Evolving Leaders, People-First Culture, And Unignorable Brands With Steven Morris
The business world is constantly changing, and the most successful companies are those that can adapt to change quickly. One of the most important things a company can do to facilitate this adaptation is evolving leaders, connected cultures, and unique brands. And in this episode, Steven Morris joins Tony Martignetti. Steven is a brand and culture advisor, author, and speaker. He works with business leaders to mine, articulate, and activate their driving belief systems to create organizational integrity, evolved leaders, connected cultures, and unignorable brands. Today, Steven uncovers his journey to getting where he is today and how he helps organizations evolve and build integrated brands and people-first cultures.
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Evolving Leaders, People-First Culture, And Unignorable Brands With Steven Morris
It is my honor to introduce you to my guest, Steven Morris. He is a brand and culture-building expert, author, speaker, and CEO of Matter Consulting. Steven helps business leaders build unignorable brands, cultures, and businesses through his work as an advisor, author, and speaker. He has worked with business leaders from Samsung, Sony, Habitat for Humanity, Amazon, International Trademark Association, NFL, MLB, and over 250 other brands. That's a great impact.
Over 27 years as an entrepreneur, he served more than 3,000 global business leaders. His book is entitled The Beautiful Business: An Actionable Manifesto to Create an Unimaginable Business with Love at the Core. It's truly an amazing book. Go pick it up. As a trained designer, he has his MFA. He's a painter with a background in humanist psychology. He's a serial entrepreneur with 27-plus years.
Steven has a unique approach to shaping a wholehearted and sustainable life in work. He fuses all of this to help entrepreneurs and leaders create wholehearted lives and businesses. Steven explores his wholehearted participation in life as an artist, surfer, motorcyclist, and beekeeper when he is not supporting leaders to build beautiful brands, cultures, and businesses. That's truly amazing. I want to welcome you to the show, Steven.
Tony, it's a pleasure to be here. It's a pleasure to be warming my hands and my heart by the show. I'm excited about this conversation. Thanks for hosting.
I'm thrilled to have you. I'm a huge fan of your work. I love your book, The Beautiful Business. I have been honored to follow you along on your journey as you've shared insights on social media all along.
Thanks. I appreciate it. The book came out in November of 2021, but for readers interested in audiobooks, the audiobook got published on Amazon. Honestly, it feels still new to me. I know the world is still discovering it. We can delve into any and all of that.
You're keeping it fresh. When I think about books, there's often this element of the start of a dialogue. It's never quite finished.
I was having a conversation about that very topic. Who I was talking with was another author. They were sharing with me and I was sharing the return how much the book-writing process and putting a book out into the world teaches them about the book and themselves. The reality is even with The Beautiful Business, I still keep learning things about what sits behind some of the ideas that fill The Beautiful Business and, even then, how to activate them. For instance, a business leader reads the book and applies it in one way, but somebody else who runs a completely different business might ask a different set of questions. It forces me to continue learning about the subjects I talk about in The Beautiful Business.
That's so amazing that you're continuing to learn through the process too. We're going to have so much fun. As we often do on the show, we uncover your story and journey to getting to where you are through what's called flashpoints. They're points in your journey that ignited your gifts into the world, of which you have many. I want to understand. As you're sharing your story, what are these moments? Wherever you would like to get started, I would like to have you share some of those moments. As you're sharing them, we will stop along the way and see what the themes that are showing up are. With that, I will pass it over to you. You can take it away.
When we have a foot planted firmly in each of the physical and imaginary worlds, we can tap all of the instruments that include concept, strategy, imagination, and possibility. Pull them together, where all entrepreneurs live by bridging their current reality with their future possibilities.
It probably makes a lot of sense to start at an early age. I grew up in a middle-class family or what they call an Irish twin. For those of us that don't know what an Irish twin is, it means back in the day, I have an older sibling who is less than a year apart from me. It can happen either way. An Irish twin is someone who's born less than a year apart. My older brother is eleven months older than I am.
I'm a classic middle child because I'm eleven months younger than my older brother. My older brother got all the attention and I was left to myself and my own devices. Therefore, I cultivated a very steep and deep imaginary world. A lot of my youth was spent with a pen, paintbrush, or pencil, drawing, painting, and capturing the world around me. It was also adventurous.
