Obama vs McCain – What can your business learn from the election? One of the pod casts I subscribe to is the Harvard Ideacast. A recent edition featured a discussion about the “authenticity” of business and how essential this is to success now. The discussion used the US presidential candidates as examples of two individuals with different levels of perceived authenticity. Barack Obama is clearly a deep-thinking intellectual who takes cares great over what he says, and clearly understands the need to be “true”. The pod cast went on to explore this as an example of how we (voters/customers) make our choices based on how authentic the person/business is, rather than basing the decision on purely personal gain or financial benefits.
The change from Bush to Obama by the US electorate was a massive one in terms of the values of the US electors that this reveals. This is mirrored by the changing criteria of consumers throughout the developed world. One of the reasons for this is simply that we are now able to judge such difficult virtues as authenticity (in other words honesty, being consistent and true to our values). The internet and instant availability of information means that there is no hiding place for those who have secrets and who do not practice what they preach- they will be found out by someone and that person can share what they have found with billions of people around the world in seconds.
Some of the best examples of this are the tokenism of many companies when it comes to green issues and corporate social responsibility in general. It is still possible to get away with faking an interest in this, just about, and many people do. But social networking websites and customers review and comments are taking an ever greater role in buying criteria of all of us when we make buying decisions, and we are less and less inclined to accept what companies say about themselves and their products.
The lesson from this is that you and your business have to be authentic and true to your values or you will not survive for long in the modern web 2.0 world. As explained in my earlier blog on the “Happier” book, we enjoy what we do far more if our work reflects our true values. If you don’t enjoy what you do, your people will sense your false smiles and will be less inclined to deal with you, and then they will share their feelings with the rest of the world who will also choose not to use your services (or to vote for you, if you are a politician).
Please tell us know what you think.