Mindset Matters More than Product


Growing up, my son's favourite super hero was Spiderman. He spent many hours in his well worn Spiderman outfit shooting pretend web at the walls and jumping off the couch catching imaginary villains. So when the movie came out in 2002 starring Tobey Maguire, it was a must-see occasion.

The story line sees Spiderman defeat Green Goblin - the alter-ego of billionaire Harry Osborn who is plotting to kill off his board members as revenge for their plan to fire him. Good defeats evil and the streets (and board rooms) are safe again.  But it's the advice that Uncle Ben gives Peter Parker  when he first learns of the powers he has acquired after being bitten by a radioactive spider that  stands out for me - “With great power comes great responsibility”.

I was reminded of this quote recently when hearing the news arising out of the Royal Commission into banking. The nature of the findings meant the commissioner himself came out blasting the Australian financial services sector for putting greed and the pursuit of short term profits ahead of honesty, ethics and integrity.  If Uncle Ben were alive today, perhaps his mentoring may well be in demand!

As a result of past behaviour, the finance industry is now struggling with low levels of trust, a battle that is familiar to those of us working in the food sector.  Given this common ground, I was interested to review the recommendations outlined in the Deloitte Trust Index for banking which was released a fortnight ago.  From my perspective, one of the most noteworthy findings was this:

"Customers consider the mindset of the seller far more important in rebuilding trust than the detailed characteristics of what is being sold. The companies that get this, at the deepest level, are exhibiting the kinds of behaviours that genuinely build trust".

Demonstrating values such as respect, following through on commitments (integrity), and proactively disclosing mistakes (honesty), were shown to be aspects of an organisation's mindset that were important elements for re-building trust.

So if we consider how the learnings from the banking sector can be applied in the food sector, it is clear there are opportunities for building on current efforts around being more transparent, a common way that we aim to address trust. An opportunity also exists to focus on how we can adopt a cultural mindset of honesty and care, of making sure we follow through on commitments, and of being humble and open when we make mistakes.  These are all ways to indicate that relationships matter more than transactions, and that a company shares the same values as consumers.

In a practical sense, some ways to do this include:

  • A business purpose that includes a vision for the food system

  • An ethical management team aligned to a core set of food centred values

  • A clear set of commitments linked to implementing these values in practise, with accountability through regular reporting of progress

  • Communicating honestly

  • Implementation of robust quality systems linked to production and regulation 

  • A commitment to responsible marketing and a consciousness not to mislead

If we can expand our focus beyond the everyday need to sell products, and aim to build long term relationships with consumers by indicating an honest, open, humble, responsible and caring mindset, we will be well placed to build trust, create greater customer loyalty, develop greater resilience for our organisations and place the food industry as a whole in a better place for the future.

Overall, we could do well to acknowledge and implement Uncle Ben's timeless advice.

P.S. Stan Lee, creator of the Spiderman character and many other superheroes, sadly passed away earlier this month at the age of 95. He will be well remembered for his contribution to turning comics into a legitimate form of story telling and sparking the imagination of children everywhere that they can turn themselves into everyday superheroes.