Our innovation is a Radar of Resilience, – One Philosophy
What is the story behind One Philosophy Group?
One Philosophy Group was one way or another inspired by the Revolution of Dignity. If not for this who knows how things would go for us. Our history began long before – on December 1, 2003, when after my master’s degree in the USA, I began to develop the PRP agency, the Weber Shandwick branch in Ukraine. As the business, it had the best ingredients: a fantastic and dedicated team, reliable customers, and implementation of the best international standards and PR ethics on the Ukrainian market – creativity instead of the obtrusive commercials and responsible approach to shaping the reputation of our customers.
In November 2014, the Revolution and Russia’s attack on Ukraine led me (at that time I was a partner in the PRP business in the post-Soviet markets) to the first radical political decision in my business life – to break off relations with Russian partners and go on an independent voyage. It was a step into obscurity, but it was on the call of heart and conscience. The withdrawal from the partnership led not only to the loss of a significant portion of revenues, a temporary divorce from the international brand Weber Shandwick, the rebranding of PRP into Be-it but also to an important rethinking with the team. What do we want to achieve in the Ukrainian and world markets? How do we want to change them? What do we want to be? At this point, the story of One Philosophy officially began.
Initially, I decided to separate Be-it into two specialized agencies – Republic and Be-it Health to focus teams on specific and relevant market expertise: not superficial, but deep work with reputation, building trust between the state and society, improving the public health of Ukrainians by working with clients across different sectors – from donors to the pharmaceutical market
At the same time, a deeper look at the reputation of our clients, awareness of gaps in the leadership and culture of organizations, human branding, and concise but powerful design in the Ukrainian market, led to the appearance of two more agencies within One Philosophy – Solutions for People and Changers.
Today, One Philosophy is a consulting group that prepares brands, reputations, teams, and society for the future. The Group unites 5 agencies: Be – it Agency, Be – it Health & Social Impact, Changers, Republic, and Solutions for People. All agencies are the only team that strives to create a better reality around us. And it is good that we can form our new history with reliable customers who grow and also change with us.
What is the principle of One Philosophy Group? Can you be considered a turquoise organization? What values and practices of turquoise companies do you profess?
I am not sure if any organization meets all the criteria of turquoise. However, among our values in action are those that are distinctive for this type of organization. And self-awareness is among them. We clearly know who we are and who we are not, what we want to be in every interaction, why we do something or vice versa fundamentally do not. We cherish humanity – we treat each other as equal partners, with respect for human dignity and belonging to the great thing we do together, we are all in the same boat or we are good people, and we are in this together. We have the courage to go beyond the brief of our clients, namely, working with issues of meaningfulness and resilience of organizations, as well as optimism that helps us to treat each challenge as an opportunity to come up with new solutions with a focus on the person and his future, with the desire to leave a positive mark after us for Ukraine and the world.
Key decisions are made by consensus of the leadership team – agency directors and the founder, but I trust colleagues on most of the current operational decisions. We have an experienced team of professionals in various functions. The wider leadership team has its own great level of autonomy and responsibility for P&L agencies, practices, or customer clusters with a common vision of a strategy that we summarize as 3P: purpose, profit, pioneering. The decision about training and development, the competence upgrade, improvements in a new business, design, or customer experience is taken with the involvement of the entire team. By the way, the whole team knows (confirmed by research) the great purpose of the company, its strategy and realizes that it is important for us not only to grow but also how we do it – with content for ourselves and positive impact on society, in an ethic and responsible way.
Nataliya, you′ve been living and working in several countries for a long time, so working remotely was a common format for you before the pandemic. However, were you and your team ready for a full transition to digital, and what new digital habits appeared at the company level?
De facto I have been working without an office or from different offices since 2005. And since 2016 I have not even had my personal space in the office, but only a hot desk with colleagues from the leadership team. Therefore, for me, the transition to remote work and the rejection of the excess part of the office were the least noticeable. But for the team, it was a big change in the frame of mind. We were just completing the transition to a new CRM system when the pandemic began. April 2020 has become the best medicine for all late adherents of this system, because it has become the only way of functioning of our company, project management, finance, reporting, etc. Was it easy? I think it was hard. After all, in a short time, all colleagues who before the pandemic could solve certain issues, looking into accounting or personally talking to another colleague or contractors, had to start working in a new system for them and plan all “spontaneous” meetings remotely. This has become a major digital habit. In addition, of course, there was a habit of using Teams, Zoom, to explore new platforms for holding their own and clients’ meetings and events. The best compliment of digitalization for our business was that today our managers can work and conduct projects from anywhere in the world (some of our colleagues have a summer office in Croatia instead of Kyiv). We switched to a hybrid format of office use: colleagues come to the office to discuss or decide something concrete, and previously they come without a meaningful goal, simply because this was expected to be done.
