Last week B&T published an article that asked “How can agencies create a culture for innovation“, a subject that those of you who have read my stuff before will know, is dear to my heart. The author of this post, Cassie Sacks, suggested that the key to creating an innovating environment is to remove the fear of ridicule that dissuades people from putting forward their ideas. I’ve said before “ideas” are more important than “the right ideas” and the sooner an organistion gets this the quicker they’ll achieve success, but there’s a deeper and more fundamental character trait involved here that influences far more than an organisation’s ability to innovate.

Back in 2005 Jack Welch dedicated a chapter in his book “Winning” to “candor”. An old fashioned concept perhaps and you may think an out-dated one. So out-dated, in fact that Microsoft’s spell-checker doesn’t recognise the word (or maybe that just says something about Microsoft?) However you’d be wrong because candor is as critical today to the efficiency that defines successful companies a it ever has been.

Jack’s point about candor was quite narrow. He was concerned with the honest expression of views and opinions, that determines the future of ideas and innovations. In this context, candor will reduce the waste of time and resources that accompany the pursuit of inappropriate ideas and enable businesses to focus time and attention on those that bring success. Obviously a business that is chasing product and process development that doesn’t lend anything to their brand model is wasting resources that could be more productively applied elsewhere.

However, this is only the tip of the iceberg of inefficiency that hampers the success of most organisations.  The key for any business is to eliminate this waste by identifying those projects and initiatives that don’t contribute to the delivery of the organisation’s brand promise as early as possible and bring them to a halt. Few businesses are good at this. I use my Brand Discovery programme to help businesses, not only define their brand, but introduce the structures, tools and processes they need to maintain its authenticity, and strengthen its appeal. The process starts with some soul-searching and a degree of self-honesty that few businesses achieve without help.

If candor is genuinely a component of your business culture its influence will and should spread way beyond your office walls. Candor and honesty go hand-in-hand. Businesses that are transparent and honest are generally those that enjoy long-term success. Don’t get me wrong, there are, unfortunately, many businesses out there that make short-term money on false promises and downright lies. However, you can be sure they are eventually found out. If you are planning on taking that route yourself you should also know that it’s also usually unrepeatable. Once you’ve screwed a bunch of people the reputation tends to stick and hamper any plans you may have to try a similar scam again. It’s harder to be a serial scammer than it is to build a sustainable business, so you may as well just take the honest route. Gain a reputation for being straight and even if you fail, you’ll more than likely get a second chance.

I know of many entrepreneurs who have failed a few times, but eventually achieved success by following this mantra and their success has been possible only because they enjoyed support from people who mattered. Just like your customers, suppliers, financiers, distributors and partners will all gravitate towards businesses they feel they know and can trust. They’ll also favour you with better deals, go the extra mile to keep you happy and stick with you when times are tough.

So, give some thought to what candor could do for your organisation and start making changes today. Get used to the idea that business isn’t about screwing people, but working with them. Organisations that understand this are always the eventual winners.

Phil Darby
November 28, 2014

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