The middle-class family that I grew up in was in the suburbs on the edge of farmland and forestland. The beauty of turning 9, 10, or 11 is you get a bicycle. A bicycle at that particular age equals freedom and freedom to explore. This was back in the day when you had to be home for dinner, do your chores, and everything else. Especially during the summertime, you were left to go off and do whatever.
I would go off, take my bicycle, and go fishing, horseback riding, crawling through the woods, or exploring the farmer's fields, trying not to get shot by the shotgun of the farmer. He doesn't want you stealing corn from his fields, which I get. Fast forward a little bit from the imaginative world and the artistic world, I went through high school, got into undergraduate school, and went up to study in Boston up in your area at a tiny liberal arts school called Salem State University.
There, I was left to my own devices to both study fine arts and humanist psychology. I have a degree in Psychology, Philosophy, and Sociology. I was always very interested in what makes us tick as human beings and what drives us as human beings. I found that the different psychology, philosophy, and sociology disciplines explored those questions from different perspectives.
As I took that and put it into the artistic processes I studied as a painter. I wanted to begin to explore how you communicate ideas into a broader world that doesn't fit within the artistic communities. We're beginning to think about how you shape narrative and craft the arc of a story, even things like studying Joseph Campbell, the hero's journey, and things like that. When it was time for me to go to graduate school, I knew I wanted to go to graduate school and left it up to the fates.
This would be one of your perfect flashpoints. I applied to painting programs and design programs. I got accepted to all of them. It just so happened because I was paying my way through school that the program that came back to me, which was Temple University Tyler School of Art, said, "We're going to give you a free ride." They also had a great painting program and design program. I signed up as an MFA student in their design program, but I was also permitted, which I did, to take classes on a graduate level and study painting along with design.
It's that flashpoint, "Leave it up to the universe, the powers that be, the fates, or whatever we want to call it." That, for me, was an extraordinary education. It was two years of completely immersing myself in both disciplines but studying in the design world how to think about the conceptualization and communication of ideas and how to position and express them in such a way, not just through design but also through the verbal aspects or the experiential aspects of design.
How do you move people from one way of seeing the world to another from one modus vivendi or way of being in the world to a different way of being in the world? That particular education for me was priceless. I still apply things I learned in graduate school from the design and painting programs. Tyler was a great place to experiment with all that.
That was, for me, a huge flashpoint of going off into graduate school and immersing myself in that. If we're going to fast forward a little bit here as you jump out of the protected environment of academia into the less protected environment of professional design and agency world, you figure out how to make your way and all that. You figure out what's at stake, how to work in collaboration with teams, how to serve clients, and what that business is all about.
I worked with a handful of agencies on the East Coast and climbed the ranks pretty quickly. By the time I was 26 or 27 years old, I was a creative director for a pretty well-known agency back in Washington, DC. I was running accounts like Coca-Cola, Nintendo, and Discovery Channel. IBM was a client and things like that. I was young and had a team of about fifteen people that were reporting to me, but I was working all the time.
I was newly married in the agency world. There's no 9:00 to 5:00 thing. It does not exist. You're working 12 to 14-hour days for 6 and a half or 7 days a week. I had gotten married. I thought, "I'm either going to continue with this and my marriage is not going to be a great marriage because my wife is going to not know who the heck I am or I'm going to change some things."
Chris and I spent our first anniversary in a Ryder truck, moving across the country to San Diego to a place where we knew no one. It was the modern-day pioneer adventure of towing a 24-foot Ryder truck with a 72 VW bus in tow stacked with everything that we had. We moved out to a city. I thought that I would get a job out here. What I didn't realize was that San Diego was not quite as grown up as a town as DC and some of the big East Coast cities.
The amount of work that was here and even to a certain stamp the kind of work being done in the agencies wasn't quite at the caliber that I was used to. As I looked for jobs, I thought, "Either I'm going to get a job and settle for something or I'm going to hang out my shingle." I was never one of those people that thought, "I'm going to be a business person. This is what I'm going to do."
I was a reluctant entrepreneur. One thing led to another. I had enough freelance work and took on more freelance work. All of a sudden, I had two intern employees working out of the house. My dog was barking when clients were showing up. I was like, "Maybe I need to start an official business here." That's what I did. That was back in 1994. That was a big flashpoint for me in all of that.
