If you have any role in Stakeholder Relations (in some companies this is called “PR” and/or “Investor Relations” and/or “HR”), i can recommend reading Chip Conley’s book “Peak: How Great Companies Get Their Mojo from Maslow”
Conley, the CEO and founder of Joie de Vivre Hospitality, turned to psychologist Abraham Maslow’s iconic Hierarchy of Needs. This book explores how Conley’s company "the second largest boutique hotelier in the world" overcame the storm that hit the travel industry by applying Maslow’s theory to what Conley identifies as the key Relationship Truths in business with Employees, Customers and Investors.
To be honest, the essence of the book is in the first chapter. The other chapters are endless variations and illustrations of the same with rather simplistic, naive, and even romantic examples.
For those not-familiar with the work of Abraham Maslow:
Maslow studied mentally healthy individuals instead of people with serious psychological issues. This enabled him to discover that people experience “peak experiences,”high points in life, when the individual is harmony with himself and his surroundings. A visual aid Maslow created to explain his theory, which he called the Hierarchy of Needs, is a pyramid depicting the levels of human needs, psychological and physical. When a human being ascends the steps of the pyramid he reaches self actualization.
Maslow for dummies is summarized in the table below (all tables below come from Chip Conley’s “Peak” book).
In his book “Peak”, Chip Conley applies this hierarchy of needs to the three main groups of Stakeholders for any company:
Conley may be over-simplifying, as he reduces Maslow’s five layers to three.
But in the end, i found this an interesting way to assess and improves a company’s stakeholder relations.
1. Employee pyramid
Chris Conley basically says that most companies offer a salary and perks in compensation for the employee’s time. Fewer companies succeed in giving true recognition to their staff, and only a very few know that their company should shape the conditions for the employee to find meaning in his work.
2. Customer pyramid
The same principles apply to the customer pyramid. At the top, the customer is truly delighted. Not because you got a “”license to operate” (btw the minimum level pursued in the Lean “Kano” model, but because you address unrecognized needs. You will NOT identify those unrecognized needs through customer surveys, consultations or market research. And the risk exists - if your organization has been “leaned” to offer in a scalable way the “license to kill” satisfaction – that you won’t have any resources left to try to “create evangelism” by your customers.
3. Investor Pyramid
When we look at the relation with the investors, most companies are transaction oriented in their Shareholder’s Relations: when they assess the relation, they ask whether the Board member gets regular and sufficient information or whether the dining and site-seeing arrangements are to everybody’s satisfaction. However, the ultimate nirvana in Investor relations is that your investors are PROUD of being your investor. This is much more than “being treated well”. It’s much more that just being a happy shareholder, or somebody who would recommend doing business with you.
Reaching the top-levels for each of the three categories of stakeholders is already an unreachable dream for many organizations.
However, shareholder relations should aim for an even higher goal.
Anybody who has been reading Maslow, should be familiar with Richard Barrett. Chip Conley missed that opportunity. One of the best books to get familiar with the thinking of Barrett, i can recommend “Building a Values-Driven Organization: A Whole System Approach to Cultural Transformation”.
In essence Barrett is saying that Maslow levels focus on our personal self-interest – meeting the needs of the ego.
Beyond Maslow’s level-5 (transformation/self-actualization), Barrettt sees 3 higher levels:
- Level-6: Internal Cohesion: this is about finding personal meaning in existence
- Level-7: Making a Difference: about making a positive difference in the world
- Level-8: Service: leading a life of self-less service
Barrett’s levels beyond transformation are about being ego-less, at the service of others.
The fears of the ego lead us to believe that we do not have enough of what we need. Consequently, we are never fully happy because we do not have enough money, we do not have enough love, and we do not have enough respect.
In this situation, we lead a dependency-based existence.
What if we would apply these upper-levels from Barrett to our Stakeholders Relations ambitions ?
- Do you have the courage to assess your stakeholder relations based on the Maslow of the Barrett models ?
- What would you change in your shareholder relations if you would just aim for one higher level then where you are today ?
It’s becoming a trend/pattern: today’s business is not anymore about transactional and technical readiness.
The more important under stream is to develop and execute a solid stakeholders architecture. It’s about an openness and transparency. Often Social Media tools are used to support such strategy and ambition. But they are just tools. They are worthless and only become “tricks for the quick fix” in the absence of a genuine stakeholders architecture.
Execution on this is what you could call innovation in stakeholder relations
In the end, our new-game economy is about doing good, giving meaning, and realizing your relationships.
In the end, its all a matter of
The level of ambition will define how innovative your company wants to be.
No ambitions leads to no innovation or incremental improvements at best.
Ambition will force you to look into other corners, will let you discover how you truly can redefine your marketplace and change the game.
Ambition will lead to radical innovation: in your products, services, and in your stakeholder relations.
So, what’s your ambition ?