“The Ideal Factor” – a shared intent by everyone in the business to improve people’s lives – keeps renewing and strengthening great businesses through good times and bad.
– Jim Stengel, Grow: How Ideals Power Growth and Profit at the World’s Greatest Companies, 2011
Do you have an Ideal Factor in your business? According to Stengel, if you do, the results will be somewhere in the neighborhood of 300-400% over competitors who don’t. His book, “Grow” is a good read and has a lot of good points in it and I think it aligns closely with what I consider the value of “declaring an intentional culture that is aligned with one’s personal and professional values.”
The difference in his “Ideal Factor” is that if you do something that improves people’s lives, that shared vision will lead people to coalesce around the vision and, therefore, create better returns for the company. Obviously that is one reason to do it, but I think the larger and more compelling reason is that it’s why people want to work at companies. People have a need to make a difference and the more accurately you can tell your company’s story as it relates to improving people’s lives, the more compelling your company will be to work for.
However, before you can have an “Ideal Factor,” I think you must be clear on your values. The ideal needs to sit on top of that foundation and without it, may not hold much substance. It’s great for everyone to agree that they believe in the “ideal,” but what shared values are holding that ideal up? For example, values such as trust, opportunity, and caring can mean different things depending upon the “ideal” the organization is aiming for and without matching the two – the ideal and the values — you will have different interpretations.
Without understanding the values that support an ideal, it’s also hard to hire those who are aligned with where you are going. As Simon Sinek says, values drive beliefs, beliefs drive behavior, behavior drives results and results drive performance. The ideal or “mission” is what we’re trying to accomplish, but “why” we’re doing should be shared values. Clarity around those values will support the Ideal Factor through good times and in bad.
Stengel’s research and argument are compelling and I think it would be a mistake to ignore the results of the companies studied. I would just take it one step further and identify those values that bind the team together to achieve the ideal factor. It’s what the current and future workforce is looking for – the opportunity to contribute to an organization and feel that they are doing meaningful work.