Page 1

THE ROOTS always WIN identity | strategy | creativity Š Amsterdam february 2014


Efflorescence. To begin to bloom. The first stage when the essence of your identity becomes visible as the roots still make the fruits. 2

The roots always win We hope that you’ll enjoy our contemplations and agree with our conclusion that by reverting back to our identity, we can find solutions to many of the issues facing us. Ideology Identity is what we believe in and we are very much looking forward to the dialogue!

Mesmerizing. The undisputed authority and implicit attractiveness of an organization. The truth well told without telling it all. 4

ideology identity Nowadays, identity appears to be a buzzword in organizational and marketing discussions. It’s often closely connected to ‘authentic’ and used as the power drug to solve all bad things people associate with the crisis. As we believe that this crisis will continue for some years to come, it is high time to dispel this myth by showing how an identity could work for you in building a successful organization. Profit and not-for-profit alike. We see that those companies that understand their roots and consequently their identity, are uniquely positioned to deliver a focused company, fuelled by the passion of their people. It’s an ideology which we have developed and fine-tuned at C-Roots over the past 7 years and one which we want to share. In our previous booklet we explained all about the process of discovering the roots of your identity and translating them into a leading concept. Here, we’ll dig deeper and show you how it works in a number of different areas.

Origin. Where it all starts from, the origin of originality. The identity as the only truly distinctive feature of an organization. 6

Content Identity and interactions. How to use your identity so that your personnel connects with each other, suppliers and most importantly with your customers.


Identity and vocabulary. Each person uses language to voice opinions. 17 Wording, tone of voice and delivery are unique from one person to the next and serve to fuel our perceptions and opinions of people. Does it work similarly for organizations?! Identity built on passion, reason and empathy. According to the French philosopher Diderot, these three elements define an identity. How to create the proper balance for your organization to achieve your ambition.


Identity and instinct. What is the natural instinct of a person when confronted with a deep crisis. If we knew this, could we make the organizations aware of this and consequently give them more options to ‘manage’ this crisis?


Identity and transition. We don’t live in an era of change but in a change of eras. How to thrive when the old systems don’t function anymore and the new systems are not yet in place.


Identity and social media. Your identity is defined by the interactions you have with others. But for organizations, a whole new world of interactions has arisen thanks to the use of social media. How to capture the value entailed in this massive stream of data to enrich your identity.


7 Wins of the identity. 7 concrete tips on how to use your identity to your advantage in these hard times. Starting today.


Signature. It’s what presents the true nature of any organization. The unmistakable yet unspoken modus operandi. 8

identity Let’s start by establishing a mutual understanding of how to look at the phenomenon of identity. So much has been written about it and it’s been used in so many ways that common ground is needed before we go into detail. An identity is neither static nor given. It is a continuous changing construct of ideas, convictions and conceptions. And the process starts from your roots. From the moment you as an organization decide to become something, to do something or to change something. That’s the basic prerequisite every organization needs; a true purpose in life. And an ambition as a goal to work towards and common ground to build connections. Identity is therefore a fluid mix between who we want to become, who we are today and who we never want to be. An identity is both internally and externally influenced. It is the sum of all your own ideas and observations connected to the responses and reflections of the surroundings. Both are assimilated in your roots. Your own ideas are the values an organization adheres to. Both written and unwritten aspects of how you operate. Influenced by the responses from others. It’s therefore the core that remains relatively consistent over longer periods of time. An identity is not only a physical representation. It is also directly connected to the stories that illustrate the history, the growth (and/ or decline) and sums up the experiences of your organization. Such a storybook of an organization gives its employees a sense of the history and a feel for the modus operandi.


Culture. The soft aspects of people working and living together. What connects the individual to the group and how the group directs the individual behaviour. Even to the level of dress-code. 10

We are living in a new world as well. With the rise of digital or virtual life, there are completely new manifestations of an identity. The same goes for the physical world where the new domain of mesosphere branding has been introduced, a systematic approach to branding delivers consistency in diversity through design. It is always recognizable as being the same, but with slight variations. However, the realm of internet has enabled organizations to invite their customers to become a fixed part of their operations, i.e. by designing their own products or becoming co-creators of the new generation of products. In both instances, you relinquish control and consistency of your identity for inspiration and commitment. For an identity to become the backbone of everything an organization does, how it expresses itself and how it interacts, we need to derive an actionable concept from your identity. A true leading concept which forms not only the (mental) touchstone of decision making but also the embodiment of the ambition. A leading concept is a powerful tool that can be used right from your product innovation through to the softer aspects like company culture. And from the design of your messaging to your product offering. In an ever-changing environment, your identity provides the one and only stronghold to master the challenges of this era.


