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Every businessman longs to discover the secret of how to make the market come to him. Large companies spend billions of dollars every year on market research to discover a clue of how to lure more customers and they spend billions more on marketing and sales strategies to achieve it. But we all know instances of companies with products that seem to literally jump off the shelf or out of the warehouse because customers clamour to get their hands on them. That is what happened to Apple Computers when it launched its smiling Macintosh computer in the mid 1980s and again with the introduction of its iPod portable music player in recent years. Both products were unique and unmatched by the competition, at least for a short while. How envious we are of those who have found the perfect product or protected market niche to evoke that heavenly response!
For most companies, the perfect product that no competitor can match in terms of features, quality or price is an impossible dream that will never come true. For most companies, a protected market niche that prohibits competitive trespassing will never be found on planet earth. But do not despair. Even if you do not have a glamour product, leading edge technology or a protected market, your company still has the potential to attract and retain customers as if its products were one-of-kind, star performers well entrenched behind impenetrable barriers within a premium market segment.
It is a spiritual truth of life known by both the spiritually enlightened and the materially successful that the outer reflects the inner. What goes on outside us is a reflection of what we are and feel inside. Applied actively, it means that when we elevate the inner, outer life responds. This truth, which is based on the principle of oneness, is as valid for companies and countries as it is for individuals.
There is a power within every company to attract the market that does not lie in product innovation or advertising savvy. That power is organization. Organization has the capacity to invigorate a company with fresh energy and vitality – to make it come alive and take off. But for that it is first necessary that your organization itself is invigorated with vitality. It requires a recognition – a spiritual knowledge – that organizations are living entities, living organisms that respond to positive attention as do people, money and material objects.
Most companies regard their organizations as inanimate, mechanical systems consisting of so many parts, sub assemblies and connecting wires – an amalgam of people arranged in a multi-layered hierarchy, connected by lines of reporting and distinguished by varying levels of decision-making authority; a multitude of compartmentalized departments performing specialized recurring tasks, too often independently or even at odds with one another; piles of policies, old and new, defining what can and cannot be done, hamstringing employee initiative, frustrating customers and pouring profits down the drain; mountains of bureaucratic procedures and inflexible systems which might make some government departments seem dynamic and efficient by comparison.
These are the common elements – the parts of the machine – that combine to generate the power of organization. They enable even an inefficient organization to accomplish far more work, much faster and more efficiently than even the most dynamic group of individuals who lack formal structure and systems. But not uncommonly these very same elements become stifling obstructions that retard action, waste time, duplicate actions, multiply errors and dissipate human energies in dull, lifeless, mechanical routine repetition.
Organization – arguably the greatest invention since the development of language – is a double-edged sword that can save or slay any company. Too often humanity becomes enslaved to its own best creations as we have come to regard money as the goal of life instead of simply an instrument we have created to make life more productive. Thus the master becomes the slave. So have most companies become slaves and victims of the structures and systems originally intended to give them more lasting and productive life.
The essence of any business lies in the human energy and aspirations that inspire its actions. No company can fulfil these aspirations without fashioning a vibrant and efficient, lively and responsive, resilient and innovative organization. Highly successful companies are living organisms, not inanimate machines. They derive their life from people – employees, shareholders, customers, suppliers. But it is the personality and character of the organization that determines whether the company acquires a life of its own with an enduring capacity for survival, growth and development or soon runs out of fuel and run downs like a neglected machine.
Fashioning a living organization out of a plethora of positions, departments, policies, systems and procedures is the key to endless expansion and enduring growth. Customers are not just in search of products and services. They are seeking experiences to satisfy their intangible needs for status and self-affirmation, the need to be respected, appreciated, taken seriously and pleased. Every contact and transaction between a company and a customer is an opportunity to meet these subtle social and psychological needs. Only a living organization can deliver such an experience on a sustained basis. Only an organization that can give the same self-affirming experience to its own employees is capable of delivering it to its customers. Marketing and customer service departments may be trained and incentivised to please, when purchasing, production, finance and every other functional area are not equally alert, dynamic and attuned to customer needs, what is gained on one front will be quickly lost on another and never generate the powerful force of attraction necessary to catch and retain the interest of restless and capricious customers.
A living organization has the power to generate and release energy that attract customers and makes them come back for more. Spiritually, organization is the inner key to evoking a positive and sustained response from the outer life in the marketplace.