People succeed together because they share a unified sense of purpose and a common vision for what they need to do. This unified sense of purpose comes from core beliefs.
Core beliefs help a team to create together because they share a common worldview that helps people filter their observations, establish values, and hold certain things in similar high esteem. Such a worldview also acts as a guiding beacon, orienting people regarding who they are and what they can do together.
To achieve a high level of teamwork, an organization must hold a set of core beliefs that are central to how strategy is created and carried out. These core beliefs are the common thread that weaves together the framework and rules of engagement that enable people to collaborate in such a way that they can create powerful strategies together.
Great organizations all have a set of core beliefs. Look at IBM under Thomas J. Watson, Jr. In a 1961 progress report to employees, Watson said, "I feel strongly that there are some priceless ingredients in this business which we will never change—things such as our concern for the individual, our sense of fair play and our belief in services. For our fine reputation as a company is based on nothing more and nothing less than respect for the individual, integrity and personal values of our people. You are, in fact, the IBM company."
Here are four core beliefs critical to strategy and the social contract.
Belief #1: Creating value is more important than anything else
Information is becoming more and more commoditized. As this happens, what matters most is not knowledge or information—those are now available 24/7 via the Internet. What counts now is how we can debate, challenge, and consider ideas to create something new as a team—that's why we have such growth in popularity of social media sites.
A recent study my company did found that comments and posts on Web community sites now carry more weight than manufacturer information, articles, PR, and advertising.
The skills that create value and generate creative collaboration are what help companies make revenue and meet their goals. The main thing is that the best idea wins—regardless of its source.
Belief #2: Getting it right doesn't always happen, but learning can
Acknowledge and appreciate that the organization can't always get it right. The company that fosters a culture in which everyone is a perpetual "student of the game" encourages people to be continuous learners. Healthy organizations keep aiming for their directional horizon, making adjustments as needed.
It's crucial to understand that errors will occur. Built into the culture of successful companies is the understanding that people can say, "Whoa, that didn't work." And then move on.
The concept is that progress never stops because a mistake is made. The team concedes a mistake quickly—and keeps moving.
Belief #3: Together we can create something new
Successful organizations know that their people can create something new together. The people enjoy exploring ideas and weighing and judging the merits of multiple options. Everyone at every level is curious. People like "turning over rocks" just to see what is underneath and determine its relevance to solving the problem under discussion.
There is a sense that looking to the new, the unusual, or maybe even something entirely unrelated can be the flashpoint for the invention of something new. People on teams in this type of company are always seeking new ways of looking at a situation more fully so that they can make better decisions. (A former VP of PR at a Silicon Valley company once related to me that research PhDs, who worked in their labs in a focused, almost academic manner on R&D, had told her that most of their insights came when they were experiencing something entirely unrelated to work, such washing their car or grocery-shopping.)
Belief #4: Strategy is not "Strategy" until it has become real
With strategy, "throwing it over the wall" just doesn't work. Thinking of it as a collection of ideas, a set of PowerPoint slides, or a heavy-duty meeting to fill out a collection of templates doesn't do it either. A strategy is legitimate only when it is ready to generate results. That means practical reality and local knowledge must be included as the team considers where to go next and how best to get there.
Strategy is ready to become real only when the people supporting it are ready to implement it. Resources must be allocated, the metrics must be in place to enable its success, and the entire organization needs to be ready to support the resulting change.
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Establishing core beliefs in your organization—and communicating them consistently—paves the way for discovery, discussion, and quick agreement when it comes to strategy development. When people know and understand core beliefs, your company will increase its velocity and achieve goals smoothly.