• Keith Wells

"Value is not in what you know, but in what you share"

If ever we needed proof of Ginni Rometty’s assertion, this pandemic is providing it. Look at all the brands and individuals that are distinguishing themselves through their decisions and actions, and you’ll find one characteristic in common. Their generosity.

It’s a quality that is becoming increasingly important for leadership – at both a corporate and an individual level. It might have started with the sense of “giving something back”, but now it’s really about “giving”: of your time, your ideas, your self. And not expecting something in return.

Ineos, for example, know all about the potential commercial benefits of sponsoring world-leading sports teams. But their decision to create a new factory producing hand sanitiser to be distributed free to hospitals speaks of a different understanding. Brew Dog have made a similar commitment in re-purposing its production facilities and distribution systems. Brompton Bikes are making their cycles available to NHS staff. And so on. Brands, and their leaders, like this are creating new types of value through their preparedness to share, rather than to own.

Generosity is one of the six dimensions of The Charisma Index. We ask consumers to evaluate brands in terms of their apparent motivations: which are about more than just making money? It is the criterion that says most about brands’ perceived contribution to society. And it is probably the criterion that says most about brands’ attitudes towards consumers. But it is definitely the criterion on which brands consistently perform worst.

That contradiction should be worrying enough. But when we link it to the ideas of Purpose and Integrity (two other Charisma measures) we can see the challenges and opportunities in even greater focus. It’s important to see that the three ideas are inter-dependent: a purpose needs to encourage and enable a contribution from the business (and therefore needs to be rooted in what the business actually does, as well as believes in); while integrity is about “doing the right thing, even when nobody is watching” so automatically excludes any notion of pay-back.

Many brands could rightly claim to understand their purpose well and to have integrity in pursuing that. Some of those might also be brands whose behaviour has been distasteful and the subject of negative publicity. (And then, as a final disintegration of integrity, have made a shuddering U-turn.)

But it is the generosity with which brands have acted that we believe is the key differentiator. People are moving increasingly toward brands that share their values – whether to work with or to buy from – and as more examples of selfless behaviour (NHS staff, and ‘volunteers’, key workers, etc) are recognised, so expectations will rise for businesses to match that mood.

The brands that do this best, and most authentically, will be those that realise the greatest value, in all senses of the word.

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