Show your colors

In a recent meeting about the future of the Netherlands, one of the participants had a very intriguing question. The participant, a young, very talented scientist specialized in Artificial Intelligence, asked his question without any ado: "are the strategic choices companies make radical enough?"

It's food for thought. Leadership is, of course, a crucial factor when it comes to change. Ali Kursun from Sparkview, Switzerland, wrote a helpful article[1] about leadership styles, in which, among other things, the speed of change is compared to the impact of the change. It leads to four typologies of leaders, freely translated: keepers, strategy-less, perfectionists, and leaders. Only the last category, says Ali Kursun, changes the rules of the game: they move fast, are relentless (...?), have access to excellent information, are super focused on the best results for all stakeholders and are purely interested in building the best, most profitable and most sustainable companies for the future.

However, do those choices really have to be radical for real change? After all, drastic decisions come at the expense of the stability of the company. Or not?

To change slowly = to die out
When changes are happening as fast as now, there is probably no other option but the radical one. Look at societal changes, the speed of globalization, and with it changing competition, the explosive development of technology such as artificial intelligence and machine learning, and the need to take genuinely extreme measures in the field of sustainability. In that case, gradual change stands equivalent to extinction. That is not the same as rücksichtslos remediation, cutting, and dreaming of even more efficiency. More of the same for an increasingly lower price is about the same as a dentist specializing in dinosaur teeth. Radical change is about knowledge, creativity, and motivation. As McKinsey wrote[2] about radical change in 2007, transforming an organization requires truly articulated ambitions and the ability to generate energy and new ideas. Not the spreadsheet, but the dream is the big driver. 

What is especially needed for this is a culture focused on decisiveness, openness, creativity, and trust. Far too often, we end up in internal meeting rooms where a meeting is held about the last decision of the previous meeting. We see more and more organizations becoming overgrown with compliance, procurement, and legal departments. Nothing wrong with that, unless their core quality is that of a wheel clamp.

Radical action
It is time for a change. And that includes action. Take the phenomenon of "women at the top". We read more and more about it, but the reality is that we are moving slow as snails towards the target number of 30%. According to AD it will take another ten years at this rate before we reach that goal.[3] If you want women at the top, you shouldn't hire men. The same applies, for example, to people with a disability. People with a distance to the labor market. Challenged people. Whatever you want to call it, it doesn't shorten the distance. Hiring does. Interestingly, Covid-19 seems to be shortening the distance rapidly.[4]

Sustainability can no longer wait. It's time to act. It's time for radical action. We can't wait any longer.[5] Because that is now such a subject of which in 50 years' time, you will say, "We should have done that a little differently." It seems that the decisions we do or do not make about sustainability are irreversible. The idea that we should do the most minimal is, at the very least objectionable, because it looks a lot like Russian roulette. We challenge you to show your colors. As many colors as possible. Because doing that not only benefits our society, the next generation, your customers and yourself too. Shall we?

[1] Should You Hire a “Don’t Rock the Boat” Leader or “Leader Who Rocks”?

[2] Driving radical change

[3] Voor het eerst in drie jaar zijn er meer vrouwen aan de top

[4] Good news! You are already working on an inclusive (re) organization

[5] We get sweaty hands

Below you can find our ad in FD of October 8.