a hint or some kind of a nugget for each of those seven hungers in that message?
Scott: The first thing is that what interests me is - is it really there within the products and the organization? How is it going to be delivered?
So one group of students that I'm working with are students that are getting a master's degree in hospitality management but also hospitality innovation so we're able to craft different approaches to products or product to live free and likewise also working with students in the area of culinary management and innovation. In the U.S. I'm working with graduate students who are interested in how they might commercialize innovation as well as students who are working in branding and integrated communications. So the first thing that we're doing, whether it's with students or clients is asking them let's look at the product, let's look at the company and how are we addressing these three areas sort of the functional and then the relational. If we are not addressing the relational then we feel that we have a situation where we can do more. What do we need to do, how do we need to think about it so we can do more in a sense then we're looking at you know how we addressing our so-called citizen clients.
Rahul: Tell me more about that
Scott: Yes we are looking at that. But we're looking at it more broadly because I think that when we think about marketing is what's the tagline or what is the ad look like or what is the campaign or what is the social media? Do we really want social media or do we want meaningful relationships? We want relationships that are mutually rewarding. Are we finding value from what's meaningful or are we looking at what is expensive and therefore giving that value and then trying to find meaning there?
Aryae: Hi, this is Aryae and thanks to the two of you. I'm finding that this is really unfolding for me through your dialogue and I hope for others listening too. I just want to remind everyone listening that if you've got a question or a comment for Scott and you're on the phone you can dial star six and you'll be in our queue otherwise you can I ask a question at email@example.com. We'll be taking questions around the top of the hour.
Rahul: Thanks so much for that. Scott - one of the things you talk about is sort of transparency and authenticities role in kind of creating mutually enriching and mutually rewarding relationship. I'm curious about whether a large brand can truly embody this authenticity and transparency or do they look at each of their sort of marketing messages or approaches as simply one channel for a specific demographic? Could you share a little bit more about kind of how those big brands tend to think about this?
Scott: I think most big brands are questioning what is working and what is not. I would say that in the past when we're talking to bigger brands they're not interested in the mechanistic versus the network. They're not interested in a bigger look and see at what it is that they're doing. They are still stuck in a competitive mindset that says yes we need to get our market share. Nike, will say that (I won't say the percentage) if they go into a market, they think that they should get a minimum of this X percentage. So that's the way that they're thinking. They're seeing competition in the fairy simple way. Now I think this gives an opportunity for many smaller companies or Start-up brands to recognize that cooperation, collaboration and niches are all part of the network model and that they are actually competitive strategies. Cooperation and collaboration are competitive strategies. It's not just that we have to sharpen elbows. Now there are companies that are asking these questions and who are beginning to say now we want what works and maybe this is another approach that we might consider and I think there are big companies that are asking those kind of questions. One that I worked with was Wholefoods and I know John Mackey is big on this conscious capitalism and they are asking those questions. I think there are a number of bigger brands that are asking and are thinking about how is it that we take these kinds of issues not just in our marketing but that we understand that it is not just about marketing it's about living it. So if I talk about that original medicine there is something that is really alive when they are taking that original medicine which I just referred to with them as it in the boardrooms. And I say it’s a matter of get it, got it, live it and how do we live it? And there aren't as many but there are many more smaller firms that are doing that and seeing that as a way to develop competitive advantage against Goliath.
Rahul: Sure. Can you talk a little bit more about the difference between when you're working with a giant company and when you are working with a smaller company that is just getting started? Did the Giants get big by being clear about their purpose from the beginning? And what is the point along the growth of a small company where they face pressure to let go of that intrinsic purpose, if in fact they were clear on it from the get go?
Scott: Well, I think it depends how you define that purpose. If you define it in a way that is clear and powerful enough then what you actually deliver in terms of your services or the products or the offerings, may change even though you still have a clarity of purpose. I think it is very hard for many firms to start with a clarity of purpose and retain that. For instance one firm that I'm working with now, they've been around for a little bit less than a year. They are a group of people who were in the music business as I was. They saw that music has less and less value or perceived value in the marketplace. It generates less revenue and yet the relationship that these artists have with their audience like an Ed Sheeran, regardless of what we think about the music, there is tremendous resonance for that artist. So what they do is they bank artists' audiences and then they loan those banks to brands and they split the revenue with the artists. Their idea was - Nothing good has been happening the music industry as far as artists are concerned what if we could monetise artist audiences and share that with the artists? Their thought was they wanted to do something really powerful for artists. They are in the process of taking this from artists and saying okay just people in the music industry there are many audiences or there are many influencers that they could identify, bank and share that revenue with that artist. So it would significantly change the business and financial model for that industry.