Reflection. Any identity only exists in context. It is that context that continuously helps to define and redefine, creating a delicate balance between your own ideas and opinions and those of others. Embracing this balance and therefore the opinions of others enriches your own identity. 12

Identity and interactions If you ask an organization how many customers it has, the answer will be the number of addresses in its database. Or the reply will be the sum of different account numbers. And that is perfectly logical as we have always seen relations as a fixed entity. However, relationships aren’t built on an address or account number but on the interactions between people. Between the representatives of your organization and theirs. And that relationship can be divided into smaller forms of interaction and communication. The tone used in a quote, how the phone is answered in the complaints department, and so on. All too often, these elements are scripted. They’re measured and adapted into new scripts that people have to follow. Scripts that therefore steer the human interaction based on systematic thinking. Or even worse, the system dictates the interaction. We all know that any human relationship based on systems won’t last long and will be charged with conflicts and negative emotions on both sides. Organizations nowadays thrive on control, on scripted responses as if the interaction is conducted by computers or robots and each and every interaction is an exact copy of the previous or the next one. We all know it doesn’t work this way, yet vast numbers of organizations are still structured like this. Acceptable perhaps in an era dictated by the industrial revolution, but not anymore. More than ever, it is the human interaction that is the decisive factor in change and thereby in failure or success.


Individuality. The quality that makes one person different from all others. Keeping this quality uniquely yours is difficult as we are all influenced by the things we see, hear, feel or fear. 14

Initially, at the precise moment the interaction takes place, but ultimately, when everything is added together, it constitutes the success or failure of the organization. The same basically also holds true for the organization itself. Organizations are not the sum of all individuals, they’re a bundle of communications and interactions. The organization as such only exists as long as there are communicative relationships. Just consider the fact that there is no leader without followers, as the term already describes a relationship. Without the relationships, there would be no leader and no organization whatsoever. What we need organizations to understand is they should rebuild trust instead of control in their relationships. That we need to start communicating again and from this understand that an employee knows what he/she is doing and that what he does will be beneficial to both him, the interaction at hand and ultimately the organization that employs him as well. Beneficial, not only in terms of sales or salary, but in positive energy and self-esteem too. This will require a process of trial and error instead of measure and control. Letting go of grip and control will need highly effective communication as to what we all feel to be the required interaction. Story-telling and dialogue between all levels. And the willingness and ability to change accordingly. Do, learn and adjust is the mantra. And it will pay off! Research has shown that companies that are highly effective at communication and change management are 250% more likely to outperform their peers that are not. (Towers Watson).


Voice. What you say is important. How you say it, even more so. The non-verbal part of the message is often forgotten because we spend too much time fine-tuning words and omit to convey the true meaning when delivering these words. 16

Identity and vocabulary Words are used to describe what we see and experience. Words bring meaning to a conversation, convey information, share an insight or an opinion and are a common form of expression between people. Or at least they should be, but don’t you recall situations where somebody was using so many words that they turned into platitudes and all true meaning was lost? That the words just dissolved into a misty cloud and didn’t convey any meaning at all?! This is especially and frequently the case in business. Jargon and conceptual words have become flavour of the month. Just think of words like open and transparent to describe bank culture or added value and partnership to describe company vision. Words that have lost their value and meaning. The same happens within organizations. Still remember the bila you have weekly with your manager? But there is a prevailing reason for this jargon. It is the language of the people in power. And to obtain this power, people need capital. Economic, cultural, social (relationships and networks) and linguistic capital. In business, the linguistic capital is often introduced by the big consultancy firms talking to the C-level of the organizations. Their language is the language of the prevailing power, the exclusive elite guiding our world. These words and concepts thereby define a social identity which (middle-)management feel they want to belong to. By using the same language we associate ourselves with that social group and (hopefully) gain the same social status. Language is therefore an important form of social interaction. 17

