There is actually a business template for business failure, and you know what it is? The template itself. Yep, that single powerpoint sheet with the company logo in the top corner that gets sent around to the team to fill in for their upcoming budgeting, marketing or strategy planning. It tells us so much about prevailing attitudes to change and anything different.
Here’s a little story about when young Stevie (that’s me) was a brand manager at a very big consumer goods company. I don’t want to give away any names, but the company’s initials were Kraft Foods Ltd. Every time we had to do our annual brand plans, a few powerpoint pages with the company name and boxes to fill in would be sent around for us to fill in. And just like good compliant corporate citizens the brand managers all did what we were told. Brand management, a supposedly thought lead, creative, and strategic endeavour managing multi million dollar businesses got reduced to a few boxes. Sure, it was hard to have a point of view. It was nigh on impossible to point out something important which wasn’t in the template, and well, it made it easy for people to stop thinking. Call me naive, but it was not what I expected at the start of my career from a global leading firm.
This is what it comes down to to really: Whether or not they want people to think and make a serious contribution.
If we have a template for our so called thought leaders to fill in, we might as well shut the company doors now, because failure is inevitable. A template for anything strategic in an organisation (which is everything by the way – from the factory, to the brand, to the store execution) says the following:
- We don’t want to hear your opinion
- We care not for your creativity
- We are too lazy to bother with another persons visual style or layout
- We know more at the top of the company
- We have already decided what’s important, even if you know your area better than us
- Everything in this company should fit inside a box
- You should do what we tell you
- Innovation is only permitted if it occurs inside a template (figuratively & literally)
Yes, call me crazy, but companies that use templates to share, ideas and strategy, don’t really care what anyone thinks. Which is ironic at a time when new thinking is what builds startups and saves companies.