We’ve all heard of the term “death by committee”. A similar concept is “too many chefs burn the soup.”
Most of us are ruled by committee. A committee of the mind, pulling us in so many different directions at the same time. Tugging our attention and energy this way & that way, making it nearly impossible to make real progress in any specific direction. We feel ruled by our thoughts, and find it nearly impossible to step back and see the bigger picture in our lives.
Businesses are often the same way. Pulled around by an ever-changing vision from leadership, they make 1 step in this direction, take 2 steps in another, and months later find themselves right about where they started. In larger organizations, marketing departments are often working toward one goal while sales, management and operations are working toward their own distinct objectives. They lack an understanding of exactly how their activities fit into the larger whole.
With this approach, it is certainly possible to keep your head above water and maybe even make some short-term gains. But reliable long-term success always feels just out of reach. Transformative growth appears to us as a shadow that moves a little bit further away every time we step toward it. Only when you begin to unify the different perspectives and align your inner team can you truly march together toward what is truly most important.
Every morning, I wake up and make the bed immediately. Afterwards, I walk to the kitchen and brew a cup of green tea with honey, ground ginger, and lemon juice. Then I take the mug into my home office and shut the door to meditate. Afterwards, I sit down to fill in a page in my journal before getting started with my day.
When I first began this morning routine back in early March, I could only manage to meditate for a short period before going stir crazy. Fifteen minutes felt like an hour. Twenty felt like an eternity. I would get restless, fidgety, and finally convince myself that I had done enough for today.
Three months later, I was able to will myself to a full hour of meditation for the first time. So far this July, my meditations have come in at about 45-50 minutes on average.
In the beginning, I began meditating to help me meet a tight deadline for work. I was feeling overwhelmed and stressed out, but I refused to allow these feelings to prevent me from delivering on my promises to a client. And the meditation helped. I found it easier to stay focused and found myself getting tasks that would usually take 3-4 hours done in just an hour or two. And more importantly, I didn’t feel myself being eaten from the inside by stress.
But then, after a few weeks, the shiny new object syndrome began to wear off. As some might say, the “honeymoon period” was over. I was finding the practice to be monotonous and at times, frustrating. I began to reflect on why this was, and decided that the problem was with my attitude, not the meditation. I wasn’t approaching it with the same desire, the same hunger to experiment and solve problems, or the same sense of adventure as I did originally. I resolved to try harder and push through this (hopefully) temporary hiccough.
In the months since, my understanding of meditation has completely changed. As has my understanding of myself.
I now understand that meditation is about strengthening your conviction and your desire. It is about discipline. It is about diligence and persistence. It’s about training the mind to think more skillful, purposeful, and fulfilling thoughts. The kind of thoughts that will take you to where you want to go in life.
But more than anything, meditation is about unifying your mind, your heart, and your body so that you can march forward toward a defined, visualized, improved state of being. To put it more simply, meditation about aligning your inner committees.
The concept of alignment has been somewhat of a recurring theme in my life these last few months. I speak about with clients frequently as I help them align their brand, their business goals, and their customers’ needs into a cohesive action plan that will take their organization to the next level. Hell, one of the phases in my strategic framework is even called “The Alignment Phase.”
But only recently have I begun to understand how beautifully, inextricably intertwined brand strategy and meditation are at their cores.
What’s the most common thing that destroys start-ups, companies, and organizations? Lack of alignment.
Success in today’s market is all about the intelligence of the collective. Being able to march in unison, consistently over time, toward a clearly defined objective.
Effective brand strategy provides a central unifying idea around which all behavior, actions, and communications are aligned. It works across products and services, and becomes more effective over time. The best brand strategies are so differentiated and powerful that they deflect the competition completely. They are easy to talk about, whether you are the CEO or a new employee.
Brand strategy builds on a vision, is aligned with business strategy, and emerges from a company’s values and culture. It reflects an in-depth understanding of the customer’s needs and perceptions. Brand strategy defines positioning and brand differentiation, the competitive advantage, and a unique value proposition.
Brand strategy needs to resonate with all stakeholders: external customers, the media, and internal customers like employees and management. When done well, it creates a road map that guides marketing and design, makes it easier for the sales force to sell more, and provides clarity, context and inspiration to employees.
When I help clients develop their brand strategy, we focus on creating alignment at two key levels: strategic alignment and organizational alignment.
By strategic alignment, I mean unifying their business goals, budget decisions, marketing campaigns, and internal initiatives. We use the results of this process to create messaging that is powerful and authentic, design that is striking and unforgettable, and user experiences that are fulfilling and intuitive.
When I talk about organizational alignment, I mean reducing friction within the organization. Uniting the different internal components, teams, and stakeholders. Getting them to march together toward a lucid and unanimous overarching goal that they are fully invested in on a personal level.
An organization that is aligned on both of these levels is a fearsome competitor that is set to enjoy handsome long-term profits, generate unflinching customer loyalty, and create an internal culture that employees genuinely enjoy being a part of.
Cutting Through the Static
In today’s world, our minds move so fast. They have to, just to keep up with the sheer amount of information and media that is thrown at them on a daily basis. Inundated with distractions and the ideas of others, our minds stress.
They stress about what to do. They stress about what to say. They stress about what’s going on in the world. They stress about the fact that they’re stressed.
They struggle to hear themselves, to see their own path, amidst the cacophony of modern life. Our minds move at breakneck speed trying to merely to keep up with the outside world. And, in doing so, they often leave our heart and our body behind.
Meditation helps. It is about slowing the mind so the heart and body can catch up. It is about aligning your inner selves to reduce your inner friction and move confidently toward a clearly defined & visualized objective for your life.
But even with a daily meditation practice, it is nearly impossible to cut out the noise 100% of the time. That’s why powerful brands have such an advantage in the marketplace. They don’t ask us to read a list of features, benefits, or credentials to make up our mind on whether they’re worth the money. They don’t force us to go and check online reviews and social media to decide whether they are trustworthy.
Instead they use concise, consistent, and lucid messaging to communicate exactly why they’re worth the money and who they’re worth that money to. They use design to show us that they care about their customer experience and how they are perceived so we can know that their intentions are trustworthy.
Through thoughtful branding, they move the burden of proving value and trust from the customer to business. And they reap the rewards from doing so.
Brand strategy has so much in common with meditation. In the beginning, both allow you to identify points of inner friction, overcome them, and focus on what is most important. But over time, they do so much more. Meditation eventually comes to unite the feelings in your heart and the awareness in your body with the thoughts in your mind. When implemented diligently over time, brand strategy succeeds in aligning the inner vision of your organization with the lives of your customers and the workplace culture your employees experience.
Bringing these different components into alignment isn’t easy. Most businesses (and people) go through their entire life without doing so. But for the few that do, things begin to click. Progress and innovation become inevitable. They realize that their choices are meaningful, and that they have the power to change the world for the better.