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Friday, 18 November 2011

Russian Dolls Time or the Beauty of Simplicity

By Anastasia Chernoivanova, Consultant, ReputationInc

Yesterday it was announced that Northern Rock was to be acquired by Virgin Money. We thought Mr Branson had already left his footprint on every possible industry: from mobile, radio, media, to trains, planes, spaceships. And now banking. We cannot help but ask: how far could the Virgin Empire be stretched? And most importantly, what lesson has been learned from Sir Richard’s failures such as Virgin Cola, Virgin Cars, Virgin Brides.

In today’s world, the business environment has turned from complicated to complex with rapidly changing consumer behaviour, rising stakeholder activism, technological revolution, social media boom, unpredictable competitor landscape, toughening regulation. The list goes on and on. Financial crises don’t make companies’ life easier either. The level of complexity only grows with the number of markets your company operates in.

No wonder more and more companies are struggling to make sense of the situation. Sooner or later diversified businesses are overwhelmed by pressure from different fronts, and treat each issue as a separate matter. However, once this happened, it t becomes very easy to lose focus on why they are running all these streams of work in the first place.

Here is where our Russian Dolls come in. Every child knows that the most important doll is the smallest one and that is why it is hidden inside all other dolls. In a similar way a company’s mission (why you exist), values (what you believe in and how you will behave) and strategy (what your competitive game plan will be) should be put at the heart of everything it does: from stakeholder engagement to risk forecasting. All other larger dolls are different in colours and sizes but they are the same in shape. It is the mission, value and strategy that define that shape. Mission, values and strategy should be simple, short and very clear in order to be understood and remembered by all employees and therefore by stakeholders.

Returning to Virgin, the secret of its success appears to be simple - Mr Branson himself. The tycoon injects his entrepreneurial spirit into his operations and puts it at the heart of the every business he touches. Successful ventures in the Branson Land live and breathe the ideas embodied by the man himself, and thus stay as true as possible to that mission and value. With yet another adventure into another Virgin territory, the world would be watching closely to see what Mr Branson may bring to the banking industry.

Every child knows the smallest doll is the most important one and if it is lost all other dolls do not matter.  A simplification? Maybe. But sometimes simplicity is what the scarcest resource, because it is so easy to forget what is hidden inside.


  1. I like the analogy.. of the Russian Dolls with the core of business ideologies ..!! good work..!!

  2. My cousin recommended this blog and she was totally right keep up the fantastic work!

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  3. About the Russian dolls it isn't so new!!!! But who it writes??? It would be desirable to read more from lips of the clever person!!!!!!!