Empathy. Do you understand or do you feel the same way?! A crucial difference. Because much stronger coalitions are forged from empathy than from rationality. 18

Brands and organizations also use language to position themselves for a certain target audience. Hipster brands like Hi use the language of the hipsters (E.g. Crap from the web) to convey their proposition. The idea being that the more closely we associate ourselves with the words of the audience, the better we fit with the audience. Communication leading to uniformity therefore. Yet this is a dynamic process. As the social group feels that nonentities are using their language, the first thing they will do is reject this message as no longer fitting and evolve a new language, leaving the ‘newcomer’ behind. Where communication strives for uniformity, (social) identity leads to divergence. The crux appears to be to find the language that fits your identity and creates a social appeal to your (intended) audience. And that means finding your own words and concepts as appealing cornerstones of your social interaction.


Persuasion. Often, it’s not the strongest of arguments that sway the decision. It is the passion, the belief in what you deliver that build an audience for your offerings. 20

Identity built on passion, reason and empathy Organizations operate and interact on three different levels. The core or goal of the company, the working environment and, last but not least, the systemic world. And let’s be honest, how many organizations and markets are completely lost in this systemic world. Lost in (their own) rules and regulations. Often as a direct answer to mistakes made in the past, we as a society respond with even more rules and regulations. Stifling the entrepreneurship and creating a technocratic society. The French philosopher Diderot once argued that our identity is being shaped by three different forces. Passion as the driving force, Reason as the steering force and Empathy as the evaluating force. With Diderot’s qualification in mind it becomes abundantly clear what the mechanism is behind the actions that organizations take when faced with a crisis. Reason often becomes the prevailing force and with it comes efficiency and effectiveness. The rational side of the organizations takes over and automatically starts looking inwards, as that is the world they are able to work out with Reason. The examples that responses can be different are available. Organizations that choose Passion and Empathy as the prevailing powers in a crisis are better able to maintain loyal customers and motivated employees. Marqt is a prime example. Filled with healthy food of the highest quality, Marqt is expanding its footprint rapidly.


Distinctive. Outspoken. Whatever the decision, whichever route you choose. Doing it with flair and pride makes it stick. With yourself and with the context! 22

With prices that Reason would object to as being impossible these days, one might think this is because of the Passion Marqt has for food. Healthy food, grown locally and with so much more quality than at other supermarkets. This passion for food is what people recognize and feel connected to. I think we can safely conclude that it’s not only the Reasonorganizations that are having a hard time surviving. It’s the grey, non-descript, unfocused organizations that don’t make choices, that fail to survive. Where none of the three powers prevail because of fear of failure. What is needed is to find the right balance between these three forces for your organization. To work from Passion and Empathy but (within) Reason. Reason should not be the dominant factor but function as the true and dedicated supporter. That’s why we developed our Identitea tool to discover the Passion and Empathy of an organization. By using images and associations we ‘sideline’ Reason . Because in Passion and Empathy we can find the true differences that make the own unique ‘self’ of any organization. Yet, we always tend to put Reason upfront. Whether this is because reasonable people are what our culture defines as successful or because our educational system works along the lines of Reason, or due to the years of crisis we have experienced. All can be equally true but on the basis of what we have seen in our work and other evidence, we strongly believe that Diderot was right when he said: “Only passions, great passions can elevate the soul to great things”!


Fortitude. Have the courage to go against the accepted standards. Just remember that all progress depends on the unreasonable. 24

Identity and instinct As human beings living in the 21st century we still benefit from the experiences of our great-great-grandparents. Even in the earliest days of human life, their experiences and learnings become an integral part of our brain and memory. Scientists have discovered that part of our brain, the so-called ‘reptile brain’, contains this cumulative know-how. Often translated into ‘automated’ responses to certain situations. The reptile brain steers cold-blooded, heroic and aggressive behaviour, but is also responsible for a lack of empathy. In the old days these responses were used in situations which were truly life-threatening, whilst today it is more ‘mind-threatening’. We have taken a closer look at the parallel between the individual and an organization being confronted with a threatening situation. What are their instinctive responses? What can we learn from it in terms of steering the organization away from it and are the ‘old’ mechanism still vital in this day and age? A human being confronted with a potentially life-threatening situation has learned to do one of three things. Which one he/she chooses depends on the analysis and the quickest possible response to the signals received. The choice is either to Fight, Flight or Freeze. Translated to an organization, the Freeze-leader calms his people, aims at realizing savings and tries to build the trust that ‘we will weather this crisis together’. The Fight-leader boldly attacks via new or adapted products and tries aggressively to enhance the relationships with his customers.


