Our Backstory

In hindsight, the task I had set out for myself was overly ambitious. Regardless, I felt I had to give something back of great value. And great value often comes at a high price.

My mission was to create a single Integrated Business Framework that would inspire leadership to unambiguously align everyone involved to collectively and consistently deliver customers on a meaningful and distinctive promise by adhering to a process of continuous innovation while remaining within the boundaries of the Rule of Law and the Law of Nature.

Or to add more meaning to my mission:

I have a dream of an organization that fulfills all of its stakeholders with a true sense of purpose by encouraging employees to serve customers in the best possible way while furthering the development of value as long as the company is able to capture an EQuitable amount of that value as profit while preserving that what we all (must) cherish: our relationships, our societies, our environment, and Nature.

It is for others to decide whether or not I’ve succeeded.

Let me explain what got me inspired.

During one of my previous interim management assignments, I asked a marketer if she knew how the product got delivered to a customer. She told me she had no clue. I asked her how she could perform her job if she had ‘no clue’ how or whether her promises were being fulfilled. That wasn’t her responsibility, she responded. I was shocked, but I refused to believe that she was merely indifferent. So I asked her if she had never been curious about it. “Yes, I have,” she told me, “but when I asked about it, they told me I had to mind my own business. So that’s what I’m doing.”

This case wasn’t the proverbial exception to the rule. I’ve had many similar conversations throughout my career. ‘Minding your own business’ appeared to be one of the signs of a disconnected workforce, like a mirror that has broken into countless pieces. I found that functional and mental silos often cause this kind of disassociated behavior. And while it might appear to be ‘just be a cultural phenomenon,’ a study by corporate anthropologist Gillian Tett revealed that these silos not just stifle innovation but can be genuinely detrimental to the future of the business.

Gillian Tett: “SONY, when it started out as a company, had a common sense of purpose. But as it grew big it became successful. And success has a terrible curse. It doesn’t just breath complacency, it ignites territorial behavior.”

Gillian found that these separated teams did not just become self-centered, each one creating its echo-chamber, but as a result, it forced them to become detached from the overall purpose of the business. Some even expressed hostility toward other teams, perceiving them as competitors. The way I see it is that the corporate obsession with performance and productivity, anticipated from the division of labor and specialization, caused organizations to become so fragmented that they lack a collective moral obligation to do no harm ─ there is no harmony.

Specialists are like musicians. They love their instrument and most practice years to play it to perfection. However, you won’t sway an audience by simply assembling a number of musicians, each playing their own favorite piece at the same time. You’ve got to get them to play together and focus collectively on lifting one single piece of music to great heights. The essense of a great performance, therefore, comes from a goal-oriented orchestration of talents to bring forth something that delights others.

What got me to strive for EQuitability (being fair, honest, and just) was a short encounter with a fellow entrepreneur by the name of Bart. We met in a hospital where we both were undergoing treatment. Despite himself being incurable, Bart showed incredible compassion. Although I had every reason to be suspicious of other people, given my personal history, Bart managed to restore my faith in others within minutes. He died three weeks later. The encounter inspired me to want to give back. Not just to those that anonymously donated their blood, allowing me to survive my treatment, but to all those that care to create meaningful and gratifying jobs while declining the company’s environmental footprint; and work jointly toward a more EQuitable society.

Patrick Dixon: “Every product and service is sold on the promise of a better future. The purpose of business is to deliver on that promise, and profit is the reward for doing so.”

My study into the ROUNDMAP™ started in 2014 by reassessing the customer interaction. While Marketing and Sales were still adapting linear funnel-analogies, I found that ─ amplified by the rapid adoption of social media ─ customer interaction was a cyclical process, consisting of four stages. Later on, these four stages appeared to match four types of business models, which led to the creation of the Business Model Matrix™.

Although the ROUNDMAP™ Customer 360 Canvas and the Business Model Matrix™ were already precious finds, I still needed to elaborate on its context. So I decided to study the dynamics of the entire business: from discovering new business ventures to the design of the value chain, from the development of the operation to its strategic direction. And each time, the pattern matched the four stages that I had initially found to be valid for the Customer 360 Canvas. This then led to the Business Roadmap™.

