Last week, Rosabeth Moss Kanter, Professor at the Harvard Business School, posted a thought provoking piece on the HBS blog called The Value of Role Models in the Downturn. The premise of her article is that in tough economic times, employees look to role models both within and outside of their organization to remain motivated and continue to innovate. Companies that provide these role models - people who act ethically, both in the context of the corporate operations and in the greater context of the world outside - often see the greatest innovation. I am in absolute agreement with Professor Moss Kanter - and am especially pleased that she mentioned P&G as an example to substantiate her hypothesis. I provided the following response, which I thought was relevant to share here as well:
It can be easy to lose sight of the need for role models and a sense of social mission in business, especially during an economic downturn when many companies are struggling to remain profitable. But as you say, they are especially important as ways to help to motivate and inspire employees, as well as improve the business. P&G's design of a product aimed at lower-income consumers in Brazil is a key example of how a socially-driven project can impact the market. They are not mutually exclusive and, in fact, can be critical to driving business innovation.
It is important for business leaders to look within the organization to ensure employees are inspired and engaged in a way that makes them want to continue to do good work. This might mean getting everyone together for an office brainstorm and encouraging all employees to bring forward their ideas, whether good or bad. You never know what you might find out, but certainly having everyone put their heads together for the good of the company is a great way to motivate staff and encourage social responsibility, while at the same time driving innovation and company growth. That is one of the reasons P&G is successful -employees are challenged every day and are encouraged to bring forth their ideas.
Despite the economic woes and depressing news, role models and strong business leaders are what make businesses successful. As leaders, it is important to look inward at your most important foundation for inspiration and success - your employees.
Dwayne Spradlin, CEO