The food and retail grocery industry is reeling from the horsemeat scandal, which displays a number of consumer trends and sentiments that can be associated with competitive advantage in the Connection Economy.  The most important one is not that there is horsemeat in burgers but that consumers have been lied to.  As Sean Cosgrove, a local government employee said “I’ve got nothing against horse meat…I think you’re being ambitious if you expect top quality meat in those products anyway.”
Whilst naturally some people may be horrified that there is horsemeat in burgers, the growing sentiment is that consumers are tired of not being treated like adults or being told the truth. There are several lessons that can be learnt:

Lesson One – Values are THE competitive advantage

Values are important. Seems obvious and yet not a week goes by without a new corporate scandal. Every annual financial report is awash with purported commitment to corporate values like: honesty, integrity, trust and teamwork. And, these “hygiene” values, essential for competitiveness, are seen as soft business factors with little time, resources or energy directed at them until the proverbial poop hits the fan! It’s time to put corporate values at the centre of the organization, from corporate culture to strategy, values need to take centre stage.

Lesson Two – Personal values raise the competitive bar 

The corporate values found in annual reports are the bare minimum. They will not deliver competitive advantage. No customer will thank you for being honest or showing integrity, it’s expected – so why do business leaders expect to be showered with praise for listing these values. The bar needs to be raised. More personal or human values make a real difference when incorporated into the fabric that makes business great. Kindness, generosity, fun, family, friendship, challenge, achievement, excitement, acknowledgement etc. are values that raise the bar and deliver sustainable worthy results.

Lesson Three – Focus on removing the perversions of the proper workings of capitalism

When values – personal and corporate become central to everything in business, we remove the perversions of the proper workings of capitalism. Perversions like treating colleagues with disrespect, perversions like polluting the environment, perversions like lying to customers, perversions like squeezing suppliers for unrealistic deals and perversions like mind numbing soul deadening work environments begin to disappear.

Lesson Four – Create value rather than extract value

Seek to create value not the lowest deal. There will always be rouges that seek to cut corners it’s why close strong ties with suppliers is essential. But the more the procurement department, the buying department, legal department work to squeeze suppliers for more ‘value’ the proportion of rouges grow. Desperation leads to desperate actions. Retailers can attempt to pass the buck and blame unscrupulous slaughterhouses and there is already finger pointing from and to the FSA. Take lesson here seek to grow not extract value for all across the value chain. When we look at growing value for suppliers, partners, colleagues and customers we unlock new innovation and growth opportunities.



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