As originally published in Forbes, by Pontish Yeramyan, Founder and CEO, Gap International.
For those of you looking to create and grow a successful21st Century Organization in the face of modern market pressures and uncertainties, the important question continues to be: What do you focus on now to be competitive and leading-edge? The following six pillars provide a useful framework to think about this question.
1. Relentless Innovation
Product innovation alone will create insufficient competitive advantage. Rather than relying solely on innovation departments to improve product cycles, companies should think in terms of Relentless Innovation—this means embracing innovative thinking in all areas of the business, including supply chain, talent development, sales process, strategic planning and customer engagement.
Relentless Innovation requires a new mindset—one that liberates everyone in the organization to become innovators and create differentiation, regardless of position or function.
2. Being Purposeful
It’s not enough for the 21st Century Organization simply to have a clear direction—people must be able to throw their entire selves into the game to be successful, with full engagement of heart and mind. We have found that when leaders leverage Purpose, it creates a competitive advantage that’s difficult or even impossible to replicate. Purpose creates the ability for people to care about something much bigger than their personal concerns and fully apply their talent to meaningful endeavors.
Purpose gives people a far more expansive space to create and grow, where creative, purpose-based thinking replaces crisis-based, firefighting thinking. An organization of people who have connected themselves to something bigger can thrive rather than simply survive—they can move fast together and nimbly adjust strategies and tactics to succeed.
3. 21st Century Leader
Uncertainty and accelerating competition has shaped the need for a new kind of leader. The hierarchical, command-and-control boss who directs an organization’s activities from a point of authority will no longer be acceptable.
21st Century Leaders regularly take bold stands and deliver extraordinary results, bringing everyone around them to a higher level of performance. They focus on connecting people to purpose and aligning multiple groups from every direction. They are authentic and open. Leaders like this bring out the best performance, creativity and expression in everyone.
4. Passion for Growth
It’s important for organizations to stretch into uncharted territories and bring a willingness to take on even the most hopeless challenges. Companies must cultivate a Passion for Growth, where growing and breaking through limits becomes just as essential as growing the top and bottom line.
Having a Passion for Growth opens the eyes of the organization to a vibrant view of the marketplace—seeing realities that need to be dismantled and re-created in order to compete. Leaders and organizations with Passion for Growth seek out opportunity everywhere, applying creativity and curiosity to all aspects of the business.
5. Customer Oneness
Historically, the customer framework has mostly focused on customer service, fulfillment or even obsession, where the company takes care of determining and fulfilling customer needs in the best way possible. An entirely new mindset about customer relationships is necessary for the 21st Century Organization—that of being one with the customer—a new paradigm for customer partnerships.
Being the customer gives an organization a precise perspective, one that is needed to create amazing products and services over and over. When an organization thinks and operates as its customer, the future is shaped as the customer, not just for the customer. Customers become drawn to and will stand for the success of organizations that operate with Customer Oneness.
Why wouldn’t you absolutely support an organization whose people think from your perspective and are so keenly in tune with your wants and needs?
6. Breakthrough Performance Environment
Successful 21st Century Organizations can reformulate their work environments into Breakthrough Performance Environments—environments which flex to support the rapid movement, speedy decision-making and alignment required to outperform competitors and regularly achieve extraordinary outcomes. Once leaders create alignment among leaders and teams, they can successfully navigate ambiguity at all levels and pursue the biggest possibilities for the organization.
The normal organizational approach focuses on generating outputs, such as profit and productivity, from the environment. The intention to create a Breakthrough Performance Environment expands the mindset to focus on very specific inputs for the environment that result in extraordinary outputs.
Where do we go from here?
Incorporating the mindset of all Six Pillars gives leaders access to generating extraordinary performance in a changing world. Even the most daunting of circumstances give us all the opportunity to grow and perform at higher levels, and these pillars outline a pathway for approaching such challenges and building an amazing edge to compete and succeed in the marketplace. It all starts with a leader taking a stand for an extraordinary organization, a choice that any leader can make.