Jamie Notter and Maddie Grant
Jamie Notter and Maddie Grant

A people-centric approach in marketing and business is nothing less than a must. Do you have it in you to act according to social business principles? Then you might want to take a look at the pillars on which the social organization should be built.

In their book “Humanize”, authors Maddie Grant and Jamie Notter, a speaker at the Fusion Marketing Experience, state that these pillars are being “open”, “trustworthy”, “generative” and “courageous”. They are not buzzwords, as you will discover in the example in this post and by watching Maddie’s Prezi at the bottom of this post.

Jamie Notter and co-author Maddie Grant, did a great job carefully defining the – according to them – four basic principles and explaining them without getting caught up in hype. Jamie’s roots are not in social media (in which Maddie Grant is particularly active), but in management.

For each of the four pillars, the authors of Humanize look at, among others, corporate culture, processes and structures as well as individual behavior, irrespective of a person’s place within the company.

From a social business perspective several of the terms in the pillars culture, process and behavior are known by practitioners:

  • Decentralization.
  • Inclusion.
  • Systems thinking.
  • Collaboration.
  • Relationship building.
  • Etc.

Yet it’s in the human dimension that the underlying principles of social business and the social organization shine through from a (change) management and human business driving perspective are taken far beyond the vague terms they may seem at first sight.

The Four Pillars of the Social Organization by Jamie Notter and Maddie Grant
The Four Pillars of the Social Organization by Jamie Notter and Maddie Grant

Trust and transparency: the example of Whole Foods

Let’s take “trustworthiness” as an example. Everyone agrees that trust is a crucial issue for companies today. However, as we know, trust has taken a turn for the worse in recent years, among consumers as well. So what does trust really mean within, for example, your corporate culture?

An essential aspect is to embrace transparency within the culture of trustworthiness. It may sound a bit woolly but isn’t. For example, consider the information that you don’t share today – but possibly could share – in order to create a strong relationship of trust with your customers and other stakeholders. And then think about whom you can share the information with and why. In brief: it’s not about transparency as a sort of “new age” concept, but about strategic transparency.

Here is a good example that might surprise and even provoke you, as I watched Jamie explaining it recently: sharing information about salaries. Imagine that within your company, you share information about how much people in teams earn. Crazy, isn’t it? However, a company such as Whole Foods in the US does it with success.

And the reason for it is simple: this transparency enables employees to see how the company links remuneration to performance. Hang on; doesn’t that lead to a screwed-up culture focused only on results? Well, it depends on how you approach it. Whole Foods works with an overview of the remunerations of its teams and other teams contact the highest achieving teams to find out how they can make improvements themselves. The result is a culture in which the delivery of quality is central and in which there is involvement. The result of this is more profit and isn’t that what business is about and why people are recruited in the first place? Think about it.

You could also look at the same topic – remuneration – from the perspective of “external transparency”. The commotion that is often created about the ‘secret’ (what is secret nowadays?) bonuses and salaries of senior managers in failing companies is bound to ring a few bells… Could sharing them contribute to the reputation of the brand, for instance?

What can you share and why?

Is it necessary to work like Whole Foods? Of course not. There is no requirement to share salary information. However, it is something that worked for that specific company.

Notter’s message in terms of transparency, based on this example, is: think about what information you don’t share today and that, if you were to share it, leads to efficiency, profit and satisfaction. Such exercises demand discipline, teamwork and a people-centric strategy.