I want to pause because there are a few things that come to mind with what you shared. First of all, I'm so incredibly amazed at the journey you've been on. One of the things that I need immediately thought of is this. Were there naysayers in your life who were saying at an early age, "You can't do this?" I was an artist as a child. I immediately moved into this world where instead of becoming an architect, I said I was going to be a radiologist, which is a completely different field.
I ended up doing something completely different as well. The thing is that there were a lot of well-meaning adults who told me, "You have to do something that's going to feed your family and give you a substantial life and all those things." Were there people like that in your life? Were they supportive of the path you're on?
I had a mix of both. There were people in my life. My mom especially was very supportive, "Do whatever fires you up and pleases you." Both of my parents saw that I had talent. My dad, on the other hand was a little less supportive of me pursuing the arts. He scratched his head about whether or not I could make a living out of that. He didn't get in the way. As you go through life, there are going to be naysayers and people who don't either understand or believe in what you're trying to do.
Humans are motivated by both intellectual assimilation and understanding of things. We don't buy things that are confusing to us. But we do buy things that we feel are right.
I don't think I had a choice. I was pretty hellbent on following at least my curiosities, if not my passions. I wasn't going to let anything get in my way. I didn't even ever see failure as an option. Maybe it was the self-belief. Maybe I had blinders on, "I hear all your naysaying, but I have a vision. I'm pretty committed to that vision." The minute I left home at the age of 17 and a half or maybe 18, I felt like I was set free. I felt like I could then live by my rules and pursue the things that I wanted to pursue. At that point, I thrived.
My advice for people who hear the naysayers is to own your weird and follow your weird. Here's what I mean by that. If we think about the entomology of the word weird, it goes back to a Welsh or Old English word that is spelled wyrd. All it means is that you are a person who has a foot rooted in each world. You're rooted in the unseen world, the imaginary world, or the world where everything is possible and rooted in the world of reality, the world of physicality, and the natural world.
When we have a foot planted firmly in each world, then we can tap all of the instruments that include concept, strategy, imagination, and possibility. Pull them together, which is where all entrepreneurs live within. They're bridging their current reality with their future possibilities, which is why I argue that everyone should own their weird. Businesses should do the same thing, too, and be committed to that. Businesses should also be proactive in shaping their position within the world that they're shaping and even the brands that they're building.
Let's embrace our weird. Let's get weird. That's the way you differentiate yourself. One of the words that keep them coming to mind, and it started when you started to talk about your movement into the art and the design world is forward movement. There's a certain sense of moving people through the arts, which is important. It has to be through translating the words in the art and the visual images into messages that they can understand. A lot of the work you do is about moving people.
We can go into that a little bit because the word movement is a powerful concept. When we break it down, how does one go about doing that? We know this through a lot of social science and we know this in the world of brand, marketing, and even advertising. People are moved by emotions. Let's say I'm going to buy a new car or you're going to buy a new car.
You're going to first go through an intellectual process that says, "What is the budget that I have? What car can I afford? What things do I want it to have? Am I off-road? Do I need something that's more like an outback? Do I want us to go into an electric vehicle?" Those are all rational considerations. They help you do the investigation and make a decision, but we don't act on those decisions until our emotions are engaged and until we're called into something.
This is why a brand is so important. Let's say you're looking for an electric vehicle. There's a whole bunch of electric vehicles. More are coming on the market all the time, but which brand speaks to you and which of those electric vehicle brands or products fits your lifestyle and makes you feel good about your purchase? At that point, when your emotions are engaged in the consideration, you move towards a purchase and begin to do something.
It's worth noting or at least remembering that we humans are motivated by both intellectual assimilation and understanding of things. We don't get confused about purchases. We don't buy things that are confusing to us unless we're being swindled. Bamboozled is an old word for that. We do buy things that we feel are right for us. We align with people who feel right for us.
This is the whole attribute of belonging. I can belong to a brand that I feel good about, but there are other brands that I don't necessarily belong to. A Harley Davidson rider belongs to the tribe of Harley Davidson riders, for instance, but then there's a whole other motorcycle group out there that are BMW writers or Triumphs writers. It is that feeling of connection that moves people towards a purchase, an alignment, and a sense of belonging.
I'm inclined to talk because I want to get back to your story. I love what you're bringing up here because it makes me think about how a leader moves people. I'm taking it to the next level. The brand is one thing, but how, as a leader, can you move people? What is important is authenticity, which I know is overused, but the reality is you can't fake that. I would like to hear your thoughts on that. It's moving people as a leader and the authenticity of that.
