How Do You Create Business Value?

By Adam Rampton

In the past three months, I’ve been to China twice, each time working with different Fortune Global 500 companies that are all wrestling with the same challenges: changing market conditions, accelerating competition, and the tensions inherent in trying to maintain local connectedness while ensuring global reach.

In a world of increasing volatility and change, more organisational agility is needed. This puts tremendous pressure on HR leaders and professionals who want to create business value – they are increasingly asked to maximise ideas and outcomes that are inherently in opposition to each other.

Some examples that HR leaders and professionals must effectively tackle include the following:

  • Achieving short-term results and long-term growth
  • Improving customer service with reduced budgets
  • Building collaborative teams and having individual accountability
  • Increasing speed to market and quality
  • Enhancing local relevance/connectedness and driving global brand unity
  • Doing more with less

The CHROs and HR leaders at the multinational corporations operating in China that I work with recognise that their HR professionals and business partners need help navigating these paradoxes and managing these tensions effectively. A new mindset and skillset is needed. The changing business environment requires it and demand is high. These CHROs are working to build the supply side so that HR is better positioned to create real business impact now.

In the seventh round of our global HR Competency Study (HRCS), two new interesting themes emerged:

  1. HR professionals who ‘navigate paradox’ have the highest impact on business results.
  2. Navigating paradox is not done well by HR.

Effective paradox navigators tackle conflict head-on and help their business leaders do the same. They shift from the traditional mindset of ‘either/or’ logic to one of ‘and/also’. These professionals focus on managing tensions that will unleash creativity and new insights.

Seem impossible? You’re not alone. To help you get started, here are four simple steps to strengthen your ability to navigate paradox and position your business for success:


Most business strategies fail in implementation because of unresolved paradoxes. Effective HR business partners will recognise these paradoxes and help their business leaders clarify the poles. What do we mean by “do more with less?” What short-term results are most important? How will we measure them? What does long-term growth look like? Where do we need to innovate?  How do we create space for and encourage experimentation?

Average leaders ignore one pole. Poor leaders swing back and forth or demand both. Great leaders see the inherent tension in both poles and bring the right people together to collaboratively clarify and address them.


Once the poles are clarified and we know what we’re trying to achieve, we work through a series of divergent and convergent processes to define the best alternative outcome. A useful tool is illustrated in the matrix below. This matrix helps to further clarify the poles where needed and, more importantly, provides the basis for divergent and convergent discussions to determine how best to move from current state to desired future state.

In this example, the strategy is to ‘achieve 20% EBIT while investing in long-term growth’. For each pole (light blue), the leader and team further clarify the poles by defining degrees of success (dark blue). Next, they identify where they are today and where they want to get in the desired future state (grey blocks). Spending enough time on this step helps the team align to define the best alternative outcome collectively.


The tool outlined in Step 2 helps teams see points of tension and begin unravelling paradox in a productive way. They are able to identify potential trade-offs. Effective leaders help the group converge (focus) using simple questions and then diverge (expand) to consider different options and viewpoints. They strive for integration, avoiding ‘either/or’ answers opting for ‘and/also’ solutions instead.

They ask questions like “where do we agree?” and “where do we disagree?” They listen.

In essence, good leaders and HR business partners lead through a series of divergent and convergent cycles to see other’s point of view and find common ground. This allows the group to align with the best alternative outcome and prepare to take first steps.


Built on the strong foundation created in the first three points above, these first steps should be easy to initiate. Outline specific first steps – things the leaders and teams will do in the next 3 days, 3 weeks, and 3 months – to demonstrate progress and maintain clarity. Sometimes these first steps will include two steps forward and one step backwards. Be consistent and help your leaders do the same by adjusting operating mechanisms, measures, and incentives to reinforce the desired future state. Take a whole-systems view to enable and sustain the desired change.

Paradox matters. It’s inherent in day-to-day and organisational life. Effective leaders embrace this fact and assemble the right stakeholder team to clarify and address paradox head-on. In HR, paradox navigation skills are the largest predictor of business impact. As HR builds this skillset, it will be better positioned to drive business results by helping leaders clarify the poles of paradox, define the best alternative outcomes, see other’s point of view to find common ground, and take the first steps towards the desired future state.

This article was originally posted on

If you’d like to learn more about preparing HR professionals to navigate paradox, contact us at Business Results Group is the exclusive Africa partner to Dave Ulrich’s RBL consultancy group.


How Uber, Adidas, and Tesla Use Strategic Relationships To Get Ahead

Nobody has all the answers. Here’s how some of the most successful companies use collaboration to become smarter, stronger, and faster.

Two brains can be better than one. Some of the most successful companies evolve by forming strategic relationships with other innovative minds.

