Bridge #Living Brand Project
Dale Smith, Creative Director, Bridge
As Bridge’s Creative Director and a behaviouralist, in this series of articles I am on a quest to discover the magic formula that allows humans and brands to coexist to create an amazing company culture. In this ever-changing environment, I endeavour to find commonality that will translate into a strategy of ‘must-haves’ and a list of ‘must-dos’ that will ensure a seamless transformation of your Living Brands. My aim is to study the human element and the constants in organisational change. So, for 30 days, I drastically altered my diet and introduced a new exercise regime to track daily what it felt like to be immersed in a transformation as part of the ‘Living Brand Project’.
“Companies are driven by humans, so therefore they behave like humans.”
Having worked on several major transformation projects across a range of sectors, from hospitals to five star hotels, I became fascinated by the parallels between an individual’s journey and that of a business. I began to see similarities – no matter what the organisation or sector. The starting point of these projects varied massively; however, once the transformation process began, the people involved followed common patterns of behaviour. To further explore my hunch about a link between business and human behaviour, I began to delve deeper into the trends in engagement and how these impacted on shifts in the culture mindset.
To me, the ‘Living Brand Project’ is an umbrella that allows us to delve into the human element with an open mind and without limitations. Looking at organisational change through the lens of a personal transformation, the premise of the project is that companies behave like humans because they are driven by humans. One could argue that we are always changing, so a state of flux is the only real constant. Bridge’s first real-life, people-based social experiment, started in April 2017 and ran throughout the summer. On a mission to find parallels between one person’s journey and that of a business, my aim was to find commonality by overlaying my experiences with that of an organisation going through a clear and detailed change programme.
Companies and brands exist in both a virtual state and in a living state. The success of an organisation is dependent on these two states having a matching projected personality. For years, the team at Bridge has been using the term ‘Living Brands’ as representative of all employees of a business. It was in the early years that we began to look at the intrinsic link between brand values and customer promise, and how best to link these to an employee’s commitment and service delivery. This is still the case, and terms such as ‘employee engagement’ and ‘customer experience’ have become part of the vernacular for HR in most companies. Now is the time to look beyond, to the future of the human element in business transformation. What really drives the emotions that make up a company’s DNA?
The parallels between an individual’s life experience and that of the collective in a company are everywhere. The first 30-day challenge was a real-time experiment, and with hindsight I admit that it could have done with some more detailed planning – but hey: this is real life and real business. As every great leader knows all too well, it is easy for people to sit on the sidelines and judge without getting their hands dirty. Two of my favorite films are Indiana Jones and The Matrix. As a leader, some days I feel like I am living both of these films simultaneously: with the creative adventure of one, and the complexity of the other. I believe that with the collaborative efforts of great business minds we can conquer this challenge together. It is time that we put a little more grit and risk back in business and try new ways of exploring employee engagement. To truly understand any environment, we must first immerse ourselves in it, experience it first hand and then reflect on all the emotions and behaviours that drove the outcome. I also not-so-secretly love a good film set in an American High School. We might have swapped the school cafeteria for a boardroom, but there are many parallels to be drawn between company culture and films like Mean Girls – we have replaced cliques with departmental silos and bullying with a positional management style.
As part of the ‘Living Brand Project’, the Bridge Team will reach out to business minds at all levels of an organisation – from shop floor to the boardroom – to assist with more real-time challenges and to develop practical people solutions. Too often as companies, we promote our values as a testament to what makes our company or culture stand out. I like to think of the Bridge values as something that we all share. Values that will not only drive this project, but should be the foundations for all people who participate. In my mind: Pushing Creative Boundaries, Sharing Knowledge Openly, Inspiring Collaborative Energy, Celebrating Uniqueness Aways and Keeping it Real and Fun are the foundation stones for all business. As the ‘Living Brand Project’ unfolds and explores other parallels, we will be reaching out to many individuals to see how these and other values drive their success.
Each day of the 30-day ‘Human Element’ experiment brought new challenges and opportunities to better understand how a company can feel as it moves through an engagement programme. This next phase will break into four parts; exploring the parallels found between a week in the experiment and a quarter in an organisational culture transformation. Change does not happen overnight, and by identifying the human face of change we can better understand how to create change programmes that not only motivate our people, but also offer long term, sustainable solutions. The magic formula starts with identifying the key trends that can offer positive change and the pitfalls that can move us off track from our desired outcomes. The human element is being able to correlate every day human behaviours with that of the company collective.