- Annual Conference
The first half of Day 2 focused on the very tangible implications of fairly intangible issues. Some questions to ponder:
How will we make sure that our enterprises are mindful of the distinct cultural sensibilities of those with whom we conduct business?
As communicators we must understand that success means "engaging with people in their version of the world," which demands cultural intelligence about the norms and customs of important stakeholders. Rana Nejem of YARNU was joined by Mohamed Al Ayed of TRACCS and Brian Lott of Mubadala, who discussed the art of understanding cultures and applying that knowledge strategically. "It's not communication until it's understood," said Lott, underscoring the need to close the gap between what one thinks they are communicating and the message that is actually being received.
How do we earn and maintain the essential social license to operate from key stakeholders?
As Tom Wilson of Monsanto explained, successfully earning the social license to operate demands that the enterprise first understand what "the problem" is – what it is that can be problematic for stakeholders – as well as what motivates their perceptions about that problem and how to engage those whose minds can be changed about it. Whether addressing clean water, as discussed by Kari Bjorhus of Ecolab, or fracking, an issue on which Gloria Dittus of Story Partners has been engaged, CCOs need to focus on overcoming misinformation by constantly educating stakeholders, engaging with them to understand their interests, and earning their trust.
How and why should enterprises take action on an issue like income inequality?
Income inequality drives social inequality, said Peter Georgescu of Young & Rubicam, and its consequence is that the majority of Americans lack proper education and healthcare, reducing the opportunities that they have to contribute to the success of our enterprises. Many may regard the issue as one that is solely the domain of government. But in fact enterprises have a strategic interest on this matter, not least because they are increasingly starved for properly skilled professionals. Our enterprises need to think differently about closing the income gap, improving education, fostering innovation, and pursue partnerships with government to accomplish those goals.
As Sheryl Battles of Pitney Bowes pointed out at the Annual Business Meeting, diversity is an issue that cuts across all of these questions. Practicing cultural fluency and sensitivity. Engaging diverse sets of stakeholders to earn the social license to operate. Closing the income gap and providing more opportunities for advancement by disadvantaged groups. These are strategic imperatives.
Where diversity is about the composition of our teams, inclusion is about what we do to facilitate their growth and participation. Page's Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) efforts, co-led by members Sheryl Battles and Ellen East of Time Warner Cable, are focused driving diversity and inclusion in Page programs and membership, and more broadly in advancing D&I in the profession by leveraging the strength of the membership. The table discussions at the Business Meeting further offered an opportunity to engage members on this in a focused format on this topic, and Page will continue to make it a priority. The future of our enterprises' ability to compete globally, and to engage locally, depends on our improving diversity in our profession.
Navi Radjou extolls the virtues of "frugal innovation" – the ability of companies to uncover ingenious ideas for how to do more with less. Where resources are limited, innovators are finding success by "using what is abundant to create what is scarce." In the U.S. we may ask: what if we had a fridge that reminds us to buy milk when we're out? In India, where electricity is scarce, a potter asked a more pressing question: what if there was a fridge that required no electricity? Asking these big "what-if" questions produces innovation that creates powerful opportunities for individuals and companies alike.
Consumers are not only more value-conscious – more discerning about what they spend their limited dollars on – but also more values conscious, willing to spend more of those dollars with companies that are pursuing a more noble "social purpose." Ever heard of jeans made of garbage? Levi Strauss is has 'em, and they exemplify the "circular economy" where companies find new ways to re-use materials to create new products. Finding the nexus between social value and consumer value is the future of the successful enterprise.
There is simply no such thing as a completely secure system. If you build it, someone will find a way to break it, so there is considerable enterprise risk associated with safeguarding key data systems. Andrew Hoog of NowSecure tested over half a million mobile apps and found that nearly half have holes that can leak sensitive personal data. We're basically carrying around insecure surveillance systems in our pockets.
Outside hackers seek to exploit system vulnerabilities, but technology isn't always the weak link in the chain; sometimes it's people who introduce security challenges. A panel moderated by Bob Pearson of W20 Group discussed the need of the CCO to be the internal advocate for being proactive in not just securing systems but planning for the response that must occur when systems are compromised. As Paul Bergevin of IBM explained, by preparing a coordinated a response and communicating transparently through these crises, the CCO is instrumental in restoring the trust and confidence in the business
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