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Six Characteristics of Resonant Organizations

Six Characteristics of Resonant Organizations

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Published by Uday Dandavate
A company can thrive in a fast changing marketplace only by turning itself into a resonant organization
A company can thrive in a fast changing marketplace only by turning itself into a resonant organization

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Published by: Uday Dandavate on Feb 24, 2012
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6 Characteristics of

Six  Characteristics  of  Resonant  Organizations   Uday  Dandavate         The  concept  of  "disruptive  innovation"  has  become  a  buzz  word,  a  silver  bullet  for   business  survival.  Businesses  are  turning  to  creative  professionals  to  conceptualize  the   ideal  product  that  will  increase  competitiveness  in  a  marketplace  depressed  by   economic  downturn.  But  I  would  like  to  offer  an  alternative  to  this  popular  notion— instead  of  focusing  on  revolutionary  products  or  services,  businesses  should  focus  on   nurturing  resonance.     Building  a  business  is  like  raising  a  child.  You  cannot  hope  to  nurture  character,   conviction,  and  survival  skills  in  a  child  just  by  giving  them  occasional  gifts.  The  popular   proverb,  “It  takes  a  village  to  raise  a  child”  best  clarifies  why  resonance  is  the  key   requirement  for  building  a  thriving  business.  How  much  the  stakeholders  are  tuned  into   each  other  and  into  the  changing  market  conditions  will  determine  the  health,  vitality   and  growth  of  the  business.  In  turn,  the  entire  value  chain  will  be  inspired  to  innovate.   In  this  article,  I  propose  that  a  company  can  thrive  in  a  fast  changing  marketplace  only   by  turning  itself  into  a  resonant  organization.       Marc  Van  Der  Erve,  the  author  of  the  book  "Resonant  Corporation,"  suggests  that    “the   art  of  creating  business  is  in  finding  characteristics  that  reinforce  one  another  or   resonate.”  He  does  not  want  business  leaders  to  be  blinded  by  revolutions;  rather  he   suggests  that  businesses  should  "focus  on  changes  inside  and  outside  your  organization   which  might  reinforce  one  another.”     The  idea  of  resonance  is  borrowed  from  the  field  of  Physics.  It  refers  to  sound  that  is   produced  or  increased  in  one  object  by  sound  waves  from  another  object.  Resonant   organization  therefore  means  an  organization  in  which  people  have  cultivated  an   instinctive  ability  to    understand  each  other’s  perspectives,  sense  and  respect  each  

others’  emotions  and  to    learnand  grow  from    the  deep  connection  they  have  developed   with  each  other  and  with  other  stakeholders  within  their  value  chain.  I  have  identified   six  characteristics  of  a  resonant  organization:  creative  curiosity,  sense  of  purpose,   synchronicity,  empathy,  mentoring  networks,  and  sense  of  self.     Creative  Curiosity   The  responsibility  for  innovation  often  falls  on  professionals  trained  in  creative  thinking   skills.  Companies  commission  celebrity  designers  or  well-­‐known  design  firms  to  create   disruptive  designs.  However,  the  secret  behind  the  creativity  of  design  professionals  lies   in  their  ability  to  observe,  interpret,  and  be  inspired  by  their  surroundings.  Creative   individuals  approach  mundane  moments  of  life  with  a  childlike  curiosity  and  an   opportunistic  attitude.       Leo  Burnett,  founder  of  Leo  Burnett  Worldwide,  once  said  “curiosity  about  life  in  all  of   its  aspects,  I  think,  is  still  the  secret  of  great  creative  people,”  Curiosity  opens  minds  to   new  ideas  and  directs  our  perceptions  to  things  that  escape  our  attention  on  a  normal   day.  This  curiosity  can  be  directed  through  an  opportunistic  lens.         When  an  individual  or  an  organization  is  driven  by  a  sense  of  purpose  in  pursuing  one’s   curiosity,  it  can  be  termed  as  creative  curiosity.  This  creative  curiosity  can  be  directed  at   solving  a  problem,  interpreting  a  natural  phenomenon,  or  in  discovering  the  truth.  And   when  an  entire  organization  activates  its  curiosity  to  track  the  environment  for   opportunities,  the  chances  of  breakthrough  discoveries  increase  exponentially.       Sense  of  Purpose   In  order  to  direct  the  creative  curiosity  of  its  work  force,  leadership  must  provide  clear   messaging  to  communicate  the  purpose  of  its  existence  in  the  marketplace—both  from   the  perspective  of  the  company  and  its  customers—  just  as  Steve  Jobs  told  his   stakeholders  to  “Think  Different,”  John  F.  Kennedy  mandated  NASA  to  put  a  man  on  the  

