From Core Business to Care Business: the secret to making strategy alive

A few months ago, tears started to flow from my eyes

A few months ago, tears started to flow from my eyes while I was watching "color for the colorblind", a short documentary which allows to "See what happens when colorblind people see color for the first time ever". How? By putting on glasses designed for them and which enable them, for the first time in their lives, to move from a "flat" world to experiencing a full color one. Wonderful and so moving!

What interested me is that these glasses where developed by a Paint Company, Valspar, in partnership with EnChroma, an expert company in high performance glasses.

My question was: WHY would a paint company be interested in developing glasses? How did they think about that? I can hear the little voice in your head and the comment we so often hear from people: it is not their core business!

Maybe not. But it is their Purpose to create colors. So, when the people managing the VALSPAR Paint Company in Minnesota (USA) discovered that 300.000.000 people in the world were colorblind, they decided to do something about it.

They partnered with EnChroma to bring color to everyone.

That's what a Purpose can be: a meaningful orientation for Value-creation. Instead of remaining prisoner of a definition of a core Business - manufacturing and selling paint - Valspar moved into the bigger space of a meaningful purpose: help people get more pleasure out of their Life by making it colorful.

They moved from CORE to CARE Business.

They teamed with experts in Physiology, Vision, glasses manufacturers and finally came up with those glass windows conceived in such a way that they would solve the problem in an affordable way.

Since then, people working for Valspar know why they get up in the morning and are proud to go to work. They enjoy Corporate Pride!

Their "care" business is closely related to their core Business. Yet with an additional dimension of "doing good to people".

Even if they only reached 10% of the population concerned, this means they already would change the life of 30.000.000 people overnight!

Please, take a look at this video.

From being the best in the world to being "the best for the world"

What this story illustrates is precious for us.

  1. Core Business does not equal Value creation: in our professional practice, we keep on meeting with (and challenging them) leaders and managers who remain much too focused on WHAT they manufacture and sell rather than on the Life-enhancing VALUE they create. In other words, they are inwardly focused on their incomes rather than on their outcomes.
  2. The concept of Core Business may lead to corporate blindness: as a result, many of those Businesses are blind to the enormous opportunity space related to the possible positive impact they can make by creating goods and services that improve ordinary people's lives. In an excellent Harvard Business review article in April 2017 which was titled "Meaningful work should not be a privilege of the Elite", two authors stated "Prosperity in a society is the accumulation of solutions to human problems."
  3. The Purpose is a not a vague Slogan or a philosophical motto disconnected from Business; it is a deep commitment, a Big "yes" to the meaningful contribution an organization wants to make in people's lives. It is a conscious orientation to Value Creation. And it really leads to strategy as a "meaning-making" story of an unfolding Future
  4. Purpose gives much more than "meaning" to a company. Companies with a Purpose not only "mean something" for their customers, their stakeholders and their employee; they also enlarge their opportunity space, their Innovation space, and most of the time, their profit space. They move from focusing on income to focusing on Outcomes, i.e. Purposeful Innovation and meaningful Value Creation for all stakeholders. They want to be the best "For the world".

More than ever, Companies can be a fantastic leverage of Value Creation as soon as they shift their attention.

Metaphorically, they can move from focusing on the Thermometer to collaborating on reducing the temperature.

This is the Purpose imperative

Smart organizations are fully aligned with the 4P Bottom line. They made Purpose their Bottom line. And their Bottom Line is healthier than ever. And yet, we still can see so many doubts, resistance, blindness, fears, greed, costing much to Society and to the organization in terms of missed opportunities and of declining motivation from people looking for meaningful jobs.

A Purpose is not a simple statement - or a bullshit slogan - to pin on a wall: it is a deep commitment to place at the core of your Business!

This big Yes to Meaningful value creation can make you shift from Core Business to Care Business!

The secret to making strategy alive: use the three leverages of Shapership for a transformative impact

Dr. Govindappa Venkataswamy - known as Dr. V- made a career performing Eye-Care surgery at the Government Medical College in Madurai (South India).

At age 55, plagued with advanced arthritis, he is forced to retire.

1. Creative Resistance: the big "NO"

Dr. V faces a horrific Reality: in India, twelve million people are blind and, as the Indian saying goes, "A blind person is a mouth with no hands." Being blind in India is therefore a fatal disease. Under those conditions, a person is estimated to have 2 to 3 years to survive. Yet, 80% of this blindness is "useless". Understand: it could be avoided thanks to appropriate prevention and care. Dr. V decides to put an end to this unacceptable situation.

2. Transformative Vision: the big "YES"

Dr. V gives himself and his life a gigantic purpose, formulated in very simple terms: "Eliminate Needless Blindness among India's Poors". An aspiration which does not scare him, inspired largely by Gandhi's life and work, as well as by Sri Aurobindo's spiritual path. With such a purpose, there is no point in being locked in any "Business limits" such as "selling glasses" or "operating People".

3. Anticipative Experimentation. An Ecosystem strategy against Needless Blindness

In 1976, driven by his higher purpose, Dr. V- whom we call in our book Shaper of an Eye-Care System with a Vision - founds the Aravind Eye-Care Hospital.

At that time, all he has are 11 beds, a shared aspiration which creates cohesion and a clear efficiency standard: surprisingly to all, he considers McDonald as a source of inspiration on the efficiency side. If McDonald can deliver the same hamburger all over the world, it must also be possible to train people and deliver high quality eye surgery to all those who need it all over the world.

Aravind Hospital has since grown into the world's largest provider of eye-care: "Aravind Eye-Care System", which is a model of efficiency, admired all over the world. It is not only a health success but also a financial success. Of course, embodying their purpose required first to focus on the outcome: provide high quality eye-care services at low price. It also required an "out-of-the-core-business" approach: training women in rural India for eye diagnosis, educating non-physicians to gather diagnostic data and counsel patients, creating telemedicine centers, creating a transportation service to bring people to the hospital, setting a glasses factory, etc.

Today, the Aravind system manages some 2.5 million outpatient visits and 300,000 eye surgeries a year. (It has been calculated that Aravind does 60 percent as many eye surgeries as the United Kingdom's National Health System per year, at one-hundredth of the cost). The majority of Aravind patients (55%) pays only a symbolic amount, or nothing at all. Aravind system makes enough on paid surgeries not only to cover the 55 % of patients who cannot pay the market rates, but also to generate a nearly 40 % gross operating margin.

But what really drives efficiency at Aravind is commitment to a higher purpose - eliminating avoidable blindness. Such efficiency has allowed millions of the world's poorest citizens to have their sight restored.

This is one example of Shapership, The Art of Shaping the Future, applied to "Businesses".

It is a good moment to consider that Businesses are indeed transformative leverages to build a better world. As long as they reinvent the way they think about what it means to be successful, useful, and human in a completely new paradigm.