From a leadership perspective, let's go back to some root things there. In my opinion, the role of the leader is to identify the reality of the organization and remove obstacles so that the team can see the possibilities of the future. A lot of that has to do with clear articulation or expression and communication, "Here is the current reality. Here's why we're doing what we're doing."
The more a leader can be intrinsically tapped into the why they're doing what they're doing and why the business is doing what the business is doing, then I can empower the team to be connected to that why. That leader doesn't have to motivate people. It is the purpose behind the business that does the motivation. The leader's job is to constantly recalibrate the team to go back into the purpose and why we're doing what we're doing from a tactical standpoint. It aligns with the purpose and ultimately achieves the vision for the organization.
Sometimes the obstacles are in the way of the team achieving what they're doing. It's the leader's job to remove those obstacles. Sometimes those obstacles in culture might be chaos, fear, or a lack of a sense of belonging or connection to the purpose. As the leader identifies where those obstacles are, he or she and the team then help to remove those obstacles. The team collectively becomes motivated to drive towards that end goal, which is typically the combination of the purpose and the vision set together in my world.
Leaders talk a lot, "How can I inspire so-and-so?" I believe the best way to inspire so-and-so is to make sure that they understand the organization's purpose and their role in fulfilling that purpose. When that person is connected to that, then you don't even have to try and motivate them. You're going to get out of the way and remove the obstacles.
I almost think of it as a flywheel effect. Once you start from that core of what you believe in, what that purpose is, why you started in the first place and you get that wheel going, the motivation starts to take off from there. People connect. The leaders in the organization can get their people on board. Before you know it, everyone is cranking on that same purpose. It's a powerful way to think.
A lot of the work that I do is not just working with those constructs, but it's working with the upstream elements of that. We think, "Why did this person even take on this job or this position within the organization?" From the first touch of how the organization is creating their employee reputation and inviting or attracting that particular employee into the organization, that's when that sense of motivation and alignment begins.
They do their job well in inviting the right people in for the right reasons, which then are aligned with the core values of the organization. It's not the organization saying, "You need to believe in this." If they already have those things built within them, they are going to be much more likely to be aligned with the purpose and the values of the organization. Motivation becomes far less of a question or challenge than that.
I want to get back into how you got to begin this work because you went to San Diego and decided that you were going to start your business, but it's not necessarily the same stuff you're doing now. How did you make the shift into doing the work that you're doing now and eventually even writing the books?
The role of the leader is to identify the reality of the organization and remove obstacles so that the team can see the possibilities of the future.
The agency started as a creative agency because that was what I was skilled to do and set to do. There's a lot of work in that realm. I was trained as a designer and a creative director, but I was also always one of those people that was super comfortable in the boardroom or in a leadership room where you're surrounded by a bunch of C-Suite executives who are making strategic decisions.
They used to call me the devil's advocate. Back before I had my agency, I would be sitting in these rooms asking what I thought were important questions, but I was playing dumb. What I was doing was challenging the assumptions that were happening around the table and trying to investigate why are we doing what we were doing even from a creative standpoint.
I took that skillset, which includes a lot of deep listening and empathy and a lot of understanding of how the creative connects to the business strategy and what the business is trying to achieve. I took that into the creative agency. As I began the creative agency, we were doing great design work for a lot of different organizations, but then the more I found myself in those C-Suite conversations, the more I kept being asked to do more strategy work.
The strategy worked turned into not just a creative strategy but also a marketing strategy. When you get into marketing strategy, you have to understand. I had to go to school to learn all the marketing tactics, how you go out and create marketing funnels and things like that. It was at that point when the digital world was beginning to be turned on a big heavier way. You had websites coming on the scene and then social media after that.
I had to go to school along with my team to figure out not just how to do the creative work and the storytelling but also how to deploy that from a marketing strategy standpoint. We're trying to affect these things that I considered fairly far down the stream. How do we convince a set of customers to buy our brand or our product versus somebody else's? This took me years to realize.
If we didn't do the deep upstream work properly, then everything else was window dressing. I'll get into what I mean by that in a moment. You could develop a marketing program or a marketing strategy around a product launch or something like that. However, if you didn't have any control over or even an understanding of why the company was creating the product to begin with, what problem it was trying to solve in the world, and how that was connected to what I call the heart and soul of the organization, then we're manipulating some things on the outside but not affecting the core.
