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Win Through a Social Contract: Use Teamwork to Create Value, Develop New Strategy, Iterate Quickly, and Implement

by Nilofer Merchant  |  
March 3, 2009

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.

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Nilofer Merchant is the CEO of Rubicon Consulting (, a strategy and marketing consultancy based in Silicon Valley that solves complex business challenges for high-tech companies.

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