Brunello Cucinelli has been called “the king of cashmere.” He started the company that bears his name in 1978 and still runs it today from Italy. Tech writer/philosopher/investor Om Malik met with him in 2015 and transcribed segments of their discussion with the help of a translator. The notes are downright inspiring. Cucinelli is as passionate about the quality of his workers’ lives as their final product. The following quote, on how every company is full of geniuses in their own way, is worth thinking hard about (emphasis added):
You must believe in the human being, because the creativity of a company — Let’s say you have a company with 1,000 people. Maybe we were told that there are only two or three genius people in the 1,000. But I think that if you have 1,000 people, you have 1,000 geniuses. They’re just different kinds of genius and a different degree of intensity.
We hold a meeting here with all the staff every two months. Everybody takes part in it. Even the person with the humblest tasks knows exactly what was the latest shop we opened. Everything is based on esteem, and esteem then generates creativity.
Everything is visible, when things go well and also when they go less well. When we are sad, when we are worried, when we are happy: If you show all these different moods, then you are credible. That’s why I say this is simple.
Cucinelli doesn’t just see people and sweaters, he sees personal potential and luxurious craftsmanship. Whether it’s with our coworkers or our clients, respect for the self-worth of others and a focus on building them up is a means to elevate the entire organization/project/relationship. If we’re willing to earn our credibility, if we truly believe in our end-product or service, then our efforts can be rewarded with a unified culture.
With coworkers: how aware are all of our people of the end-product, the end-experience, and the client’s perspective of whatever they pay us for?
With clients: how willing are we to consider how to make the clients the hero of their own story? How can we make them feel like a true genius for choosing our offering?
Dignity may not sound like a principle of profit-seeking firms, but if value stems from a sense of meaning, then more dignity – truly recognizing the presence of more geniuses – will yield more value, more luxury, and more happiness.