When I began to understand that throughline correlation, I began to encourage and ask questions about business leaders with the clients that we were working with to understand, "How does this come from the business strategy in the heart and soul of the organization? How do we affect that and extract from that into what we're doing either from a brand, creative, or a marketing standpoint?" The more I began to ask those questions, the more befuddled they were and curious enough to answer those questions. I was being invited, "Let's help solve them," which is why I got into the work that I'm doing now.
You fast forward quickly through 23 years of starting a business. It started as a creative agency. I grew it into a marketing agency, did a lot of brand work along the way, built it up, packaged it up, and sold it in 2017, so I could go off and do the work that I do now. I work with organizations first and foremost in the heart and soul of who they are and then even define how every direction is expressed in the organization internally and externally. That includes the leadership team, the culture, the cultural brand, and the exterior brand. That sometimes includes even the marketing strategy and how they connect and service clients.
It's beautiful, no pun intended for The Beautiful Business. It's beautifully described. There's something about the process that you came to here, which is to say, "Change always happens from within." You've got to change the inside before you can change the outside. It has this effect on me of thinking about how when you want to illuminate something. You have to start by turning that light on inside. You find ways to bring it out and then shine even brighter, but you can't do that unless you start from inside and think about what it is that you want to turn on inside.
Once we figure that out and start to uncover that light, it starts to spread out to everybody else. It becomes amazing to see that come to life. The work you're doing is powerful for that reason because it's not window dressing, "What's the next ad we're going to put on? What are we going to do to make this product work?" It's like, "What are we going to do to make sure that it resonates with who we are as a company and what we truly are, how we function, and how every function in this organization is going to resonate with that with who we are?"
The framework that I work with these days is the throughline of employee experience to customer experiences equals business experience. The quick shorthand version of explaining that is that there are a couple of different ways to look at this. If we reverse engineer, we say a customer interacts with our brand and we have an X reputation in the marketplace. How does that reputation come to be? It comes to be through the products and services that an organization puts out in the world and how they're expressed.
You ask the question. If you go deeper into that, who are the people? Where does that come from? You can say, "It certainly comes from the people who serve the customers and the business innovation team." It's the team that is thinking about the products or services, performing them, building them, making them, and putting them out to the public. You can say, "Where do the ideation and innovation come from in the development of products and services?" That goes into the heart and soul of who we are as a company.
How we think about our position in the world and why we're in the business, to begin with, informs everything that we do as an organization. The employee experience, which is the defined version of the culture and how people live the culture, defines and connects to the customer experience because, without a clear employee experience, you can't expect a consistent customer experience. It might be accidental, but it will never be consistent. It baffles me why every organization on the planet doesn't think about it in these particular terms.
Understand why you're in business, to begin with. Activate that conviction, courage, and clear direction, and then build a team of people who are convicted to the same set of things and aligned with that who have a skillset and a level of expertise. They can add to that and combine that into a world of belonging so that they all feel controlled, connected, and aligned within the purpose of why we're doing and serving our customers. As we expand that out, we now serve our customers. We care for them like it's a family. I don't mean the kind of family that's dysfunctional. I mean a family that loves you and cares for you.
When an organization does that, the beautiful thing that happens is they become magnetic and utterly attractive for both the employees who want to work for that organization and contribute to something special that they're doing and for the customers who are called into that. That is one of the key constructs within The Beautiful Business. They create magnetism and become unignorable because they're holding their center. We as humans have no defenses for felt beauty and things that we feel are beautiful. That's the core treatise behind the whole The Beautiful Business.
I love this concept of magnetism. You want to have this sense, "I want to be a part of something," as opposed to, "I have to be a part of something." I think about the whole hybrid workplace and the way that work is being done. Some people are like, "I never want to go back to the office." I'm like, "What if the office had something magnetic about it that made you want to come into the office?" It was a very different thing than, "I have to come back." It's a different concept from what you were saying but similar in that you want to be pulled in, not dragged into the situation.
The other side of that consideration is those organizations asking themselves, "Should we even have a physical office? To what extent should we have a physical office?" They land on the question, "If it's not the physical office that bonds us together, what is it?" It is the relational belonging side of things that bonds us together and that we're all contributing to something greater than ourselves.