Ambition. The dream on the horizon that connects people, fuels their desires and delivers the energy to keep on moving forward. 26

The risk of overdoing things is paramount especially if the organization has acted differently in the past! The Flight-leaders get rid of everything they think wears them down and run off with what is left over, plus the customers. Often leaving a big mess behind. As an extreme example, just think of the bad-debt banks that were formed after the financial crisis. Yet, we see a fourth opportunity arise. Time will tell whether it will engrain itself in our ‘reptile brains’ as a fixed response, but looking at the start-up philosophy we see the Flip modus of response appear. In the realm of start-ups, business plans are old school. Trying to capture and control an ever-changing context. Better test your assumptions in real life, learn from the results and adjust accordingly. This lean approach gives much more flexibility to conquer a market and a crisis. The Flip modus needs transition from product (or rationality) thinking to value (or creative) thinking. It’s connecting left-brained with right– brained thinking. It is all about sharing and co-operating to create and deliver new value. It’s front-yard thinking versus backyard thinking. It’s moving from supplier to solution, from investment to total cost of ownership, from leading to facilitating and above all, from instruction to interaction. This type of Flip transition requires an organization to be able and willing to look for a road not given in a business plan or strategy. To be able to Flip, you need communication in an open and direct manner and the ability to (continuously) learn as you go. It needs an organization that shares the same ambition and works from the same values to reach this goal. And if the results tell them to Flip, then that’s what they do. No matter what.


Change. There is no longer a direct route from where you are to where you want to go. So be open-minded and have the flexibility to adapt when needed. 28

Identity and transition We don’t live in an era of change, but in a change of era. The old systems simply don’t work anymore and the new systems are still being created. In this transition chaos prevails, further enhanced by the financial crisis and the impending green crisis. The reason behind this is that we have built systems that don’t function anymore. They are too one-dimensionally aimed at growth, financial gain or short-term financial results. Systems created in an era of industrialization, designed by the leaders of today who can think almost exclusively in this type of know-how. Thereby finding solutions for the system’s imperfections that are rooted in the industrial school of thinking. Failures in control are repaired by even more control. And there is no incentive to do otherwise because it would mean giving up power and influence. Yet the world can’t go on in this way and the first signs of how things can be done differently are there for everybody to see and to recognize. Think fossil energy. The domain of mighty corporations, with worldwide influence. Whose sole interest appears to be keeping society glued to their resources. All you need is just one individual, or a street of motivated people who simply take matters into their own hands. They build a transition, unknowingly, by starting an energy cooperation. Investing money in solar panels and geothermal power for the energy needs of their group.


Re-usage. The new real. Bigger isn’t better anymore. We have renewed our appreciation for the beauties of the past. Carefully balancing tradition with renewal. 30

And their investment and endurance pay off. Instead of buying energy, they now sell their surplus energy and compete with the big companies. Far from easy, but they do it. Because their sole belief is that we need to respect nature. Living with nature instead of from nature. The architects of Upfrnt have recognized their role in finding these new ways for society. Their philosophy is that buildings should do more than cradle to cradle recycling. Buildings contribute hugely to the context we live in and have a major impact on our well-being. How many buildings have been designed according to economics instead of human values? Straight corners, cubicles, maximizing the number of people per square metre. According to the Up Philosophy, buildings should give back to society instead of using or being neutral. In terms of the rare resources used as well as in terms of the softer criteria like comfortable living or well-being. In their view, we need to do more. We need to Up the ante! If we want to build new systems, we need to rethink and redo. And that’s where you need a cause, a purpose or a passion to start from. Something which has the ability to become a joint identity. For others to engage with and become involved. And we need to work differently. Stop thinking in terms of borders but from a much more holistic angle. Stop thinking that technology will bring us the solution but that the solution is in our own behaviour. The ideas are already around us. We only need an antenna and a few good men and women who have the drive to bring us transitions. And as history has shown us, this is doable; a few good men and women can (even) start a revolution.


