What if we could empower people everywhere to have the courage and conviction to do their small bit or big bit to change the world? What if through the power of quest we created a culture where people believed they could make a difference? We would craft more wholesome and inspiring jobs, truly ethical businesses, value-enhancing business models, healthier economies and more opportunities to contribute well-being in the world.
What’s holding us back? The technology and capital know-how is all already there. There is too much paranoia about the next quarter and the share price and not enough about delivering future longer-term benefits. We do too much “me to” and don’t attempt enough “moonshots” a term coined by Larry Page, CEO of Alphabet, Google’s parent company. But this is changing. There is a growing leadership and organisational trend of delivering benefits and striving to achieve the impossible.
TomorrowToday’s latest book Quest: Competitive Advantage and the Art of Leadership in the 21st Century profiles inspirational stories of organisations and leaders on quests and offers a framework for future success, showing how the leaders catching this wave will be the winners of the 21st
The power of quest can be found in how each quest binds teams, and informs and inspires people to work together to make bold positive differences. Quests attract the best talent; they empower people and unleash passion and energy. Quests give people a sense of purpose, which encourages creativity, experimentation and innovation. Quests deliver strategy at speed, by being agile and adaptable because when you know your target destination it’s easy to reroute. Quests deliver sustainable competitive advantage.
On 10th August 2015, Larry Page, the co-founder of Google, announced in a letter to Googlers and investors the launch of Alphabet, Google’s new holding company. “From the start, we’ve always strived to do more,” said Page, “and to do important and meaningful things with the resources we have. We did a lot of things that seemed crazy at the time. Many of those crazy things now have over a billion users, like Google Maps, YouTube, Chrome, and Android. And we haven’t stopped there. We are still trying to do things other people think are crazy but we are super excited about.” Search giant Google, has achieved its dominant and world leading position through the implementation of strategies that deliver meaningful benefits, rather than following a strategy just to be the biggest. Google dominates because it’s leaders and corporate culture is all about embarking on quests, those bold crazy, even impossible strategies that make a difference. From quests like Google self-driving cars, to Google’s Life Sciences ““ a quest to develop a glucose-sensing contact lens ““ and Calico, Google’s longevity company working on the quest to crack the ageing code ““ perhaps this is the ultimate of all quests, if we end aging that would be an incredible feat ““ Google implements questing strategies that deliver meaningful benefits.
In his letter, Page conveys the essence of what it means to be a questing organisation ““ a deep, heartfelt, emotional commitment to achieving an outcome for oneself and the greater good. The move to launch Alphabet is a brilliant strategy that allows the company to increasingly focus on quests that deliver meaningful benefits. Google is not immune to controversy, but on the whole the quests that Google embarks on promise to take society to higher levels.
We are increasingly living in a world where questers, leaders or organisations on quests, are achieving extraordinary results. Questers are leaders who are driven to make a difference in the world. Do not confuse questers for philanthropists or goody two-shoes charity workers. Questers are hard-nosed capitalists who are results driven and obsessively focused on the bottom line. It’s just their focus is not only on making profit. Profit, or share price is a result not a goal. Questers excel by looking at the world they influence and ask what is broken and how can it be fixed.
Being a quester means you still need to be efficient, but not at the expense of delivering meaningful benefits for short-term gains. The world is lurching from one industry crisis or corporate scandal to another because of a short-termism myopia. Each scandal erodes shareholder and societal value. There are too many examples of a system that has gone wrong. Trillions of dollars spent bailing out banks during the Great Recession. The Libor scandal that manipulated the inter-bank lending rate and rocked the financial services industry. Tesco, a leading retail grocer in the UK, rocked by the horsemeat scandal and internal accounting transgressions is now struggling to regain its former glory. And, of course, the motor industry shuddering from the recent Volkswagen Dieselgate scandal.
It’s not surprising that the citizens of the world have lost faith in leaders and corporations. But this presents an opportunity. Trust has now become a competitive advantage. Being on a quest that delivers meaningful benefits to the world, even just your world of influence, is a powerful way to build trust amongst stakeholders and gain advantage over competitors.
I’m buoyed by the fact that there is a vanguard of superstar questers who have already embarked on quests to find solutions that will reignite economic growth, create new jobs and solve many of the world’s most pressing problems. But more questers are urgently needed. While the majority of business leaders and entrepreneurs run around saying, “I’m going to improve the efficiencies on this or that existing product” or “I’m building a better social media App” questers go about identifying inefficiencies in systems that matter most to people. By looking for areas that are malfunctioning they embark on quests that make a world of difference.
The challenges of the 21st century are too massive to be overcome by being creatively conservative and leading with an industrial manager’s mindset of control, compliance and conformity. Audacious rethinking and new solutions are required if this century is to be our greatest ever. Solutions will not come from the conservative centre occupied by an industrialised management mindset. Individuals and organisations need to be set free and the power of the leadership quest, which has advanced society in the past, can be used to magnificent effect.
Dare to strike out, dare to find new ground and make your world this better place. Dare to embark on a quest for yourself, your team, your business and your world. As Sebastian Thrun says, “We should have more moonshots and flights to the moon in areas of societal importance.”
So set your sails, navigate away from your safe harbour. Explore. Dream. Discover. Be successful.
Available from Amazon, Quest: Competitive Advantage and the Art of Leadership in the 21st Century explores the art of leadership and competitive advantage during the greatest revolutionary period since the start of the industrial revolution.