You can have both hands. You can have a situation scenario where if the business leaders decide that we're going to do a virtual office, but we still have a sense of belonging regardless of a Zoom screen or the time zone that someone is in, and we still feel connected. On the other end of the spectrum, we have a physical office, which you're welcomed into.
When you don't understand why the company is creating the product, what problem it's trying to solve in the world, and how that it connected to the heart and soul of the organization, then we're just manipulating some things on the outside, but not affecting the core.
We're creating psychological safety because of COVID and all of the things required within psychological safety, which is the core trust. You can come into the office and feel like you're contributing that way. There are times for both. There's a pendulum of organizations that are trying to grapple, "What does that mean or look like for us and what's right for our world, our culture, and our business?"
I'm inclined to ask this question. You can keep all parties' names out of this. Have you ever had to turn away a client because you feel like, "This is not going to be somebody who I can help?"
I'm not going to get into naming any names. I'm not even sure that I would remember the names. I feel very blessed for the position that I sit in the world partially because I do so much writing as you well know, not just in books but also in blogs, other articles that I publish, and a fair bit of speaking. People come to me because of my philosophies, practices, and even the results I create for organizations. I don't chase customers anymore. I don't want to convince anyone of anything.
I never want to be in a position where I have to convince a client prospect that my way is the right way for them because the minute I get into that type of conversation or consideration, then I'm training them on how to be a business leader. I've been in these situations where I feel a little bit like Sisyphus, who's pushing the rock up the hill every day, every conversation, or every meeting, and it rolls right back down because people go back into their modus vivendi or their way of being.
However, on the other side of that, if they're already at a place where they understand that they want to take their organization to the next level and become much more of an integrated organization, and they don't know how to do that, that's when it's time for me to step in. I help them out because I play the guide and journey maker for them to go through the framework that I've developed over the years that helps them realize the outcomes that they're looking for ultimately.
I have so many questions and many directions I would like to go in, but one question I want to ask particularly is this. What have you learned about yourself in this journey of getting to where you are? Is there any particular thing that would be vulnerable for you to share around a lesson you learned about yourself?
We can have a whole conversation about that. That might include things that I've tried and failed at or that I felt I attempted but weren't my work to do. I'll talk about it from the other perspective. There are a few things that I have begun to realize about myself and the work that I do. First and foremost is that I'm much more comfortable with frameworks than processes. I have a framework for what I do in the work that I do and how I do it.
That allows me to step into this weirdly comfortable realm, and maybe this comes from my surfing world, into the deep end of the ocean where you're dealing with a lot of elements that are more powerful than you and working with those elements. Most of organizational life is like that. Most of our market is like that. Most of our world is like that. Most of what we confront in our world, we have no control over or little control over other than how we respond to those things.
I know that I'm comfortable with those things. Through my spiritual work, meditation, and things like that, I'm super comfortable with the idea that there's a lot that we can't control other than our response to those things or other than in an organizational setting help them respond to what they're dealing with in the ways that it's appropriate for them. This goes into what I've learned about myself. I am strangely comfortable with the ephemeral things in life.
By that, I mean the things that aren't as grounded and tactical or the things that may be more on the creative and possibility side rather than absolute concrete things. The beauty of that is that in the world of entrepreneurship, business leaders are always trying to bridge. "Here's our current reality with here's our possible future, and because I live very comfortably in that possible future world, I can help understand and take the key ingredients of that current reality and bridge them into that future because I've done it so many different times for so many different clients."
If it is a talent at all, it's a very strange talent. Maybe I'll put it in the, "I'm comfortable in that," realm. I don't mind a little bit of chaos or silence. I don't mind a whole bunch of, "I don't yet know," but I do have trust and faith in our ability as people, especially when we're in a collaborative group that is bounded together to figure it out with the right questions that we frame in a framework that guides us into a set of solutions.
What you shared was interesting. There are so many things you shared that were powerful. It's working in frameworks instead of a process. A lot of people are stuck in this, "The process is not working." Frameworks allow you to have a little more ambiguity, play in the uncertainties, and still figure things out.
Processes work great when you have a set of very predictable inputs. You can create predictable outcomes with that process, but in the world of business, it doesn't work like that. There is often a whole bunch of unpredictable inputs that you have to figure out and navigate through. Therefore, a framework is then better for those kinds of things. You can then say, "Let's get agile or creative about the kinds of questions that we're asking about these unpredictable inputs, define through the journey of the framework what those possible outcomes can be, and then make sense of it along the way."