Virtual. Seen and be seen. Offline and online. Our world has been enriched with whole new dimensions. Embrace it instead of trying to control it. Go with the flow and discover the hidden treasures for your organization. 32

Identity and social media Some trend watchers and market researchers offer 360 degree analysis of target audiences. Basically they offer to research the world of your audience in both quantitative and qualitative terms. They will talk to respondents and ask them about their needs, worries or ambitions and then report back to you on the basis of their findings. This has been the modus operandi for past decades and has built an entire industry worth several billion. Yet, how effective are these reports? They fall short in a number of respects. In the first place, this research is done retrospectively. They often look back because respondents who are asked to look forward will do so with today’s mindset. Many new products have bombed in this way. Just think of Red Bull. Conventional research failed miserably because people didn’t understand or know about the concept of the power drink... Today it is very, very big business. Secondly, most of this research is done in controlled settings, producing socially desirable answers. Be it in the office of the research company or as part of a customer safari. Simply asking the questions creates a social envelope of non-authentic behaviour. Enter the domain of social media! Your target audiences talk all day (and all night) amongst themselves. Sharing moods, ideas, reflections, opinions and commenting on almost everything that hits their senses. That wealth of social data is out there. Waiting to be tapped and turned into social insights. 33

Public. There’s no hiding anymore. It’s out here. In the open. For everybody to see and to react. It’s what makes art stronger so why not your organization. 34

Insights to steer your communication, your product development, your design, your customer interaction, it is simply your target audience real-time at your fingertips! But beware! Knowing what they’re saying, when they’re saying it also holds a threat. If your brand starts responding in a way that fits the language but not the perception of your audience, it will backfire. If you use it in the old-fashioned way of advertising, it tries to sell the audience something and they are very well-equipped to distinguish. What is needed is an invitation to share your content. Through your content you become a valued partner in the dialogue. Stemming from the core of your brand. Authentic and true. Because only then will you really be able to connect and become a valued part of the network of your audience. And that connection holds so much more value!


Celebration. You can be sure of one thing at least. Shit happens, even on your way to heaven. So celebrate your successes as they will mark your progress towards your ambition. 36

7 Wins of the identity The identity of your organization is invaluable and can make the difference you are looking for. We will illustrate how this might work for you in different aspects of day-to-day business. All aimed at getting you out of the crisis faster and stronger than your competitor. Simply because your identity contains a leading concept that can help you steer almost all aspects of your organization, enables you to make the transition you are looking for.


Authenticity. Is there a thin line between your image and identity? Well done! You are one of the happy few. Too often organizations still project an identity that has nothing or little to do with reality, thereby creating a big gap between what they say and what they do... Leaving ample room for disappointment! 38

Win #1. Executing your strategy The aim of strategy has always been to pick the best and quickest route to your ambition. Unfortunately the moment you leave your position, the world has changed once again and your carefully planned route falls by the wayside. Not to mention the efforts in informing, explaining and internalizing the strategy with your workforce which go to waste as well. Your identity is what ties everything and everybody together, a clear vision of what you want to become functions as the proverbial lighthouse to which the individual employee can be much more deeply connected. It is why in an ever-changing world, the employee should be given the freedom and the principles to act accordingly. It is something which we call barrier strategy. The principles of the identity form the proverbial crash barrier and anything in between is considered ok. It is freedom paired with responsibility. It’s facilitating paired with inspiration. It’s basically and/and instead of either/or. It brings responsibility down to the level where the true differences can be made and it is the ultimate lean way of ‘do, learn and adjust’. There is a reason why start-up companies operate in a completely different modus. They accept an ever-changing environment and use different strategy techniques to make their product a success in the market. But also why brands like Virgin and Hema prove a point in the width and depth of their product offering. With a strong identity, one can become everything one can think of... From Cola to air-travel all tied together by the founders’ attitude of: ‘Screw it, let’s just do it!’. Or from rookworst to health insurance, it is all ‘echt Hema’.