In a sense their purpose doesn't change, it expands a bit but their objective which was to recognize that-- how can we value creativity, and find a way to share those audiences with the brand, but protect the identity of the audience, and all the tests that they've been developing have been phenomenal. Does that answer your question?
Rahul: A little bit. I'm sort of curious, I get the sense that perhaps it's more difficult for a public company to embody a sense of purpose because of their fiduciary responsibility and the fiduciary responsibility of the board and the executives. Is that the case -- is it easier for a small private company to authentically own a sense of intrinsic purpose than for a large company?
Scott: Well one would say yes, and yet you get people, whether it's looking at Starbucks and Starbucks’ interest in now helping immigrants around the world with jobs and opportunity, or Google working with an organization up in Portland Swift around empowering women engineers. Or looking at Whole Foods, I think in some way when you have a visionary CEO and someone who you know has helped start the company, and grow the company, it's easier in that case to do it. I think it in a way Whole Foods went through this where they brought in another CEO, you had co-CEOs there and their vision was around size. It was, “We're going to have a thousand stores,” and it’s really hard to motivate people and get them up in the morning with, “Oh we’re going to be 1000 stores.” I think frankly we’ve really reached the end of the power curve for what we can do with incenting employees with money alone or with titles or whatever. We have to get people to contribute because they feel that it fits with their vision of the world and their view of what it is that people in society really need. There is an area of branding called cultural branding and Apple would be a good example of that. In another era you could say Nike and Under Armor. It starts with understanding some fundamental conflict in society, the brand recognizes that meets people where they are in and says I see your pain, with Nike it was, ”I see that you had limited opportunities for other brands, the only one out there at that point was big blue, and we feel your pain, we see that you want to make a difference in the world, and that it's your creativity, and the way that you see that can make the difference,” you create a new narrative, a new mythology and the third pieces you have to deliver it from a marketing standpoint you have to deliver products but you have to deliver a service experience at retail or online that supports that.
Rahul: Sure. You know this idea around business’ intrinsic purpose and their original medicine isn't something that is really taught in business schools or really rewarded necessarily in corporations. Why is that?
Scott: I think that there are three very significant challenges. The first is looking at consumers and saying “Okay that's the way that we see the world.” And the second part of it is the way that we look at competition, business and market competition rather than what's the purpose of business’ evolution of people. And the other -- the most fundamental challenge is the way that we look at people as consumers and the second thing is that we're focused on success in a transactional model and I think that goes back to World War II to the target push and sell, when mass communications and mass production came together. I think it would be really interesting to take a look at marketing without advertising or without social media, what would that look like?
Rahul: What would it look like?
Scott: Well, I think it would focus more on relationships, on mutually rewarding working relationships and it would look at commerce and its purpose as to help people in their own lives with identifying what their original medicine is, and how you can help them move forward with their loved ones’ and the people that they care about, the community, and the animals, and the planet. So I'm not a big believer that the way we think about marketing is on target.
Aryae: Here’s a comment from Doug in Portland Maine: “Scott, thank you for your work and wise sharing today. What is the place of vulnerability in creating a workplace culture that inspires, nurtures and grows personal and organizational integrity?”
Scott: What is the place of vulnerability? I think it’s recognizing that we each have gifts and sometimes we look at the world through that lens and we have a hard time with - we may be judging other people through the lens of our own gifts. Recognizing that whatever power we have in the form of those gifts, recognizing that we have to be willing to understand that we can’t look at other people through that lens and evaluate them. Humility and vulnerability have to be the fulcrum and the starting point for a workplace that is productive and that honors people.
