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What does ‘the company you keep’ say about your business? Jeremy Anderson, Sector Director of DS Smith’s UK packaging division, explores how companies can build on that maxim to generate a culture of brilliance.

There is a famous saying ‘you are the company you keep’. It espouses the power of positive role models and the way in which people can influence and change one another. This dynamic is definitely true in the world of business. If you surround yourself with brilliant ideas and brilliant minds, whatever the industry, it can spark a revolution.

At DS Smith, our focus isn’t just about competing in our industry - we’re competing at a global level and as a result, our customers have very high expectations. We are determined to meet their expectations and therefore we are always looking for incremental gains as well as identifying major step changes. That’s why it is vital to learn from global industry leaders and apply what has worked in other sectors to your own business. It can help you gain fresh perspective and discover alternative ways of doing things.

With this in mind, it is worth considering what your business can learn from peers and leading brands, such as Apple or Google, and how this translates within your industry? Let’s look at some practices being used across businesses and industries:

Collaboration is Key

Collaboration is not a one-size-fits all approach, but without it the success of a company can be hindered. The term ‘lead by example’ is fundamental. Leaders are in a position to facilitate change and encourage behaviours, if they don’t support collaboration than nor will the wider team. When putting strategies in place to inspire collaboration, greater results can be achieved by looking at how this can benefit the individual, as well as the wider company values, to make it relatable and manageable for employees.

Access to the experts

Is there an inspirational business leader who could visit your workplace and share stories and stimulate fresh thinking? This commitment to learn from others is the guiding principle behind our ‘Innovation Days’. At these events, we have given our customers access to industry experts, high-profile business leaders, academics, sportspeople and commentators, inviting them to share their expertise on topics such as innovation, peak performance, high pressure decision making and more. For example, we’ve heard presentations from The Gadget Show’s Jason Bradbury, on the 1,000-year decade, and insight on how innovative companies in the UK are leading the charge from Olly Rees, then Innovation Product Lead at Decoded. These types of events can be particularly effective and provide inspiration for attendees to think differently about they can improve their business.

Excellence by osmosis

It is certainly true that people rub off on one another and a dynamic, inspiring culture is contagious. If business leaders ensure their teams are interacting with the best ideas and people, they will be inspired to drive forward change. It’s important to encourage team members to spark off one another and ensure they feel confident to share ideas no matter how silly they might seem at first, in the belief that as they brainstorm and collaborate, truly game-changing solutions will emerge.

It is so important that we foster this ‘virtuous cycle’ and that is why at DS Smith, we have worked hard to build a dynamic, internal culture which welcomes new ideas and provides employees with a ‘safe to fail’ environment. Brilliant ideas may materialise from any part of the business, senior managers don’t have a monopoly on excellence. Of course, not every idea will become a reality but it is important that everyone feels empowered to contribute. As people from all different parts of a business come together, the saying, ‘the whole is greater than the sum of the parts’, really does come to fruition.”