Temporality. If you accept that nothing lasts forever and that temporality is here to stay, any organization will be more flexible and more adaptive to change to cope with this new reality. 40

Win #2. Business with a purpose Lots of markets have come to a standstill. Even lower prices don’t bring the necessary turnover. Competition is everywhere and products are equally as good. Spending more on advertising is impossible, aside from the fact that people see far too many commercial messages anyway. So what can you do?! Go back to your identity and try to rediscover the true purpose of your organization. What was it the founders wanted to challenge, solve or do better? And think of purpose as truly beneficial for society at large! With this purpose in mind, translate it into an actionable leading concept. Something to use in all of your communications. Even a platform for others to join. From this perspective, think back to your portfolio, what your offering could look like beyond the physical products, define the missing elements and act from collaborative strategies. The purpose will deliver you the next generation of added value. Because it brings value to your customers and to the world at large. A purpose not only delivers a feel-good factor, but it’s also crucial to create a higher price for your offerings. Simply because the offering you bring entails a tangible benefit that goes above and beyond the physical aspects. A purpose also intensifies the relationship with your (potential) customers and your own employees. And this is not fictional, as recent American research has proven. Once again! An excellent example of this ‘purpose’ business approach can be found in the hard-core B-2-B of heat transfer installations manufactured by Bronswerk. Going back to their roots delivered the insight that with their work, the world consumption of energy would be reduced by 1/6th... Known as the E-Element, it has now become instrumental in how they approach customers in the oil and gas industry who are under pressure to deliver tangible results with scarce natural resources. 41

Creative collectivity. Together we can do it. Together we have the creativity. All we need is the room to unleash it. Go beyond the rules and systems to find new and common ground. We could do it as a child, let’s do it as adults as well! 42

Win #3. Humans reconnecting We have lost our connections. As human beings we have been overindustrializing our context. Not only in over-use of nature’s scare resources, but especially in the way we have organized our work and the connections with the environment that we live in. With costs and efficiency so omnipresent, steering all our daily activities, we tend to forget why we do the things we do. Does anybody really want to receive care in an efficient and effective way?! I wouldn’t think so. Care should be about caring. About what’s wrong and how that is affecting the person. But we’ve lost that connection. We have specialists looking at the details, but overlooking the big picture. Basically, the values of this era don’t fit the human being. We’ve lost the connection between head and heart, between body and spirit, between thinking and doing. We have simply lost our roots. And it’s high time we reconnected. Embracing the true human values of empathy, passion and mindfulness. Why?! Because it pays to be human again! People buy from people they like and trust. They buy from the Turkish greengrocer instead of the supermarket chain. They know where the groceries come from and they pay a fair price for them. Because they are there for humans and not for an inhuman market. And that is something big organizations who still think of efficiency and effectiveness will not be able to match.


Familiarity. The enemy of innovation, change or renewal. Yet, it is what’s needed to feel comfortable. Managing or better facilitating this paradox will be the challenge of the next decade. 44

Win #4. Employee satisfaction Just 1% increase in employee satisfaction will raise the profit margin by 2.5%. That’s quick money. But how can you raise your employee satisfaction in times of crisis? Two things are crucial. One is how you communicate with your people. Two is how you attach their individual identity and ambition to the organizational identity and ambition. Communication should be open, truthful and trustworthy. All too often the internal messaging reads like the Pravda. The good-news show laid on by the management team. Whilst underneath, everybody knows things are different and that’s when culture eats strategy for breakfast. The best thing you can become is yourself. To do so, you need to do the things you like in an inspiring and supportive context. The organization that understands that to reach its own goals, it needs to do so with people who are not only equally ambitious but whose personality also matches that of the organization. The company’s identity should match the employee’s identity. In that way, people feel truly connected to your organization and their goals become part of the overall goals.