Aryae: I know that from my own experience in business and I think for a lot of us it feels very risky to make oneself vulnerable in the workplace. If I admit to some kind of problem or some kind of weakness maybe that will be damaging to me in the workplace. Have you ever come into a situation where the management of that department or that company actually does something to say it's okay to be vulnerable here?
Scott: I think that there are many more companies now that are saying that it's important to be vulnerable. I was working with a small company that got sold to a Fortune 500 and made one of the people the global VP of marketing and I was working with him and his first lieutenant who was creative director. In any case, they will putting great points up on the board. The revenue is in and yet they had they were having increasing challenges between themselves and their entire department that had 300 people in it. No matter what it is that they had done from a metric side, the company was having a harder and harder time with them because they were driving their vision through the organization. We brought someone else in and we worked together to reframe what needed to happen with more awareness of both culture and needing to bring other people into this process and honor them not just this hard driving ethic. I think part of the reason it may have worked was we had worked with these two guys when they had a small company doing half a million dollars a year and their company ended up doing three million dollars a year in a period of 2 years after that and they sold to this bigger company and so we had experience with them on a personal level that we could go in there and say, “Hey look guys you're doing all this stuff that a Fortune 500 wants but this company has another dimension and their culture says the way that you're doing it is not going to work here”.
Aryae: So you were able to give them that feedback and they were able to hear it?
Scott: Yes. They were able to hear it because we had a relationship where they knew that there was honesty and there was mutual respect. I think that's part of it that if you don't have that it's really you guys talk about this again and again in your organization. I think the whole importance of trust. How can you have trust unless unless you have transparency unless you have authenticity.
Aryae: That makes sense. We have a caller in the queue so you are on.
Caller: Hi everyone. Hi Scott thank you so much. This is been such a fascinating conversation and I really appreciate the insights that you've given so far. I work in marketing communications. My name is Sima. I'm calling from the Bay Area. Scott, I'm really intrigued by this idea of how to have marketing without advertising or social media. How do you think we could start making that shift? Because I feel like business in a lot of companies are still rooted in that “target push sell” paradigm, a fear-based paradigm, building revenue, focusing on their annual profit all of that so what do you think are some ways to start creating that shift?
Scott: I wish I had a really good answer for you. I think that it depends very much on the organization when I think there are these three forces that are changing the nature of our work of our world. The first force is that we are moving from consumers to citizens. That's the nature of social media where people are voting, everybody wants to get a good rating on Amazon or whatever or share it on Instagram. The second for me is this notion of transaction. It's everything that I see, is in relationship. The way that I think of it is that we've moved from the mechanistic into the networked world. There are so many different ways that we connect or that the network connects and it leads me to say -- okay well it's no longer the rules that we make in the a world of machines and where the world has to run like a clock. You know that someone is challenged when they say this is broken, let's fix it. Imagine going to a therapist or into any kind of setting like that and saying, ”Can you fix me? I'm broken”. So I think in a networked world we have another opportunity and that is we have the opportunity to connect with people in a way that can be much deeper. So it's not about connectivity in terms of -- can I get any kind of meteor, can I search, can I connect to the internet, what does it take for me to connect with that person on a deeper level and understand that nature or the landscape that sets the rules -- dynamic balance, resilience, strength in a different way in the way that a tree can go in the wind. The only thing I can say in one word is conversation. Just asking questions.
Sima: Great, thank you so much.
Aryae: Following up on your response I'm wondering how you scale that conversation? It's easy to scale transactions on social media. You can do lots of them. But if you're running a large business and you're saying well, do it by relations then that takes time. It takes one on one commitment. How does the company scale that? Is that the wrong question?
Scott: No, I think it is a good question. I think it's important question. How does one scale but any kind of organisation, however at the same time just in the way that it seems your community values small actions. If we look at Network systems, it's often small actions that have very large consequences. Many companies in the hospitality industry that has worked with scaling it to that are probably most best-known are the Four Seasons and Ritz-Carlton. They do it through sharing stories. When Apple started the retail, what they did is they benchmarked against the Four Seasons. They asked, “ Who provides the best service and how do we frame it or think about service”, so that people are not paid by how much they sell and they used acronym Apple - approach for how it is that they get people within their retail to deal with someone that is coming through the door. They give three different ways that you can move through that retail experience. One you can check out by yourself for certain dollar products, you can make an appointment and there are ways to scale it. It's a really important question can you scale it and there are ways to scale it.