In your opinion, how did the "new reality" affect the work of the company and the industry as a whole? What new services do you offer to customers?
We see that during the pandemic, our customers need even more support in communications with employees and consumers. You know, since my master’s degree in the United States, I’ve always looked at the discipline of public relations as a strategic function of governance and the conscience of an organization. Both roles have shown very well in organizations during the pandemic. For a while, interaction with employees and caring for them came to the fore, and now caring for consumers and their lives in a new reality is a normal thing to do.
Besides, many organizations began to review their mission and values, the brand, their own market proposal. Some have already started or are planning to thoroughly change the customer experience. And now more than ever, we think of the category of creating solutions for customers that close their new needs, and communications are only the result of their implementation. Some need a more accurate assessment of where the organization is now in an ever-changing market. Actually, there are specific solutions to solve all these problems in One Philosophy agencies.
Among the new services are research and analysis of the customer journey. So, we have already helped to rethink the navigation at the international airport “Boryspil” and customer experience for the clinic Dobrobut. Another new direction is to improve the quality of medical services at different levels – from a particular medical institution to a municipality or state as a customer of services for citizens, as well as management programs for the development of leadership in health care.
However, our biggest innovation is our own methodology for assessing the sustainability of Business Resilience Radar which we recently presented. The Radar is a tool that allows you to see the obstacles invisible to the naked eye that are looming in front, helping them to avoid or prepare for a collision with them. The Resilience Radar enables companies to see invisible barriers and pave the best way to a long-term goal.
To determine the sustainability coefficient and problem areas in the organization, we assess six main factors or components: the purpose and principles of the company, innovation management, the ability to change, interaction with society (building connections with all stakeholders), interaction with the client (building brand and customer experience) and the team. The study involves three stages: in-depth interviews with company executives, employee surveys, and expert evaluation. This methodology helps to obtain deep insights and identify differences in the perception of key issues by different groups of employees.
The pandemic has COVID-19 revealed two urgent truths about resilience.
First, we’ve all seen a lot of serious gaps in our strategies. For some reason, we all thought that catastrophes would not affect us. Thus, business particularly underestimated the likelihood of such events as the pandemic, and by 2020 had a rather limited understanding of its own impact on them.
Secondly, the problem with our nonchalant perspective has revealed itself especially in terms of poor foresight and planning, although it is vital in business. The investments in the resilience increase have long been seen as short-term costs that need justification rather than a cornerstone to create a long-term value for the business.
Over the past year, the owners and executives have felt that sometimes there is a very thin line between decline and prosperity. As a result, 7 out of 10 companies in the world, according to PwC, plan to invest in strengthening resilience. By the way, resilient companies are more profitable than their competitors in the longer term. According to Accenture, those organizations that are prepared for the future demonstrate 2.8 times higher corporate profitability and 1.7 times higher efficiency compared to organizations that are only stable or effective.
A year ago, Ukraine lacked much discussion about the resilience of organizations. So, we started the # Життєстійкі platform to create an opportunity for business owners, CEOs, and heads of organizations to communicate and learn from each other. The fact is that, unlike developed markets, Ukrainian entrepreneurs do not have long experience of entrepreneurship, their own 100-year business history to which they can rely on and get the keys to the challenges similar to COVID-19 – the wars, pandemic of the past centuries. That is why it is so important to share the experience that Ukrainian companies are going through now, as well as document it for history. Last year, on the platform, our team conducted the first in Ukraine research on the resilience of organizations and a number of online events on relevant topics. This year, One Philosophy held a virtual conference Business Resilience Summit and launched the second wave of research on resilience.
In every research and event, we remind our partners and clients that a crisis is an opportunity to make the reality around us better if we learn the right lessons from it. It is also an opportunity to leave a more positive footprint in history and make your own business or organization more resilient to future challenges. Only in this way, we will be able to see the “founded 100 years ago” inscription on products made by Ukrainian companies.
Can One Philosophy Group be considered a resilient organization? What can you advise companies on resilience improvement?
I am convinced that resilient organizations are those that have an ambitious noble mission and work with devotion and faith every day to implement it. Those who are conscious of their values and ways but are willing to look at themselves from the future and adjust strategy and tactics, well capturing the global context and local needs. And those who look at themselves as a beta version, which is how I look at the One Philosophy business. We are a living organism that experiments, gets burnt, and learns, and sometimes gains advantage from investments in the team, new products, global contacts.