In the end, I was able to capture the essence of business continuity in four lifecycles; the Business Carousel™, the Product Carousel™, the Customer Carousel™, and the Growth Carousel™. In this lineup, the Customer Carousel™ is the Ultimate Level of Truth™, because if the company fails to deliver its value to a sizeable amount of customers and at a profit, there is no justification for its being.

Interestingly, the Growth Carousel™ matches the Success-stage, not the Marketing-stage. Real growth comes from retaining customers, not from creating more one-off customers. Growth isn’t a hack; it’s a slow and cumbersome process. It requires hard work to gather the right feedback to continue to create value that customers appreciate and want to come back for, and thereby lay the foundation for strong and lasting customer relationships.

However, my biggest challenge still had to be faced: How to apply the framework, and who is it for? It took me over a hundred face-to-face meetings to realize that specialists would not be able to escape from the silo syndrome by themselves: they were all trapped in the system. But if siloed systems can’t be overturned from the bottom, how about from the top?

In an attempt to learn if the CEO could be sent in the ‘right’ direction from a governance standpoint, I took a lecture on corporate governance. I found that most of the boards are populated by risk-aversive accountants and lawyers, acting as guardians of the interests of shareholders. Most members lacked any hands-on experience, which most believe is required to get a sense of what the organization is capable of. As such, corporate governance was not a position to help steer the company moving forward. Instead, it perceives the business mostly from the rearview mirror, appraising its past progress rather than to support the CEO in finding future growth opportunities.

As it so happens, my wife is fond of playing Solitaire on her computer. One day she cheered that she had reached a new level of achievement: Grandmaster! I was happy for her. However, I have to admit that I was most thankful that she helped me solve my puzzle.

Because days before, I read a story by Vikram Mansharamani on Forbes in which he challenged the obsession with hiring experts. I agreed with Vikram: companies don’t need more specialists. Instead, they need more integralist and generalists.

The scale of specialists versus generalists has shifted way too much toward specialists. This is harmful, because, as found by Harvard’s Heidi Gartner, the vast majority of innovation and business-development opportunities lie in the interfaces between functions, offices, or organizations (the realm of generalists), rather than within it (the realm of specialists).

Heidi Gartner: “As innovation hinges more and more on interdisciplinary cooperation, digitalization transforms business at a breakneck pace, and globalization increasingly requires people to work across national borders, the demand for executives who can lead projects at interfaces keeps rising.”

So I came up with the idea of a new type of craftsmanship: the Grandmaster of Business™. This executive-level integralist has the responsibility to secure the future of the company while taking into account the interests of all stakeholders. Being able to carry out this task freely and openly across the functions, the lines and staff positions, the divisions, and the stakeholders require both a depth of expertise and a breadth of perspective; it requires a true grandmaster!

Patrick Bet-David paved the way by assuming that ‘in business, the more moves you are ahead of your competitors, the more the odds are in your favor’. In chess an amateur may think ahead 1-3 moves, a grandmaster has the capacity to thinking ahead 11-15 moves.

The best way to perceive the role of Grandmaster of Business™ is that of a forward-thinking senior executive, preferably acting as a co-CEO but without the direct responsibility of the day-to-day operation. He/she needs to have the experience and know-how to help steer the company toward a prosperous future by driving creative projects and selecting the most profitable products to pursue. You may want to give the role a formal title, like a Chief Customer Value Officer (CCVO) or Chief Innovation and Transformation Officer (CITO).

Why not train the CEO, you might ask? Because running the ongoing business, keeping track of the performance metrics, and making sure the company operates at a profit already requires a CEO’s full attention. The near future of the business depends on it. Besides, CEOs typically spend a mere 3% of their time talking to customers, even though customers are the company’s most valuable asset. They’re bound to lose touch with what’s happening in the market. Moreover, 93% of business leaders fail to explain the purpose of their business.

To have a bright new future for your company, beyond the declining revenue streams, the company ─ particularly in today’s complex world ─ needs to evolve at a breakneck pace. I’m convinced that with the help of the ROUNDMAP™ framework and by institutionalizing the role of a Grandmaster of Business™, this bright new future can be well within reach.