Aryae: Thank you. I'm thinking about my wife who used to work for a large Healthcare organization and their way of scaling it was that each time a patient came in to see a doctor or nurse practitioner or a provider, they might be asked to fill out a form saying how satisfactory was the experience. That feedback made available to the provider and their supervisor. It was a way of scaling the corporate value that we want good relationships with our clients.
Scott: That is becoming more and more common. I think that it is here there are these three elements -- what's the principles, what is the process and what is the practice look like? A good example of that right now, that across a lot of the larger great hospitals, they are doing the same kind of thing. If you look at Cleveland Clinic go into their website just look at what they are the importance that they put on experience design and I'm sure within your audience there are probably a lot of people that know the work that not just IDEO’s doing but a number of great organizations are doing around experience design 3.0 and 4.0. 4.0 is looking at societal change on a broad-scale, 1.0 is looking at products, 2.0 is looking at the organization, 3.0 would be beyond the organization but not to the whole culture and 4.0 would be looking at what kind of cultural changes you want.
Aryae: We got a few more questions that have come in via email. Next one is from Carol Ruth Silver who was one of our previous guests and supervisor of the city of San Francisco. Her question is: “Are you a fan of the B-Corporation? (Inclusion in the purposes of the corporation of community, environmental, and worker benefits.)”
Scott: A couple of years ago I was at a conference where I met this gentleman who was the founder of The Corp. I think anything that moves in that direction is really important step forward. Ultimately I think nothing is going to change unless we look at people as people and not as consumers and not as targets. If I can’t see at another human being and I don't understand what that human beings yearnings or hungers are, it's really hard to make any change whether it is big corp. Last I think that was a year ago, there was a really great book all around look at changing the organization and relationships and we probably saw that change in Zappos changed the internal organization called holacracy that was based on this fellow's work from Mackenzie. Ultimately, there are lots of things that you can change but until you see the individual is a person and that in some way you have something to offer that person and that person has something equally valuable to offer you beyond money. So what is the nature of the relationship that you have beyond money? The Cleveland Clinic is recognizing that there is a lot more to getting healthy than whatever I can do surgically or whatever medicine that I can give you as well.
Aryae: It sounds like you’ve really just articulated the basic DNA underlying all of this.
Scott: Yes. Millions of years of evolutionary success what works but obviously what doesn’t. But I really value and appreciate about what your community is doing is that I think you don't have to be the CEO of Google or Starbucks that each one of us -- the opportunity is me it's not you, the opportunity is me.
Aryae: Beautiful. A couple more questions here. Glenda from LA wants to know, “How might we contact Scott? The "Contact Us" link at LivingWorks is not working. Thx!”
Scott: I’ll give you the link it is firstname.lastname@example.org. Maybe there’s the wrong address.
Aryae: What we can do is when we send out that thank you email afterwards, let’s make sure we get that right link. Do you want people to contact you by email as well or is that link that way to go?
Scott: Email is great.
Aryae: We’ll make sure to include that. Here’s another comment from Vimal in Toronto and he says, “Thank you Scott for sharing your thoughts. I have recently started a healthcare analytics firm and I realize that I do not have any clarity of purpose. But in my heart, I know that I want to truly serve my clients. I just don't know how to align my heart's desire with my company's purpose?” What are your thoughts on that?
Scott: I think that it would require me having more present conversation about that. But I think that's the work that we all have. I wanted to lead a venture firm that had hundreds of millions of dollars and could invest in these kinds of companies and I wanted to have a firm that could do search. We would be able to bring people in but that isn't where I ended up. And there's a wonderful book called “The Soul of Money”, she talks about enoughness. I just recognize that this is where I was, and it was okay if I was investing $50,000, or a hundred thousand dollars are $10,000 or I was just investing my time. I spent ten years just working with small companies, most of them were not able to pay me anything. But I knew that my journey was so much richer. I think that for this gentleman, his heart and his business can definitely be aligned. I don’t know what he would feel is, the one thing that he wants to change. I would say simply just go through this exercise, if he wanted to do this himself, three questions: First question is what do you see in the world? What is the pain that you see? Second is what do you believe can address that? And third is what do you aim to do about that? Beyond that I would need to speak to him.