Like most organizations during the pandemic, we did not have an actual and pre-developed crisis plan for such a situation. Most fell into the ocean of obscurity, immediately to the depths, and tried to get up as they could. We quickly mobilized both for the decision to “get rid of excess” and to preserve and even increase investment in new senses and products. In 2021, resilient organizations are those that devote time to develop specific scenarios to prepare for the next “gray swans,” work out and minimize risks to business and reputation. It will be easier for them when the next Covid or cyber Covid arrives. To be more resilient to crises, we have to get used to the fact that crises are regular phenomena, that every day there is a growing number of situations where we have to make difficult moral decisions and work with paradoxes. I am sure that those companies that are oriented, like us, on long-term planning, on a big goal alongside the growth, are more resilient than those that still think only in categories of profit growth.
Recently, the Ukrainian version of the book "One Life: How we forgot to live meaningful lives" (by Morten Elbeck) has come out on your initiative. You decided to translate this book because you wanted it to be read in Ukraine. How did you come up with this idea?
This book came to my hands in a very timely manner. At the end of 2019, I had been living in two countries for three years, I had about 80 flights a year and felt quite “torn” by the family, business, and public activities. So, it was really important for me to think about my life.
Why couldn’t I say no to the temptation to translate this book and convey its thoughts to the Ukrainian reader? Because I am convinced that it is important to recognize the difference between happiness, pleasure, and the meaning of life. Don’t pursue things without sense.
I believe that the adoption of a single life and the refutation of the myth about the work & life balance will protect many from excessive expectations from themselves on the one hand, and on the other, it will not allow compromising with a conscience to achieve professional goals at any cost or stay in toxic organizations. Immersion and self-knowledge will allow you to better understand what is “srodna” work (congenial work) – the words of Skovoroda, not Elbeck, and why it is so important not to miss this search and find the meaning that will awaken you every day in the morning to work and that is the best realization of yourself.
I also agree with Elbeck that when you manage people, it is impossible not to be close to them, not to love them, not to seek holistic responsibility for their lives. There is nothing more important than providing the meaning of work for those who perform it. When we interact with another person, we always hold someone’s share of life. It can be something insignificant: a change of mood, an elevation that has weakened or woke up, intensified or extinguished hostility. But there can be something terribly big, and then it depends on us whether the life of another person thrives.
This book unexpectedly combines different stories. Data from a study of 85 British prisoners who were not aware of themselves so much that they thought they were more ethical than people who didn’t have a problem with the law. Instructive mention of the “Flying Dutchman” scene from the film “Pirates of the Caribbean,” which the author develops into a metaphor for what happens to people who choose to stay in toxic organizations for a long time. The story of an Australian nurse who through interviews with hospice patients learns what we most regret when the time comes to say goodbye to life.
I hope that this book will inspire its readers to evaluate and review the meaning of their own lives, the experience of employees in their companies and, if necessary, start the change.
Why is it important for an entrepreneur to be a little philosopher?
Being a little philosopher is not just important, but necessary. And not only an entrepreneur, but also people of other professions. This is especially helpful in times of extreme uncertainty, in which we now live constantly. Peter Drucker once said that “management is doing things right, and leadership is doing the right things.” Deciding what is good and what is not is a matter of philosophy. To lead a good life of the organization is to give the opportunity to reveal the talent of its employees, to realize their potential. And the ethics question goes back to the ancient sense of the word, from the ancient Greek “ethos” – a question of character. The best life is where we can develop our character the most, or, as I say about our work with customers, take the most from our moment in history.
Aristotle believed that man is different from an animal or a slave in his ability to think and analyze. Animals act according to instincts, slaves follow orders. A full-fledged person, he believed, can make decisions rationally, weighing his own interests and interests of the community. If Aristotle had used the time machine and found himself in the present day, he would have noticed the abundance of hidden slavery in modern business, and sometimes the prevalence of animal instincts.
On the other hand, we can take Nietzsche, who was also concerned about the realization of human potential, but through a different prism. For Nietzsche, “prosperity” meant striving for perfection, turning life into art. Thus, turning animal passions into energy for creativity. In modern business, we need approaches from both Aristotle and Nietzsche. Eventually, like Karl Popper, Immanuel Kant, and David Hume. The latter believed that the most important communication occurs not from the leader, but to the leader, but can be heard best in the heart, in the spirit of Exupery.
One Philosophy Group is united by a common purpose "to create the reality in which we want to live." What does this reality look like and is it possible to implement it in Ukraine?
Seeking the meaning of life is inherently human. Why are we living? What does a good life mean? The economists teach an entrepreneur to analyze needs and create respective services, and psychologists teach how to feel better, but I think the philosophers teach the most important thing. Apart from material benefits and “feeling good,” we have yet to know what is good for us. It is what helps us to thrive as human beings. Working in Ukraine, where a person has been only a screw in the Soviet system for so long, bringing philosophy to business is also a moment of enlightenment. After all, people, including entrepreneurs, according to Guzar, need to learn to live in freedom. If dehumanization was the human price that the Soviet system paid for industrialization, for Chernobyl, for productive five-year plans, then in the latest history of business in Ukraine we have to find another way to multiply wealth. For One Philosophy, this means taking care not only of its quantity but also of the way we create it. Philosophy helps humanize business, reminds us that organizations can be as creative, innovative, interested as individuals.