moon  in  ten  years,  and  Gandhi  inspired  an  entire  nation  with  a  simple  call  for  the  British   to  “Quit  India”.  In  all  these  instances,  leaders  inspired  their  followers  to  use  their   imagination  and  curiosity  to  find  their  own  ways  to  develop  appropriate  response  to  a   broad  framework  laid  out  by  their  leader.     Your  employees  and  trade  partners  will  be  motivated  to  independently  apply  their   imagination  to  creating,  communicating  and  delivering  innovative  ideas  to  the  market  if   they  have  a  clear  sense  of  what  your  company  stands  for.  If  your  stakeholders  perceive   a  sense  of  purpose  in  your  vision  and  relate  to  it,  they  are  more  likely  to  use  their   experience,  relationships,  and  creativity  to  generate  ideas  that  are  guided  by  that   purpose.         Simon  Sinek,  in  his  popular  book,  "Start  with  Why:  How  Great  Leaders  Inspire  Everyone   to  Take  Action,"  says,  “The  goal  [of  a  business]  is  [or  should  be]  not  to  do  business  with   everybody  who  needs  what  you  have.  The  goal  is  to  do  business  with  people  who   believe  what  you  believe."  The  purpose  of  a  company  may  be  clarified  through  a  mission   statement,  a  tagline,  or  an  evolving  conversation  with  stakeholders  about  the   company’s  relevance  in  the  marketplace  and  its  dreams  for  the  future.  A  good  leader,   therefore,  is  one  who  provides  a  sense  of  purpose  to  the  company  through  projection  of   his  or  her  vision  for  the  future.     Inspired  by  the  TED  talk  of  Simon  Sinek  and  challenged  by  the  questions  of  our   employees,  the  partners  of  SonicRim  conducted  rigorous  consultations  last  year  on  why   SonicRim  should  exist  and  what  the  relevance  of  its  services  is.  These  questions  led  us  to   create  a  new  website  that  reflected  our  clearly  defined  sense  of  purpose.  As  a  result  of   this  exercise,  we  find  a  renewed  enthusiasm  among  our  employees  to  write  regular  blog   posts  for  the  site.  This  exercise  also  led  the  partners  of  SonicRim  to  seek  out  new  ways   of  approaching  potential  clients  with  the  message  that  “together  we  can  make  the   world  a  better  place.”  

  Synchronicity   An  organization  that  is  clear  on  purpose  and  keen  on  fostering  a  culture  of  learning   needs  to  implement  programs  and  create  spaces  within  its  premises  that  allow  for   cultivation  of  synchronicity  between  its  employees  and  other  stakeholders.  Informal   socialization  and  participation  in  activities  that  have  meaning  beyond  work  help   generate  a  sense  of  synchronicity  between  people.  For  example  three  years  ago,  we   brought  together  our  employees  and  their  families  to  plant  5000  trees  in  rural  Ohio.   Sweating  in  barren  land  for  hour  to  plant  trees,  helped  inculcate  a  sense  of  connection   to  a  larger  ecological  cause  that  both  the  employees  and  their  families  believe  in.       The  concept  of  synchronicity  was  first  introduced  by  Swiss  psychiatrist  and  founder  of   analytical  psychology  Carl  Gustav  Jung  as  "meaningful  coincidences."    In  his  view,  the   idea  of  synchronicity  refers  to    the  relationship  between  minds  at  abstract  level.  These   relationships  are  a  more  profound  connection  between  people  which,  cultivated  over   time  through  shared  memories,  values  and  purposes,  can  manifest  as  simultaneous   occurrences  that  are  meaningfully  related.  An  event  that  brings  people  together  on  a   platform  that  is  meaningful  to  them  allows  synchronicity  to  grow  between  them.       Empathy     Most  organizations  suffer  from  lack  of  empathy  between  people  who  are  separated  by   distance  or  culture.  Lack  of  empathy  for  people  working  in  unfamiliar  contexts  often   creates  bottlenecks  in  learning.  Organizations  need  to  cultivate  two  types  empathy:   internal  empathy  and  external  empathy.  People  within  an  organization  need  empathy   for  colleagues  (internal  empathy)  to  foster  respect  for  the  diversity  of  perspectives  that   exist  within  the  organization.  And  they  need  empathy  for  your  trade  partners  and  your   customers  (external  empathy)  in  order  to  best  understand  the  cultural  and  psychological   frameworks  that  guide  the  thoughts,  ideas  and  feelings  of  people  from  different  