Aryae: Beautiful answer. We’ve got a few comments from people. This is from Michael Amescua he said, “ I make archetypical jewelry out of steel, someone told me that it would take a special person to wear it, I responded "dude we are all special"
Scott: (laughing) Exactly! I agree.
Aryae: Sounds like he’s on your wavelength. Here’s a comment from Suzanne Hale: “Designing companies that are loved means service to me. To be at the service of the clientele - to listen, and be influenced by their needs, resources (collaborating with their seasons and cycles) and ultimately being influenced by the customer experience. Having leaders who are service oriented is a truly wonderful company experience - they can demonstrate by example.”
Scott: I totally agree with that the only thing that I would say is one challenge that I see every day with larger companies is because the focus is the transaction or seeing that person as consumer what happens is it goes on the process or this exchange goes on outside of them, and I think the first thing when we talk about services is we have to talk about what is it that we are going to serve with? The notion of original medicine is this idea that on the left side of that top line of the X is what are all the gifts that I have, including my resources, and then what is my Why? What is my purpose? With all of that, what is the one thing that I really want to do about that? And knowing where those lines cross, that's my Now, and it keeps changing, and I have to feel like I'm alive, and that's also the point, that I'm meeting that person, that's where I'm meeting that citizen client. And am I serving them and to me that serving them -- am I helping them in their evolutionary journey?
Aryae: I got one last comment here. This is from David. He talks about some of the ideas you talked about, realizing that we are in this networked,interconnected world and we better make the leap quickly, the situation is urgent.
Scott: I agree.
Aryae: We have to do to our world that we do to ourselves. Before I ask my final question, Rahul do you have any last comments?
Rahul: I was mostly just struck by -- Scott, your presence comes across as a very intuitive, gentle presence. My perception of the way boardrooms work is actually very different. How were you initially received in those worlds? Since you have a profound reputation, did your reputation precede you and let your voice be heard?
Scott: I think that's part of it. I don't think that was always the case. I don't think that I am extraordinary. There is a lot of bumping up against walls. Lot of what it is that I tried and it didn’t work. I have been fortunate to have tremendous level of things that have worked and that the companies have gone on to do extremely well. When I go in, the one thing that they do see is that I have tremendous confidence and it is a quiet confidence. I have a different way of seeing things that helps me explain what has happened in a way that they haven’t thought of before. So for instance, Nike did end up going with that 4th pillar. It took them 10 years but they have the Nike training club. I wish they put more energy into -- I talked to them about how is that they missed Steph Curry. They didn’t see it because they had a vision for what an athlete looks like. I can help them and have them understand things or challenges that are beyond their horizon line. But I am not looking at it as a problem and how I can fix it.
Aryae: Great. Thank you. Scott, I am going to ask you the traditional Awakin call question. The question we ask our guest is how can we as service space community support you and your work. How can we support the purpose that you have been talking about of changing the world through individual relationships and how specifically does this apply to a community like ours. There is no money involved and there is no hierarchy and it is volunteers connecting with each other around the world. What is the connection here?
Scott: I feel as though we are addressing sort of the same issues. It's like we're two sides of the same coin and your giftivism and your acts of compassion and paying it forward are profound and I think that what I love about it is that people can start anywhere. I am not sure how we can help one another but I would love to be able to try because my belief is that the gift that each one of us has, our own uniqueness, our own set of gifts but it's not enough to have them and to recognize them. We have to commit to them, we have to hone them and then we have to share them so that we're living that in our daily lives and I think that involves business or what I prefer to call commerce and so maybe it's around talking about these kinds of issues. Maybe it's around asking people what in business that you're working and where they are getting stuck? What kinds of questions are coming up there are walls where we need bridges? How can we see people? The essence of all value is meaning, how can we create more that is meaningful?
Aryae: Beautiful. That's a great great way for us to close out this conversation. I want to say thank you so much again Scott Elias for being here with us today and and sharing your wisdom and insight and experience.
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