Business modelsEnterprise2.0

Authenticity, respect and the changing nature of business

By March 13, 2008 8 Comments

Last week I attended a Honda Earthdreams event at the kind invitation of 19 Entertainment.  As well as the event being fun (Jensen Button talking, F1 car there to look at, lots of interesting people present…) I was struck by the strength and genuineness of the commitment to Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).  The F1 executives were really committed to the concept, some at the level of wanting to do good and change the world, and some from a pure business perspective – they believe that consumers will increasingly favour brands that are socially responsible.  Additionally there was widespread agreement that brands needed to be authentically socially responsible – which means favouring causes that are relevant to the product.  E.g. formula one should address environmental issues.  Brands who are perceived as embracing CSR just for the sake of marketing will be no better off than if they hadn’t bothered at all.

This need for authenticity has parallels in the web world, where the companies that operate communities need to authentically embody the values of the members of those communities.

I have been mulling these thoughts over in my head and wondering if I should blog them, and then this morning Sam Sethi pointed me a post on Bubblegen in which Umair makes a persuasive case that corporate DNA needs to change dramatically before the economy will really right itself.  Umair’s argument in a sentence is that the lack of authenticity and respect in modern corporate culture is slowly sucking the life out of the economy.

This is the other side of the CSR coin.

Then on top of that we have the trend to free disrupting the way we do business at an entirely different level.

Taking these trends together with the problems with the current system and it seems to me pretty evident that we are in for some massive changes in the nature of business.

These changes will be in the size of companies, the nature of employment, the ways in which companies are managed and finally, perhaps most importantly in the way companies and consumers interact.

A lot of change has happened already – more and more people are working for themselves, the boundaries of the enterprise have been blurring for some time, command and control corporate cultures are giving way to decentralised models, we get more stuff for free than ever before, and ,finally, marketers are starting to get the idea that consumers need to be treated with respect (some of them anyway).

The fact that a lot of change has happened already gives me faith in the ability of the system to adapt.  It will have to go a lot further though.  That said, I don’t expect change to happen quickly – we are mostly talking about shifting cultures and patterns of behaviour here and that always, always happens slowly.