Facade. What truths lie behind the first impressions of the organization. A slick veneer or the truth in all its glorious detail? Because viewed from the right perspective, there is beauty in what is essentially old and worn. 46

Win #5. Consistent communications Be good and tell it. That was often the mantra of the corporate communication department, irrespective of the real truth behind the facade. But things have changed. Social media provides people with first-hand insights into the truth behind your organization and your communication. But also in terms of co-creation, it is essential to keep your audiences close at hand. Therefore it is crucial to make sure your communication is authentic, fits the reality and as such is an extension of your identity. And that it is consistent with the communication your audiences experience when they are in direct contact with your employees.



physical attributes



Founders. The men with an idea, a passion and thus, a mission. Their initial energy shaped the roots of the organization. They are the impersonation of the identity, even long after they have left. Something to cherish and protect! 48

Connecting these communication channels is done via your identity, or better, through the leading concept that stems from your identity. In this way, not only is the messaging consistent, but also the tone of voice of all customer interaction fits with the authentic identity the organization is conveying. Every organization connects with the world at large via three domains. The culture which steers the interactions on an individual level, the design which forms the physical identity and of course the propositions which you offer. Steering these three is done via your identity. By looking at these domains from a holistic perspective, consistency is guaranteed. Not to mention the efficiency gains of not having to re-invent the wheel for each and every element of these domains. This way of thinking also enables the organization to close the perception-reality gap quickly and convincingly.


Room. Is there room to manoeuvre? For trial and error? To learn the value of failure?! Sometimes the remains of a failed trial tell more about the identity than what is being communicated via the regular media. 50

Win #6. Change from within? The ‘who’ not the ‘what’! We don’t live in an era of change, but in a change of era. The old systems have stopped functioning and the new systems are in state of development. In this in-between period the only constant will be change and the power to adapt quickly is a key element in survival. In such a state of flux, it is essential that change is also supported from the inside. That people love the dynamics of an ever-changing perspective is only possible if we keep a few things consistent. That’s where your identity comes in. The ‘what’ and ‘how’ of your operation can change, but not the ‘who’. People need to feel attached to the ‘who’ and that ‘who’ needs to operate consistently and predictably. Sometimes the ‘who’ is personified by the management but especially in larger organizations the ‘who’ should be a crucial and living element of the culture. Every organization has a personality. Sometimes maintaining a connection with the original founder is a way of expressing the ‘who’. How we communicate and what we as an organization feel is important, it is the (often unspoken) way of doing things, the unwritten rules. All this personality is a way for the identity to come to life. And if we are aware of our identity, it becomes a strong steering mechanism in times of continuous change.


Disentangle. The leading concept derived from your identity clarifies, connects and creates the new ways of interaction. 52

Wins #7. Business as unusual How much is your organization focused on selling products?! How much are you focused on price, discounts and numbers?! Perhaps the added-value proposition might come in handy?! Often our view of the world is the only reality we observe. Yet, if we take a slightly more holistic approach we could perhaps see a new reality. Where selling becomes co-creating and price becomes value. How to do so?! Think backyard versus front yard. In the backyard you have your products, whilst in the front yard you have any possible combination of your products, those of others and any form of service, warehousing or delivery. Think of the car industry. Just in time, completely manufactured dashboards arrive which are installed in the cars being produced. And these dashboards contain a lot of innovation, logistics, components etc., which are worth more than the value of the individual components. How to know what fits and what is out of your front yard?! Think identity! What do you sell? Camera-controlled observation, firewalls for computers, key cards for entering specific areas of a building, and so on. It can become quite a catalogue of products, add-ons and specific items. Yet your identity is all about safety. About having people feel at home at work. Hassle free! So in the ‘front yard’ you ‘sell’ the security of people, data, building and equipment. In the backyard you might be a product-driven company operating in the security field. In the front yard you are a service provider, advising organizations on how to develop a secure and inspiring environment for the staff and their data. Both in real-time and in the virtual world.


Skills. Developing your identity demands the rational and the intuitive. The skills to express the unspoken and to translate it consistently into all aspects of your organization. In such a way that it feels completely natural to all stakeholders. 54

epilogue A leading concept is a powerful tool that can be used right from your product innovation through to the softer aspects like company culture. And from the design of your messaging to your product offering. The reason behind the need for a clear and focused leading concept is that we don’t live in an era of change but a change of eras. We are turning the corner from a capitalistic industrial system to a more creative networked society. This means that current systems don’t function anymore but the new systems aren’t there yet. And in this shift, your identity provides the one and only stronghold to master the challenges of this transition.



THE ROOTS always WIN identity | strategy | creativity Š Amsterdam february 2014

Turn static files into dynamic content formats.

Create a flipbook
Issuu converts static files into: digital portfolios, online yearbooks, online catalogs, digital photo albums and more. Sign up and create your flipbook.