Pointing Towards Positive Impact

Jason Locy
Aug 19 · 5 min read

The idea of “good” has become a must for organizations. The landscape has changed from a “do no harm” mentality to a “do no harm and add good” mindset. In a healthy way, a consumer backlash is pushing companies toward triple-bottom-line thinking and making sure money isn’t the driving motivator of the business.

REI asked people not to buy anything on Black Friday and go outdoors instead. Panera Bread developed ways to help people who couldn’t afford their sandwiches. Patagonia actively asks its consumers not to buy more of their merchandise. Whole Foods (pre-Amazon) once stopped selling lobsters until they could find a better supplier.

All of these organizations’ decisions were tied to their core purpose. The CEOs of these organizations understand their business at a deep level and realized the power of their business to support their cause. And as design-thinker and strategist Tim Ogilvie once said, “When you come to the point where you can’t serve both the bottom line and the cause, one or the other must suffer.”

If you want an organization that promotes good and practices good — then you need to evaluate every aspect of your organization for total alignment around your core purpose. In doing so, you make hundreds, or thousands, of big and small decisions that either compromise your purpose or your profit. To Ogilvie’s point, something is suffering.

But how can we make these decisions and not compromise too much on either side?

A Bias for Positive Impact

As we think about designing our organization, we must examine our own biases. When we design our business, we can design the business to infuse good into the world, which I describe as a bias toward Beauty (positive impact). Or, your organization’s design can lead to the extraction of good from the world, which I describe as a bias toward Broken (negative impact).

In a past post I referenced a framework we use at FiveStone call The 5Ps. We looked at People, Process, Product, Profit, and Purpose and discussed how each of these Ps works with the others to create a healthy relationship between the agency’s competing interests.¹

With the 5Ps as a guide, you can begin to design the areas of your organization that you want to intentionally measure for positive impact and that address the entire “supply chain.” The 5P framework already positions you to have a bias in favor of beauty.

When we operate in a Culture-Bending mindset, we analyze every aspect of our work — the entire supply chain, if you will: the very thing we are producing (What does it look like? How will we manufacture it? What ingredients will we use or not use? Is it kitsch?), how we sell it (What types of ads are we running? What emotions are we tapping into? How much are we charging?), how we account for it, where we locate it, and so on. All of it.

This task demands our full intelligence and imagination to examine and offer alternatives to the “industry norm.”

And, as I mentioned in the 5Ps article, “There’s no right answer but instead a right intent. This intent pushes your business to constantly evaluate the why, who, what, and how of your work.”

The next framework helps us keep our intent in check.

The Broken to Beauty Spectrum

Imagine a spectrum. On one side of the spectrum is Broken (-10) and the other side is Beauty (+10). As you design your decisions within the 5Ps, think about each choice falling somewhere on that spectrum. Then ask yourself, Is my decision pointing one way more than the other? If I make this decision, will this area of my organization be closer to Broken or Beauty?

It might be impossible to have every decision point all the way toward a +10, but is each decision at least pointing to that side of the spectrum? Could it eventually reach +10?

As your cumulative score trends above zero, then you can say that you are biased toward beauty and creating a Culture-Bending organization.²

Broken

  • Extracts as much value from others as possible in order to create personal gains
  • Creates financial gains for a few
  • Shows no concern for the greater good
  • Glorifies the profane
  • Seeks short-term gains over long-term health

Beautiful

  • Brings more value into the world than it extracts
  • Creates communities of wealth
  • Holds the greater good higher than organizational gains
  • Celebrates a hopeful future
  • Sacrifices short-term success for long-term impact

Here is an example of how this might play out in a real-life scenario as an organization wrestles with a vacation policy.

First, the 5Ps. Then, the Broken-Beauty Spectrum.

You can download a worksheet to help you visualize the spectrum and make notes for future plans.

Like a tree bending toward sunlight, your organization will move toward the source that is providing growth and energy, even if that may not be positive growth or energy. Conversely, the more your organization tends toward the broken, the more you will actually “break” the culture or the norms that make for a good and healthy society.

The more you point toward the beautiful, the better your chance to create an improved version of your organization and bend culture toward beauty. In doing so, you can create an organization that stands for something bigger than you and your shareholders.


This is an excerpt from CULTURE BENDING NARRATIVES: Moving Beyond Story to Create Meaningful Brands, an upcoming book written by Jason Locy.

If you’d like to follow along with what we’re doing at FiveStone, sign up for our newsletter, Things That Matter.


You can download two exercises that will help as you work through the ideas in this article. One exercise helps with the 5Ps and the other with the Broken-Beauty Spectrum (Pushing Towards the Edges).


[1] The 5P framework isn’t unique to FiveStone. However, we have personalized it and built on it by using the Broken to Beauty Spectrum. The 5P framework was introduced to me by Steve Graves. The articulation of the 5Ps and the Broken to Beauty Spectrum were spurred through conversations with Scott Kauffmann.

[2] The basic idea behind the Broken to Beauty Spectrum was introduced to me by Jon Tyson in a private workshop.

FiveStone Stories

A strategy-led design agency

Jason Locy

Written by

Founder of FiveStone, a strategy-led design studio.

FiveStone Stories

A strategy-led design agency

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