The New Capitalist Manifesto by Umair Haque
I have been following Umair Haque’s work for a while, and I must say that everything I read from him just hits home. He connects powerful dots and lays out the future of business and capitalism in sharp terms that I profoundly relate to.
For one because I have spent these last 15 years living around the world, literally watching from a ringside seat several bubbles inflate and pop (1997 in Indonesia - monetary crisis, 2000 in Sweden - IT Internet crisis, 2007 in the USA - housing bubble seen transformed in the GFC in 2008 from Australia…).
And also because I have been convinced for many years as a marketer and strategist that the most effective way for a business to make a difference, thrive and grow, is through vision and meaningful interactions based on trust between empowered employees and an organization’s stakeholders, the brand being the expression of the culture that enables it.
The New Capitalist Manifesto confirms that this type of approach spans far beyond the realm of marketing and branding and touches the very essence of doing business.
The end of the industrial era
The New Capitalist Manifesto starts with the realization that the industrial era capitalist model has long lived. We cannot deny that the 20th century, mining and burning its way into mass production, mass consumption, mass agriculture, has brought some form of prosperity to many areas of the world, and provided access to food, health and comfort to a significant number of people… At the same time it has produced an economy based on what Umair Haque calls thin value: value that has generated unpaid debts of harm to people, communities, society and the natural world, not to mention future generations. This was reinforced by an exacerbated ethic of individualistic self-interest based on maximizing output and expectations that has overidden traditional values of togetherness, empathy and solidarity.
The 20th century industrial era business models hinging on exploitation, command & control, fierce competition, short term profit, leveraged growth, has left climate changed, resources depleted, markets commoditized, infrastructures in ruins, a finance system on the verge of bankruptcy, an unengaged and stressed workforce, and corporations struggling to maintain competitiveness under pressure of accelerating cycles...
The New Capitalist Manifesto is a call to reboot capitalism and reassess what value means. Because Umair Haque believes that building disruptively better businesses can change economics, he explores new paths for producing, interacting, and competing; striving to create authentic value and quality profit aimed at shared prosperity now and in the future.
He leads us through the design of constructive strategies based not on acquiring competitive advantage or finding unexplored niches, but on authenticity, interaction and mindfulness, the paths to making a real difference. The kind of strategies that help organizations and their whole ecosystems thrive by creating thick and meaningful value for all stakeholders while minimizing losses incurred by the community, society, the natural world and future generations. The old model is shifting while a new one emerges, based upon renewal and regeneration, participation and co-creation, interactions and collaboration, resilience and evolutionary edge, outcomes and meaningful growth. Umair Haque’s endeavor is to accelerate the emergence.
Constructive advantage based on sustainable value
Beyond the whole new vocabulary that makes business as we knew it obsolete, the book provides practical insight and examples: Apple, Google, Interface, Nike, Lego, Unilever, Walmart, Whole Foods, Nintendo… a few of whom have come back a long way from exposed unsustainable practices…
What Umair Haque develops in the book is a productivity and efficiency model based on what he calls constructive advantage and sustainable value. This is achieved through:
- Shifting focus from operational efficiency (minimizing internal costs) to socio-efficiency (minimizing external loss and replenishing resources). This includes the adoption of cradle-to-cradle value cycle approaches which focus on embedding the minimal use/replenishing of resources/reclaiming-disposal of the product at conception, and on moving production as close as possible to consumption.
- Giving up the principle of one-sided value proposition to adopt participation and co-creation, internal and external, involving customers and other stakeholders. The idea is to give a voice and ear to develop responsiveness, and the agility to come up with better decisions faster.
- Moving from strategies of competition and dominance of the market place to an intentional purpose based philosophy enabling the perpetual (re)discovery of value creation, ensuring resilience and an evolutionary edge. (Incidentally, this is what the best brands are made of!)
- Corollary to the previous, developing the capability of expanding the market place through creative disruption, rather than protecting one’s position and market.
Last, shifting from differentiating products or services (as output) to making a meaningful difference (in outcome) to people, communities and society in human terms, through value that makes people better off. Socio effectiveness is about a shared interest in better outcomes in terms of physical, social, mental, economic wellness.
Sustainable value is one that lasts beyond production and consumption, that creates meaningful and positive impacts on people’s lives, empowering people. This generates greater loyalty, credibility, legitimacy and ultimately is the driver for growth, profits and economic value.
Umair Haque believes, like me, that the power to act and change the world resides in each and all of us. It is our call to create the future. Let's do it!