backgrounds.  Cross-­‐cultural  empathy  can  help  tap  into  the  wisdom  and  insights  of   people  who  have  a  stake  in  the  success  of  your  organization,  and  help  them  come   together  to  drive  innovation  and  bring  imagination  to  life.  Often  seeds  of  breakthrough   innovation  reside  in  the  wisdom,  ideas  and  local  knowledge  of  regional  teams  in  global   companies,  which  gets  lost  due  to  lack  of  empathy  between  corporate  and  regional   teams,  and  between  executives  and  creative  teams.     To  help  cultivate  external  empathy,  organizations  often  conduct  segmentation  studies   and  develop  persona  caricatures  of  their  target  customers  and  trade  partners.  However,   this  exercise  is  not  an  effective  as  a  tool  unless  the  organization—especially  the   leadership  team—  goes  through  an  experiential  learning  process  to  understand  the  lives   of  their  target  audience.  This  is  important  because  empathy  Is  formed  through  direct   immersion  in  shared  experiences,  and  through  genuine  efforts  to  understand  each  other.   Empathy  cannot  be  gained  from  reading  persona  profiles  depicted  in  PowerPoint   presentations  or  by  reading  personas  displayed  in  corporate  corridors.   Organizations  must  also  use  similar  methods  to  develop  archetypal  profiles  of  people   within  their  organization  to  help  employees  develop  empathy  for  each  other.     Mentoring  Networks   Every  organization  has  resource  limitations  on  how  many  people  they  can  employ.  At   the  same  time  rapidly  expanding  social  networks  are  enabling  people  to  learn  from   people  and  sources  outside  the  confines  of  their  organization.  As  a  result,  new  forms  of   mentoring  networks  are  being  formed  on  Twitter  and  Facebook.  Organizations  can   develop  their  human  capital  by  harnessing  the  potential  of  social  networks  in  expanding   people’s  opportunities  for  growth  through  internal  exchanges  and  mentorship  from   people  outside  of  their  organization.       At  SonicRim  we  have  formed  a  new  initiative  called  “Engage”.    The  sole  purpose  of   "Engage"  is  to  bring  together  the  community  of  design  researchers  and  clients  of  design  

research  in  an  open-­‐source  learning  platform.  We  have  established  a  monthly   whiteboard  meeting  where  design  researchers—  even  those  who  compete  with  each   other  during  their  day  jobs—  meet  to  ask  questions,  share  ideas,  and  enjoy  time   together.  Tamara  Christensen  from  Portigal  Consulting,  said  after  a  recent  Whiteboard   session,  that  “[the  Whiteboard  session]  spoke  to  my  head,  touched  my  heart,  and   nurtured  my  soul!”  Her  reflection  best  articulates  the  value  of  efforts  in  building  an   open  source  network  for  learning.       We  are  also  launching  a  SonicRim  Book  Club,  in  which  we  open  up  our  company  blog  to   reviews  from  professionals  in  our  field.  This  platform  will  help  practitioners  in  the  field   consume  the  knowledge  from  a  range  of  resources  while  also  conserving  their  limited   time,  effectively  creating  an  opportunity  for  design  research  professionals  to  enrich   themselves  and  create  new  value  within  the  field.     Sense  of  Self  

Image:  SonicRim  researchers  Chris  (L)  and  Isha  (R)  presenting  their  collage.  

  Finally,  the  most  important  aspect  of  a  resonant  organization  is  the  importance  of  sense   of  self,  and  its  impact  on  an  individual's  work.  At  SonicRim  we  have  learned  that  people   have  greater  sense  of  self-­‐esteem  and  a  positive  self-­‐image  when  their  experience  of   work  is  synchronous  with  their  values  and  aspirations  outside  of  work.    We  have  

developed  a  method  for  helping  employees  reflect  upon  the  alignment  between  their   aspirations  for  life  and  job  through  a  collage  activity.  By  asking  people  to  select  words   and  images  that  represent  their  ideal  life  and  job,  we  help  them  to  examine  their   evolving  aspirations  and  realities,  and  understand  the  symbiotic  relationship  between   their  ideal  job  and  ideal  life  outside  of  work.  The  collage  serves  as  a  framework  for   understanding  one’s  sense  of  self  as  the  conditions  at  work  change,  and  also  helps  the   employer  understand  how  experiences  from  within  and  outside  the  organization  to  can   create  a  sense  of  fulfillment.       During  the  times  of  recession,  when  employees  feel  frustrated  by  lack  of  external   motivation  or  inspiration,  a  resonant  organization  plays  a  greater  role  in  providing   meaning  and  a  sense  of  purpose  for  innovation.  British  macro  economist  John  Maynard   Keynes,  best  summarized  the  current  context  for  building  resonant  organizations:     “The  day  is  not  far  off  when  the  economic  problem  will  take  the  back  seat  where   it  belongs,  and  the  arena  of  the  heart  and  the  head  will  be  occupied  or   reoccupied  by  our  real  problems:  the  problems  of  life  and  of  human  relations,  of   creation  and  behavior  and  religion."  


The  point  is,  we  can  no  longer  afford  to  obsess  about  the  recession  and  simply  wait  for   consumer  confidence  to  return.  Resonant  organizations  will  use  the  period  of  economic   downturn  to  inspire  their  employees  to  focus  on  applying  their  imagination  to  serve   their  customers  in  meaningful  ways.                  

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