[Editor's Note: This is guest post by BLI Strategic Partner, Gretchen Pisano, CEO of Sounding Board Ink. Gretchen is also the co-author of our i2a - Insights to Action Strategic Thinking System and co-developer of the Leadership Academy we developed for the AICPA.
This post came from a conversation we were having about creating a sustainable strategy and our recent tour of Zappos. The book Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh is one of our leadership recommended reads.]
"The problem with sustainability design today is the perception that it's pure mechanics - ...carbon impact, toxicity, and so on....(that's) wrong...objects that are lovable, that are well-integrated into culture, won't be trashed after five years, and so are sustainable. The bottom line is that there is no replacement for emotional connection."
-Gadi Amit, NewDealDesign
designer of award winning technologies for Dell, Palm and Verizon
Top Honors 2010, Design Excellence Awards
Quoted from "Fast Company, 2010 Masters of Design, October 2010 issue"
This principle of sustainability is true for any thing - not just material design. An organizational change effort that is well-integrated into the culture and that the employees are emotionally connected to is sustainable and will not be trashed easily; it is not just a question of mechanics, i.e., strategy design.
In addition, when people are en masse they seek to connect, replicate and magnify each others' emotion, seeking a common connector. Whatever emotion is most strongly present, negative or positive, is what will be exaggerated by the group concentration. This is why positive, strength-based leadership styles make an exponential difference.
Tony Hsieh, and the positive culture he has created at Zappos, is a great example of this. The Zappos' Values were a set of values initially collaboratively created, then fine tuned by Hsieh himself, and then deeply integrated into the Zappos team through recruitment processes, on-boarding training, team activities, and organizational efforts (including values-based performance appraisals). Employees are regularly asked to make them real for themselves and for their teams in a visual and visceral way so they feel them in addition to think about them. This emotional connection is re-invigorated each time the teams "change their sets" which is 3-4 times a year.
One might question whether or not this emotional connection can be created in the absence of deeply meaningful work, however, Zappos sells shoes and without any face-to-face customer interaction. The meaning is found in the how not the what.
For more on culture see our posts over at CPA Success:
Culture counts. For proof, take a drive with Zappos by Bill Sheridan
Service revolution: 'Bigger than just getting paid' by Bill Sheridan