We at One Philosophy create the best reality around us at different levels.
First, we have principles to which we adhere to and they can be summarized as follows: “We care about the society in which we work, so we make it healthier by our actions.” We do not work with Russian companies and partners until the war stops and reparations are paid. We do not work with companies that harm people’s health (tobacco and alcoholic brands). We pay taxes, do not give, or take bribes. We promote the Ukrainian language in business. This is not a complete list, but only examples of the prescribed principles that the whole team knows and adheres to.
Secondly, we work with more than 40 clients a year, including large international companies and large-scale donor projects that reach millions of people. And in every project with clients, we try to ask ourselves the question: is there an opportunity to create a better reality around us? If this is a long-term donor program to combat stereotypes about mental health, then, accordingly, we make every effort in strategy and tactics to achieve true changes in the knowledge and behavior of people. If this is a security belt campaign, even when you are in the back seat, then in it we will not leave an unturned pebble to reach the target audience. If this improves the experience of tourists and changes the navigation at Boryspil airport, then we will start with a thorough study of the impressions of those who use it, and only then we develop human-oriented solutions on the basis of the best global practices and the special needs of a particular audience.
Thirdly, we also implement our own educational projects for the market or consumers of information every year. Over the past year, for example, we, together with the Ukrainian Institute, have implemented an important study of the perception of Ukraine in the context of the most important civilization narratives of the 20th century in 6 European countries, and together with the European Values Think Tank, have conducted a study of Russia’s influence on the economies of Central and Eastern Europe. One Philosophy’s sustainable projects include supporting the veteran community through the Warriors project, restoring respect for each other in an injured Ukrainian society, working with the senses of trust within conferences such as the Employee Leadership Summit, or implementing a framework for the future way of thinking through Global Insights and Confident Future, which we implement for the development of the market. Our pipeline now has several projects for this and subsequent years that will make Ukraine a more resilient society in its own way.
We know about your passion for delicious homemade food. Tell us about your last culinary experiment and, if possible, share the recipe.
The experience of living in different countries enriches my life with many friends from different countries, thanks to whom we taste and turn many cuisines from all around the world into our own. I will share two recipes from my Canadian and Middle Eastern friends.
Chicken with dried fruits and nuts
– Organic chicken – a whole chicken, divided into parts, or 12 hips.
– 6 whole small onion bulbs
– 250 g dried figs
– 200 g prunes
– 200 g dried apricots
– 1/2 cup oil
– 2 tablespoons sesame oil
– 3 tablespoons honey
– 1/2 cup soy sauce
– 5 cloves of garlic, chopped
– 3 cinnamon sticks
– 1 tablespoon coriander seeds
– 1 teaspoon turmeric
– 1 tablespoon of cumin grains, thickened
– 2 tablespoons of sesame seeds
– Salt and freshly ground black pepper
– 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
– 2 cups of red wine
Best with 1/2 kg of couscous
1/2 cup of walnuts
– Combine all the ingredients for the marinade
– Put the pieces of chicken, onions, and dried fruits in a baking dish and pour the marinade for at least 3 hours (maximum – 24 hours), and leave them in a chilled place.
– Heat the oven to 180 degrees.
– Bake without covering for 40 minutes or until the color of the meat becomes brown. From time to time, water the liquid from the baking mold.
– Before serving, prepare the couscous, spread the chicken and dried fruits over the couscous, and sprinkle with toasted nuts.
Cranberry-almond baked brie
– 230 g brie cheese
– 1/4 cup maple syrup
– 1 tablespoon brown sugar
– 2 tablespoons butter
– 1 twig of thyme or rosemary
– 1 stick of cinnamon
– 1 orange peel of a few centimeters
– 1/4 cup unsalted toasted almond nuts, roughly chopped
– 3 tablespoons dried cranberries
- Preheat the oven to 160 degrees. Place the brie in a baking dish on parchment. Bake until the knife stuck to the center is warm. About 20-25 min. Let it cool down for 5 minutes.
- Heat maple syrup, sugar, butter, thyme, cinnamon, and orange peel chips in a small pot, bring to a boil. Add the almonds and reduce the temperature to medium-low. Let the sauce thicken, until 2 min. remove from the heat and add cranberries or cherries. Pour the sauce on brie and serve with crackers, fresh fruit, or ruby baguette.
- Cranberries can be replaced with dried apricots; almonds can be replaced with walnuts or pecans.