Friday, October 5, 2007

Corporate America and the Warrior Spirit

15 years ago, I became great friends with Michael Jones and Inga Tuigamala who introduced me to that special culture of the Pacific Islands. I was a guest at Michael’s wedding, a beautiful combination of Christian celebration, traditional songs and happiness. And thanks to Inga, I was invited on a 3-day tour of Tonga and the Islands. During this World Cup, both Tonga and Samoa have competed with the big boys, South Africa and England, and have excited audiences all over the world. They have integrated into the French communities and are particularly popular with the local kids. Tonga’s performance against South Africa was fantastic, and in hindsight, the US performance against the Tongans also looked impressive. Michael Jones and Samoa were disappointed that they couldn’t put a full 18 minutes together against England and South Africa, but they held their heads high. In the two-rooms before the England game, four words were scrawled on a flip chart – Pace, Power, Precision, Passion.

This is pretty good advice for running a business in today’s fast-paced environment. Fittingly, surrounding these words someone had scrawled “Warrior Spirit”.

I like that a lot. Successful companies are built on passion and harmony. They are created out of Pace (aka Velocity) or Speed in corporate speak, Power (aka sustainable competitive advantage) and Precision (aka execution, and Passion). Warrior Spirit is the critical glue that drives companies to success. At Saatchi & Saatchi, our spirit is “Nothing is Impossible”. For P&G it’s “The Relentless Quest to be the Best”. At Toyota, it’s continuous improvement in the form of “Kaizen”. Great companies all share a unique spirit that has been designed to unleash and inspire their people to be the best that they can be. The Tongans and the Samoans have demonstrated just how far a great Warrior Spirit can take you.

I met a great warrior and advertising giant in Pat Fallon last week in Minneapolis. Talking with Pat, I could see how that Warrior Spirit had been translated into Fallon Minneapolis and London. Their belief, “We are Fallon”, captures this thought brilliantly.


Susan Plunkett said...

I'm sure within you Kevin there is a book on heroes, and heroes (and a ruffian or two). :)

Josephine said...

Hello KR,

I really liked this post. I was reading last night a little bit about Toyota and in particular I was struck by their mission to create and manufacture for the benefit of society. Their awareness that whatever they manufacture must be as environmentally friendly as possible touched me. Toyota's values: Diversity, community, environment and Kaizen (to continously improve)

I was also touched by the little I learned about the background history to the founders of the company. Toyoda Eiji and Toyoda Kichiro and Inoue Masao was brilliant. I could relate to him completely, his love to create since he was a child and more than that very early on he learned that he wanted to build cars that would give himself and others an experience that was always great, better and would surprise.

I became curious about Japan, the people and their history and cultural etiquette.

Before I went to sleep I found myself thinking of the word Samurai and wondering how the discipline and myth of what a Samurai is and does fits in Japanese society, after reading your post I started wonder about the concept of the warrior spirit.

I looked on the internet to study what other people thought it was. I really liked the websites and blogs by military men, who didn't actually talk about battle but more about the spiritual ability to do what must be done, to do what they believe is right.

My thoughts on what the warrior spirit could be:

Courage to do right even if we fear.

Courage to admit our mistakes and to learn from them.

Courage to discover what our values are and to learn to live and act by them in all that we do, written, spoken, in every way so we learn to become authentic. (a journey long thing perhaps?)

Finally I looked up a definiton of Samurai in wikepedia it said, "a Samurai is a servant of the lord".

Who would have known that such a humble word could stand for so strong a group of fighting men.

So going back to Toyota-perhaps then Toyota can be viewed as a company of Samurai who embody the warrior spirit ethos-they are servants of society-they create and manufacture to enhance society.



Piotr Jakubowski said...

After living in Japan and studying the keiretsu nature of the Japanese economy, I became very interested in this idea of "kaizen" that they have been implementing for years. The idea of constant improvement seems foolproof in keeping with and setting the Pace, while gaining momentum and Power over the competition. Precision plays a strong role in this aspect as well. Passion, I believe, is the glue that holds this together. Without passion, it would be difficult to implement these ideas effectively.

Just look at how Toyota's presence in the United States has changed since the initial failure of the Toyopet in the 50's.

Susan Plunkett said...

I love Toyota...but...I get all starry eyed at the notion of driving a BMW for a week. *rapturous expression*

James Dunne said...


I believe you've caught a moment in the development of organizations in this post - a moment when companies need to aspire and inspire again and implement clearly understood values throughout their organizations.

In one of my roles at my agency, I come face to face across conference tables with members of organizations who really find it difficult to articulate and inspire themselves to pitch their organization to us, the agency.

That for me is the crucial difference between a client and a partner. Their passion for their business. Pure emotion.

I meet more disillusioned brand managers than ever before - simply because the organizations they work for do not inspire.

There's always one exception at a briefing recently, one of our clients came in and played us a piece of music - 'This,' she said, 'is us, this is what we believe, this is what we stand up for'.

It was one of the most inspiring briefing sessions I've ever been it. This wasn't a blue chip multi-national, this wasn't a government department, it was a managing director of a medium sized brand utterly convinced of the value of 'emotion' in shaping her organization. What a leader, I thought.

Her manifesto was 'striving for a feeling'.

In a cynical market and increasingly cynical business, her vision and clarity of thought inspired me, and my team to create better, partner better and 'believe more'.

Susan Plunkett said...

That's a great anecdote you offered there James. Thanks for sharing.