In his book The Soft Edge: Where Great Companies Find Lasting Success Forbes publisher Rich Karlgaard explores the humanistic aspects of strategic advantage. He outlines five elements of the ‘soft edge’ of the organisation that are needed for success: trust, smarts, teamwork, taste, and story.
In an excerpt in this recent Inc Magazine article, the idea of focusing on culture and the human side appears to be a surprising discovery.
(As an aside, I find fascinating the degree to which start-up literature gets excited about good practices that have been long established in more traditional organisations. It’s like watching teenagers ‘discover’ the music their parents listened to. I’m working up to a post on the things startups can learn from established business practice and vice versa.)
What is exciting is the way that Karlgaard sets some parameters around the kinds of stories that matter in organisation.
The stories that matter are the human stories, in which real people did something, learning and growing in the process. It might be customers, it might be your CEO, it might be a field sales rep who has learned to believe in the value of what she’s selling.
Story is also the story that you tell yourself about yourself, and that every employee tells himself or herself. Story is what gives meaning to everything, both inside and outside the business world.
If those stories are lacking or, worse, depressing, there is simply no amount of strategy and tactics that can make your company great.