We are honored to have Kate Billing of Blacksmith Ltd. as the first of many contributions to The Leadership Advisor blog. Kate is a great addition to our ever growing network of professionals who carry the heart of improving society by improving business. Blacksmith Ltd. is a New Zealand based Culture Agency that empowers business leaders and people managers to engage hearts and minds, unlocking the creative and performance power of their people.


No doubt about it.  Things have changed in the past few years.  But … aren’t they always changing?  What’s so different about this time?  The GFC, never ending natural disasters, the ubiquity of the internet and the rise of citizen journalism have definitely upped the ante; increasing global/local awareness and accelerating the pace of change, around the globe and in almost every dimension of our work and lives.

We believe human beings are inherently ‘purpose-seeking missiles’.  We want to believe that our life has some higher meaning and today, in the wake of the past few years, more and more of us are looking at how our work helps us achieve that, as an individual and a community.  After all, there is no single thing we spend more of our waking hours doing than being at work so why shouldn’t it be a rich, rewarding and enjoyable time; one where we get to feel good and DO good?  Not just trade our time for money to pay to ‘have a life’ in the few hours remaining between waking and sleeping.

We see evidence from consumer research such as the Edelman Good Purpose Study that tells us what drives consumers is changing, for example:

  • 86% of global consumers believe that business needs to place at least equal weight on society’s interests as on business’ interest
  • 42% rank social purpose as the #1 for global consumers above design, innovation and brand loyalty
  • 62% would help a brand promote their products or services if there is a cause behind them (up 9% on 2008)
  • 63% want brands to make it easier for them to make a positive difference

Consumers want to work together with brands to solve social issues and to understand how their purchase of goods and services makes a positive difference to others, not just to them.  “What’s in it for me?” is becoming ‘What’s in if for we?” (I know, I know, I know … bad English but you get the point).  Y&R’s Brand Asset Valuator study showed massive lifts in the $$ and brand value of attributes such as kindness and empathy;www.trendwatching.com has talked about the appearance of Generation G; and sites like www.brandkarma.com are giving consumers a new framework by which to assess, discuss and recommend brands (check out more in our blog on Conscious Consumers).

Combine all of this with growth in awareness of the practices of conscious capitalism; increasing levels of participation in social enterprise/entrepreneurship; crowd sourced giving programs like www.causes.com; and the increasing importance of emotionally powered ‘employee engagement key drivers’ such as:

  • confidence in leadership
  • a common sense of purpose
  • believing in what the organisation is trying to accomplish
  • a sense of belonging; and
  • a personal sense of achievement (JRA 2010 survey results)

… and you have a ‘perfect storm’ for organisational culture change.

Out of this ‘storm’ is emerging our future – Company Culture 3.0: the conscious connected workplace.  Its early days.  We are at the very beginning of the ‘diffusion of innovation curve’ on this one – innovator and early adopter days – but we believe that the companies that get on with this evolution of themselves will be the ones to survive, thrive and lead the way in our new conscious and connected world.  This is being borne out in the results our clients are having in their journey, approach to workplace culture of the world’s leading employers, and in the conversations we’re having with business leaders, thought leaders and change makers all over the world.  Its pretty bl**dy exciting to say the least!

So what do these conscious connected businesses look like?  In our experience, those that are ‘getting with the program’ share a multitude of similarities, the 12 most significant ones being:

The 12 Elements of the New Conscious Connected Workplace

  1. Purpose led with strong, authentic values – from governance to front line
  2. Inspirational ‘Master as Servant’ leadership
  3. Sustainable – economic, environmental and social
  4. Giving is a core part of business practice
  5. Multicultural, trans-generational world view
  6. Connected and transparent, using social business tools inside and out
  7. Flexible work practices – where, when, how and with whom you work
  8. Collaborative and inclusive – intra and inter business
  9. Physical workspace design that facilitates culture and brand
  10. Agility and continuous improvement part of organisational DNA
  11. Being of service is everyone’s job; and
  12. Deep sense of personal responsibility and ownership.

How does your organisation stack up?  Can you see how moving toward this model could increase engagement, retention and performance, along with your competitive position for talent and customers?