Three Key Characteristics for Organizational success

This post originally appeared on the Core Creative blog.

Young Professional Week, a program hosted by young professionals networking group NEWaukee, took place April 14 – 21, 2013. Events throughout the week covered a variety of topics – from sustainability to water innovation and women in leadership to social change. As an active young professional in the Milwaukee community, I am thrilled this event (known as #ypweek to most) has become an annual occasion.

The conclusion to the week’s cornucopia of events was a keynote speech from Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos, at the Hilton Milwaukee City Center Hotel. Tony gave a brief overview on how he got to where he is today, but spent the majority of his time discussing culture, community and innovation.

I could write for days on all the things I learned during Tony’s speech. To save time, you can check out my synopsis on Storify. For this blog post, I’ll simply address the three major topics that were discussed; the three areas on which businesses must focus to become (or remain) successful.

1. Culture: Companies with a purpose higher than profits actually end up generating more profits in the long run.

Culture is the No. 1 priority at Zappos, and should be at any company. A company’s culture is all about “committable core values” – they shouldn’t just be a meaningless plaque on the wall. If companies make culture their main focus, everything else will fall into place.

When we engage brand development plans for our clients, this is what we’re looking for – their “why” statement. Identify it and share it. So, what are your values? And what are you doing to give people a chance to connect with them?

2. Community: Instead of maximizing short-term ROI (return on investment), focus on maximizing long-term ROC (return on community) and institutionalizing ROL (return on luck). Doing so will accelerate serendipity.

Employees should get out, explore and enjoy the communities in which they work. Support local businesses. Learn more about the different areas of town. Network. Tony’s “big bet” is that accelerating collisions, community and co-learning will lead to happiness, luckiness, innovation and productivity.

Today, we look for companies to be part of our community – not just through giveback programs and charity, but also through active participation in events throughout the city. We want to know there are active members of our community working together to make our city a better place.

3. Innovation: Culture is to a company as community is to a city.

Downtown Vegas has a “monthly cadence” featuring different categories each week; live music, art, startups, fashion and a speaker series. By taking time to focus on these areas, we can bring awareness and vitality to the different businesses and groups in Milwaukee, thereby increasing participation in the city itself.

Change is hard. Making the decision to make a change is probably even harder. But it can be done. Tony referenced a story about the four-minute mile to prove this point:

What “impossible” task can you (or your business) take on to show it can be done? Go out and do it.

Last week, you may have read thoughts from our Creative Director, Jerry Higgins, on the importance of a creative brief. In his post, Jerry touched on the opportunity for a company to stop and address an interesting question: “What kind of company do you want to be?”

Whether you’re a startup trying to survive, a company growing through a rapid infancy or a well-established generational institution … culture, community and innovation are important to your success.

Ask yourself:

  • Why do you do what you do?
  • Have you made room in your business plan for community involvement?
  • What are you doing to engage and elevate your innovators?

Your mission is reflected in your response to these questions. Once you can identify the answers, you can set your path to greatness.