Monday, March 1, 2010

Future Salon - Activating Corporate Consciousness

I attended my first Future Salon on Thursday night.  Future Salon is a monthly event in Palo Alto that sparks our imagination about what could be.  As we gathered around the refreshments during networking hour, we pondered the future of corporations, and what could happen if corporations gained a conscience.  That was the topic of the night: Activating Conscience in Corporations

The concept is not new, in fact, many professionals have struggled with the dichotomy between personal values and work demands.  The bottom line only, winner take all type business model seem less and less appealing for many who are seeking an alternative form of career satisfaction.  How would a corporation behave if it were person with values?  How do we embody these values into the DNA and culture of the corporation?

To prepare us for this discussion, host Mark Finnern asked the audience to submit their top 3 values prior to the Future Salon.  Mark then took the values and created a word map.  Integrity, Honesty, Freedom, Respect and Kindness were the top 5 values that the audience-collective submitted prior to the Future Salon.  As an exercise, we used those five collective values to create a values roadmap for an imaginary FutureSalon Inc.  As guest speaker John Montgomery guided the audience through the values roadmap process, I find myself thinking, it's nice to have value statements, but everyone has encountered "Core Values" framed on the wall, how do culturally successful companies make them a reality?

It all starts with the founder and the leadership team.  Culture successes like Southwest and Zappos are all out on a mission, a mission driven by their founder.  The founder's every movement oozes with values and the followers embrace those values as their own.  "In order for culture to work, you need to hold each other accountable, tops down and bottoms up."  said John Montgomery, who has worked with hundreds of start-ups in the bay area.  He tells three stories about start ups whose founders have died in accidents, and how the cultures of those companies was stimulated and rallied around each death.  "I'm not saying the founder needs to die," joked Montgomery.  But the shared experience of death really bonded the team and cemented the culture.   The point is that well established and understood values along with strong, shared personal connections are the foundations for a strong and thriving value based culture.


About Future Salons:
Future Salons starts with networking from 6-7pm, with light refreshments proudly sponsored by SAP; then the presentation and discussion follows at 7-9+pm.

Location: SAP Labs North America, Building D, COIL (Co-Innovation Lab). SAP is located at 3410 Hillview Avenue, Palo Alto, CA 94304.  Free and open to the public. Please spread the word and invite others, but be sure to RSVP http://bit.ly/9kPpRt so we know how many people to expect.