In business school, they still teach us the shareholder is king and that all corporate decisions should be made based on maximizing shareholder value. But if you see a wider view, a more holistic perspective, then you will see that shareholders are but one of several critical stakeholders. Without employees, customers, and the support of the community, shareholders earn nothing.
Running a company only for shareholders is like creating a cup with no space inside of it. You need the clay walls to hold in the water, but unless there is also a hollow center and water to pour in, then what is the point?
As the Tao Te Ching says, “Long and short contrast each other; high and low rest upon each other.” You can’t have one without the other.
This is why Satori Capital’s founders, Randy Eisenman and Sunny Vanderbeck, focus on finding and supporting companies that help all stakeholders win.
As Sunny explains, “If you think about business as a collection of different people trying to accomplish their goals, then when has business not been about giving employees a good working environment, giving customers what they want, and having a good relationship with suppliers?”
In my book, The Way of Innovation, I identify eight levels of stakeholders: yourself, your immediate team, your employees and investors, your suppliers and partners, your core users or early adopters, mass users, competitors, and the community and environment.
Sustainable innovations, ones that are “built to last,” embrace all eight stakeholders. So if you want an innovation that will stand the test of time, then you should design it in a way that causes everyone to love it and no one to resist it.
How do you do this? First ask yourself these questions:
1. What would I love to do?
2. What would my team members want to join?
3. How could I craft this so that all of my employees and investors are passionate about it?
4. How can I make suppliers and partners want to join the innovation?
5. How do I trigger eager adoption among early users?
6. How do I spread adoption on to the masses?
7. What competitive strategy will convince would-be competitors to embrace, rather than fight, us?
8. How will this be good for the community and, more broadly, the environment?
This may seem like a long list. But good answers for all eight will compose the best path to engineering a truly transformational, sustainable innovation.