It doesn’t matter whether it is a corporate social responsibility or innovation, dialogue and partnership is a crucial stepping-stone towards success. In both instances the shift from a top-down approach towards a more democratic one can untapped an existing potential that largely has not been utilized yet.
Lindt (DHL): First talk then do
Often, companies develop a product and only after they are done with that they look around for a potential buyer. That is wrong. You need to keep the (potential) consumer in mind right from the beginning, says Irma Lindt of DHL adding that, paradoxically, buyers – or end users – are often not really consulted in instances where there is a product or a service developed with their well-being in mind.
Just consider the problem of waste disposal or an issue of regular traffic jams in large cities. We have all the data, we have numbers, but we don’ t know what these mean, argues Lindt adding that this – or rather the result of this state of affairs – is yet another reason why to opt for an alternative model that is user-centered. Design thinking is an example of such an approach, Lindt says.
Design thinking - or more generally alternative to the prevailing approach - concentrates on a (more intensive) dialogue. It means to go to the streets rather than rely too much on general market studies; it means to work with simple prototypes that yield more honest and rich feedback; and it means involving partners which leads to new ideas, faster implementation and better scalability.
Seling (GoTeach): Doing CSR our way
Corporate Social Responsibility is often heavily externally determined, Michael Porter, an authoritative voice on CSR, says. Many companies feel like that they simply have to do it. So they do it without making it a part of their business strategy. DHL opted for an alternative path that helps disadvantaged and yields benefits to the firm at the same time. The idea is to develop existing potential.
DHL does business in many countries all around the world. As such, it is very much concerned about – and influenced by – the quality of education. This is why it decided to get involved in this area. It chose the NGO SOS Children’s Villages as its partner. “It was because of its very holistic approach that contains an education of kids living in difficult conditions,” says Christoph Seling of GoTeach.
These kids, this talent, can and should be nurtured from early stages says Seling. Kids involved are being provided with basic soft skills, with career guidance, and with a first work experience. This benefits both sides. Moreover, the company already plans for a deepening of the program that should enable the cooperation of developed talents on social innovations and business solutions. Yet again, the idea is to employ communication and partnership to untap a potential that would otherwise remained hidden behind the veil of disadvantageous conditions.