02
Oct

WITHOUT PHILOSOPHY, THERE IS NO BUSINESS_The best executives are great philosophers

Greg Dyke

Greg Dyke (image: BBC News).

ABSTRACT

Philosophy and management did not always go hand in hand. But if they do, companies can achieve great things.

In retailing, things work better if they are based on a philosophical vision that customers can identify with, especially if it is expressed in a narrative manner (storytelling).

Once the BBC changed its aspirations from becoming the best-managed public entity to becoming the most creative company in the world, it successfully converted itself into a reference brand in the market. Similar to the BBC, the retail business model of Aquí é is anchored in a contemporary philosophy customers and employees can identify with. It is therefore certain that this supermarket chain will have a tremendous impact on the purchasing habits of grocery shoppers and set new standards in the food shopping sector.

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In 1999 the BBC hired Greg Dyke as its new General Manager. Upon his arrival, Dyke realised that he had taken responsibility for a highly bureaucratic organisation.

Within a few years, however, he was capable to turn around the company and act in two, apparently contradictory, directions: increase the network’s audience rates and reduce costs dramatically, while gaining the support and enthusiasm of his employees.

Rather than limiting himself to mere improvements, he decided to pursue new and innovative routes. He launched for instance what has become a world reference website and several highly popular programmes, such as Test the Nation, an IQ contest, which could be followed across three media channels (TV, newspapers and Internet).

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How did Dyke manage it?

“In the nineties, believe it or not, one of the stated aims of the BBC was to be the best managed organisation in the public sector” he said in an interview for The Guardian (Feb. 2002).

“I have to admit that wouldn’t have got me out of bed in the morning. So let me offer you a new vision: We want the BBC to be the most creative organisation in the world. A can-do organisation.”

Dyke believes that: “if you’re capable of imagining something, (you should) do it.” He instilled philosophical values like trust, pride, respect and teamwork in the organisation. These values were not just part of an abstract vision but could be found in concrete statements such as “We’re a single BBC: when we work together, great things happen.”

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Aqui é, the supermarket with a philosophy

Aqui e

The new supermarket Aqui é.

In Orense (Galicia, Spain), the Cuevas Group, a local company formed by people who know how to “think out-of-the-box”, has recently launched Aqui é, a new neighbourhood supermarket model.

The supermarket’s slogan -“Where everything makes sense”- reflects the new emergent philosophy of our daily life, emphasised by the crisis.

Grocery shopping, for example, has become such a daily routine that it can easily lead to tedium. And if we buy in large quantities in hypermarkets located outside of the city centres, we do not only pollute the environment with our CO2 emissions, but we also end up throwing away spoilt products because we bought too much.

Aquí é therefore collaborates with a team of experts from the Vigo University that prepares healthy and nutritious menus (based mainly on seasonal ingredients from the local area) on a daily basis. This way, the customers know that their food is tasty, healthy, nutritionally balanced and at the best price at any given moment. In addition, they can print out the recipe of the day in the store and will find the ingredients or pre-cooked versions of the menu located nearby. These customer-friendly features are all integrated in a store that aims to provide an almost poetic experience and possesses a check-out system where you truly notice that lines go faster.

In other words, they are not only offering good prices, but also empathy in combination with an emergent vision on contemporary life: a world of senses and health without waste. Pure contemporary philosophy.

Based on this vision, I bet that Aqui é will start to create opposed shopping habits to the ones that predominate in Spain: its customers will purchase less, but more frequently.

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If employees don’t believe it, neither do the customers

This philosophical statement is not only valid when talking about external customers, but also when referring to the internal ones (employees). Especially in crisis times, holding the customers loyal should become an essential objective for any company.

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Lluis Martinez-Ribes

Source: Distribución Actualidad, the spanish magazine of retailing

(nº 396, November 2008)

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