Apr 16, 2023
In this episode, Dan connects with prolific author, seasoned marketer, communicator, academic, and entrepreneur, John Davis. John has spent the last two decades in academia, holding various positions in universities across the US and Asia. Currently a professor of practice at the University of Oregon's Lundquist College of Business, John's passion for sustainability and transformation shines through his work. With eleven books under his belt, his latest, Radical Business: How to Transform Your Organization in the Age of Global Crisis, highlights the importance of curiosity, innovation, and sustainability in today's ever-changing business landscape. A leader in sustainability, John's unique perspective and experiences make him a sought-after voice in the world of business transformation.
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Timestamped summary of this episode:
00:00:00 - Introduction,
Host Dan Nestle welcomes guest John Davis to the show and introduces the topic of business transformation and sustainability.
00:00:58 - The Need for Positive Societal Impact,
The conversation touches on the need for businesses to move beyond profit and create positive societal impact, with the involvement of all stakeholders.
00:03:09 - Journey to Academia,
John Davis shares his journey from a career in business, primarily marketing and strategy roles, to falling in love with teaching, joining academia, and eventually becoming a professor of practice and sustainability.
00:07:00 - Influence of Singapore,
John Davis talks about how his time in Singapore, with its smart city initiatives and diverse community, influenced his perspectives on sustainability and led to working with companies all over the world.
00:11:21 - The Role of Curiosity,
Curiosity is highlighted as a critical quality for leadership and strategy, with a need to cultivate wonder and openness to new experiences and viewpoints to stimulate innovation and creativity.
00:14:35 - The Importance of Curiosity,
John Davis emphasizes that curiosity is the epitome of exploration and imaginative responses. He highlights that it stimulates different kinds of responses and encourages individuals to notice differences rather than fighting them.
00:16:43 - The Need for Reinvention,
Davis discusses the drivers of reinvention, including climate change, economic inequality, and social injustice. He believes that companies need to pivot differently to stay in line with consumer values and investor interests to be successful in the long term.
00:22:51 - Influence of Leaders,
Davis talks about the influence of leaders on promoting stakeholder capitalism and creating momentum for change. He believes that individuals like Mark Benioff and Elon Musk can wield an outsized influence on society and businesses.
00:26:08 - Taking Action,
Davis emphasizes that it is crucial to take action and integrate sustainability into business strategies to stay ahead of the market. He acknowledges that it may not be easy, but it is necessary for long-term success.
00:29:57 - Drivers of Business Transformation,
Davis highlights the importance of consumers, capital markets, and influential people as drivers of business transformation. He recommends starting where you can start and taking that first step towards integration.
00:30:29 - Getting Started with Innovation,
John Davis suggests using human-centered design or design thinking to ask the right questions upfront and understand what the target audience is looking for. He emphasizes the importance of recognizing the different stakeholders and having conversations with them to create a purpose-led tent that everyone is invited into.
00:32:10 - Recognizing the Complications,
John Davis highlights the importance of recognizing the complications in today's world while approaching stakeholder conversations. He mentions the significance of sustainability, diversity, and inclusion, and how they are influential in creating value for businesses.
00:34:00 - ESG Metrics,
John Davis discusses the importance of having ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) metrics while reporting sustainability initiatives. He highlights the different reporting standards and the overlapping nature of these standards.
00:37:35 - Climbing the Transformation Ladder,
John Davis talks about the difficulty of climbing the transformation ladder for large companies with many internal stakeholders. He emphasizes the importance of decision-making capability and comfort with discomfort to make progress towards the goals. He also highlights the significance of transparency and communication while working towards the goals.
00:43:17 - Radical Business,
John Davis suggests organizations should take a look at their purpose and align it with the context to answer the big question of why they exist. He mentions the importance of having an aspiration and thinking intentionally about what their mark on the world will be. Thinking abstractly about aspirations is more difficult than a mechanical approach, but it is crucial to move forward.
00:44:43 - The Importance of Aspiration,
John Davis emphasizes the importance of having a guiding star or aspiration for an organization. He explains that this helps put in place next steps, decide on the kind of people needed, and create meaningful experiences. He notes that many organizations have mission statements but lack an aspiration, which creates an imperative for organizations to define one.
00:46:05 - Purpose, Behaviors, and Values,
The host and John Davis discuss the importance of purpose, behaviors, and values in an organization. They highlight the need to get employees on board with the culture, which requires having a clear aspiration. They discuss the concept of discretionary effort and how people want to know that their work matters and that they're contributing to something beyond earning a wage.
00:50:10 - The Changing Work Environment,
The conversation shifts to the changing work environment and the need to move away from the industrial revolution thinking of a fixed nine-to-five workday. They discuss the importance of accountability and productivity while allowing for more freedom and flexibility. They note that there's a big systemic issue around this cultural mindset.
00:54:25 - Cause Advocacy and Meaning,
John Davis introduces the concept of cause advocacy and meaning as a more effective way to understand people and their motivations. He notes that this approach goes beyond the traditional segmentation, targeting, and positioning model in marketing. Cause advocacy involves understanding what drives an individual, while meaning taps into what gives their personal and professional lives meaning.
00:57:38 - Moving Forward in Marketing and Communications,
The host asks John Davis what marketers and communicators need to do to move forward. Davis emphasizes the need to move away from the traditional marketing model and focus on cause advocacy and meaning to better understand people. He notes that marketing is an evolutionary discipline and that this approach is a powerful set of tools that goes beyond traditional marketing tactics.
00:59:06 - Understanding the Meaning that Drives Organizations,
John talks about finding out the meaning that drives organizations and how it can help talk to stakeholders. He also shares an exercise he used to do with MBA students that highlighted the importance of context and how it impacts innovation.
01:01:30 - Creating Societal Value,
John discusses how societal value doesn't always mean the latest gadget or innovation but often comes from looking at underserved populations. He highlights the importance of looking at these populations where a lot of innovation is likely to happen.
01:04:20 - Using Resources Creatively,
John talks about how innovation is not necessarily dependent on abundant resources and uses examples like GreenCake in the West Bank, which created building blocks from rubble, and a man who created a $5 prosthetic leg.
01:06:28 - John's Final Thoughts,
John shares that his book is a starting point for organizations to figure out what steps they need to take to transform, but he believes that we have infinite capacity and capability to make the changes we want. He's optimistic about the future and mentions how younger generations are already ahead of the game in terms of wanting to make positive changes.
01:10:31 - Closing Remarks,
Dan thanks John for being on the show and encourages listeners to check out John's book and consulting work. He also asks listeners to leave a review and share the podcast with friends to help spread the word.
*Show notes have been partially AI-generated, but The Dan Nestle Show is 100% human.