We're coming to a close. I have one last question that I ask everybody. I'm dying to find out because I know you have some great insights on this. What are 1 or 2 books that had an impact on you? Why?
It's probably worth saying that I read a lot of books. Most of the books that I read are not in the world of business or not business books. Every couple of times a year, I will publish a non-business book for business leaders' reading list. There's a book. I did a think week back in the spring. It was the only book I took with me. It was a book called Braiding Sweetgrass.
It's by Robin Wall Kimmerer. She is a Native American botanist. She thinks very deeply about the reciprocity approach to nature that Native American people have, at least her Potawatomi tribe, and how we can learn a whole bunch of stuff from how the natural world exists. We humans can interact with it from a sense of reciprocity.
It's a particularly potent business book for any business leader to read to think differently about how we take the resources that are at our disposal within an organization. We then apply them in not just a caring but also a thoughtful manner so that not only we become a sustainable organization but an organization that has its regenerative energy and conserves not just the people but the planet, the community, stakeholders, and investors and things like that.
That particular book was beautifully written and well-articulated. She doesn't talk directly about business, but I'm thinking about it through the lens of the business world. It's Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer. I'm a huge fan of that book. It's probably one of the best books I've read in the last few years.
It's not the physical office that bonds us together. It is the relational belonging side of things that bonds us together. And that we're all contributing to something greater than ourselves.
I love that book. I haven't finished it, but I started reading it. It was fantastic from what I read. I love getting inspiration from nature because there are so many great books like that. One of them that I picked up is The Hidden Life of Trees. I don't remember the actual author, but it's fantastic. I am beyond grateful for everything you've shared. This has been an amazing conversation. I'm grateful. Thank you so much for coming to the show.
Tony, it's my pleasure. Anytime you want to hang out and have a conversation, I welcome that. The work that you're doing in the world is tremendous. I applaud that. I follow you on social media as well. A lot of the stuff that you put out, you and I are very much aligned in it. I would encourage you to keep at it.
Thank you so much. I appreciate that. That means a lot. Before I let you go, I want to make sure people know where they can find out more about you.
You can find me on a lot of social media channels but they can all be found through my main website, which is MatterCo.co. If you want to find out about The Beautiful Business, go into the books tab. Both of my books are up there. You can click on The Beautiful Business and find it wherever you want to order it. There's the new audiobook, which I read. It was an arduous process, to say the least, as a dyslexic trying to read out loud word for word everything that I wrote within the book, but it turned out great. I worked with a great team to be able to put that out there. It's up on Audible.
Thank you so much. Thanks, readers, for coming on this journey with us. I know you're leaving with so many great insights. Go pick up Steven's book and check out his world. You will not regret it. He's full of many great insights. That's a wrap. Thank you again.
Thank you, Tony.
- Matter Consulting
- The Beautiful Business: An Actionable Manifesto to Create an Unimaginable Business with Love at the Core
- Braiding Sweetgrass
- The Hidden Life of Trees
- Audible - The Beautiful Business
About Steven Morris
Steven Morris is a brand and culture advisor, author, and speaker. He works with business leaders to mine, articulate, and activate their driving belief system to create organizational integrity, evolved leaders, connected cultures, and unignorable brands.
Over his 25+ years in business, he’s worked with more than 3,000 business leaders at 250+ global and regional companies, including: Samsung, Sony, Habitat for Humanity, Amazon, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, International Trademark Association, NFL, MLB, and the Port of San Diego.
His book is entitled "The Beautiful Business" which focuses on how businesses of all sizes can build integrity, belonging, and magnetism through their brand and cultures. His previous book is "The Evolved Brand: Why and How to Build a Brand with Soul and Humanize Your Marketing."
Through his widely read blog (25,000+ subscribers) and as a contributing writer to Retail Observer (monthly column), Business Week, Brand Week, Conscious Company Magazine, Communication Arts, HOW Magazine, and MarketingProfs, Steve writes about the intersection of brand, culture, business, innovation, and wholehearted living.
In addition to running his expertise as a brand and culture advisor, Steven is also a frequent speaker at events including TEDx, Creative Mornings, CES, HOW Design Live Conference, Social Venture Network, American Marketing Association, and AIGA conferences.
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