“Even the most progressive companies are forced to constantly think about the evolution of their business,” says David Nour, author of Co-Create: How Your Business Will Profit From Innovative and Strategic Collaboration. “They know what got you here won’t get you there. Strategic relationships allow companies to rethink their businesses and their evolution.” The important word is “strategic,” says Nour. “No one builds relationships because they’re bored,” he explains. “They’re created because nobody has all the answers. The collaboration is to make the end result different–smarter, stronger, faster. It happens when you both have a vested interest in each other’s success.”


Strategic relationships with other companies are different than partnerships, says Nour. “Partnerships are transactional,” he explains. “Strategic relationships are transformational. You create something you wouldn’t be able to do by yourself.”

Hilton and Uber recently joined forces to co-create value in the hospitality industry, says Nour. Hilton had hung a lot of pride on the fact that it was the first hotel brand to place colour televisions in rooms and offer room service, but executives realised that these things aren’t important to the millennial audience. The company had to think beyond its walls.

Recognising Uber’s growing market reach, Hilton created a new service that presets the hotel as the recommended destination on the Uber app. “By joining forces, the two companies are co-creating value when none previously existed,” says Nour. “In other words, the space between a hotel and various events or between the airport and the hotel used to be a bit of an anonymous wasteland. But now it is becoming a seamless extension of both brands.”

Hilton’s guest satisfaction is no longer limited to the experience inside the hotel property; it is deeply linked to the outcome that brought the guest to that hotel location. Uber is getting the opportunity to be the transportation provider to events and activities outside of the hotel.


Strategic relationships can also happen between companies and their employees. In 2015, Adidas decided to challenge its business model, with its new CEO, Mark King, asking employees for their best ideas to move the brand forward. Nearly 500 viable projects were proposed, and the winner was an idea that included three simple words: Netflix for runners.

A year later, Adidas launched Avenue A, a subscription service for runners that delivers a box of items curated by well-known runners, such as fitness instructor Nicole Winhoffer.

“Adidas’s Avenue A took them way out of their comfort zone as a sports apparel and footwear company and into curated, co-branded merchandising where those curators do not work directly for Adidas but bring their own leading-edge brands to the table,” says Nour. “This activates an army, and now Adidas is taking curation to other parts of their business.”

The success of forming strategic relationships with employees also prompted Adidas to create the Adidas Group Innovation Academy, an online learning platform that encourages employees to be more creative and invites them to submit more ideas. After 1,000 employees had passed through the academy, Adidas announced a Shark Tank-like competition to choose more winning ideas. “This is CEO King putting his money where his mouth is, while at the same time ensuring that the right risks are being taken and firing up employees around the world,” says Nour.


Tesla has evolved its company by being deeply aware of the customer experience and forming relationships with drivers, says Nour. In September 2015, the company launched its Model X, an electric sports utility vehicle that also competes with traditional SUVs on the interior space and amenities. But the design of its doors is where the Model X leaves iteration in the dust, says Nour.

“Every facet of the design of this car takes into consideration all the complaints about today’s minivans and SUVs,” he says. “The falcon-wing doors solve several of those with amazing elegance.”

For example, buyers with children need to install car seats in the second row, which makes the third row of seats nearly impossible to access. Parking in tight spaces is also challenging to buyers who need to help their children out of the car.

“The Model X’s falcon-wing rear doors rise up and fold out of the way,” says Nour. “While Tesla obviously has bright engineers, I suspect that the company is actively co-creating its future with its customers, anticipating their needs and innovating radical, effective solutions.”


To form a strategic relationship with another company, your employees, or your customers, you need five things, says Nour.

  1. Strategic thinking. Strategic relationships aren’t simply about iteration, says Nour. “Too often, companies innovate by coming up with a better product, a new colour, or a new flavour,” he says. “They’re doing the same thing a little bit better. Few companies do that intuitively well, but fewer do disruption. That’s about new things make the old things obsolete…If you don’t disrupt yourself, someone else will,” he says.
  2. A visionary leader. Great companies start with visionary leaders who challenge the status quo, not defend it, says Nour. “Business has to evolve and fundamentally change,” he says. “We don’t admit that we don’t have all the answers. This can be scary because when you co-create, you give up part of yourself, says Nour. “It’s intrusive and invasive, and it’s not for just anybody,” he says.
  3. Another party. Find another party that can bring a unique perspective or lens around common mission, vision, or enemy. “Who has a vested interest in your success?” says Nour. “Who will dramatically benefit? Who can bring a very different part?” Each party needs to bring a piece of the puzzle and together create something that’s different.
  4. Executive buy-in. “If reinventing business isn’t one of the top three priorities of senior leadership or board, it becomes somebody’s pet project, and the rug will get pulled out from under it,” says Nour.
  5. Someone who owns the execution. Someone has to be in charge of the project, identifying what works and creating a prototype. “Be realistic about your resources,” says Nour. “How much time will this take? What does the strategic relationship need to think and execute? What are your milestones and metrics? Then how do we take it to market?” A lot of great ideas die on the vine, says Nour. “Progress trumps perfection every time,” he says.

Written by BY STEPHANIE VOZZA. This article was originally posted on FastCompany.

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