Discovery Group CEO Adrian Gore believes that success is attitudinal, not behavioural, and that maintaining a positive attitude will allow you to see opportunities and to work towards achieving your dreams.
Gore told a recent Forum at the Gordon Institute of Business Science (GIBS) in Johannesburg that while society implies that success is easy and that following a certain formula will guarantee it, thinking that behaviour leads to success is hollow and intellectually lazy.
He told the audience that many of the concepts of success he had been exposed to throughout his career have remained constant and could be applied to personal success, or to that of a company or country.
The most important of these, he said, is positivity and optimism. Gore maintained that positivity makes you more rational, as it allows you to choose your scenario and work towards it: â€œWhen you are negative, you play to your fears,â€ he said.
â€œI believe positivity is the most important attribute of success, as you have to essentially believe that there is a future and that there is something to achieve in that future. When you are negative, you make the wrong decisions based on your fears.â€
This principle could also be applied to the success of a country, he said. South Africa is consistently framed in a negative sense, which tends to be perpetuated. â€œSouth Africans believe our problems are intractable, while those of other countries arenâ€™t, which is ridiculous,â€ he said.
Gore pointed out that South Africaâ€™s standard of living is steadily increasing and is amongst the highest among the BRIC nations.
He said other emerging nations also had challenges to overcome: Brazil has problems with crime, corruption and infrastructure challenges; Russia has an ageing population and a corrupt society; India faces terrible poverty and infrastructure challenges; while China has a need for rapid and continual urbanisation.
â€œThere is no rationality to the belief that South Africa is in decline. The constant framing of South Africa in a negative light means that there is always an undertone that the country is a potential failed state, which is nonsense.â€
The ability to be positive, rational and frame the future positively is incredibly important to success, Gore said.
He said South Africa has the ability to build a successful country, but that we need the vision: â€œIronically, any vision is better than none as it gives people a sense of the future.â€
This ability to set dreams and goals is another of Goreâ€™s key attributes to success: â€œWe are constantly told to set goals, not dreams, to always be more rational and realistic, but the real art is the ability to dream,â€ Gore said.
He explained that Discovery was built on a dream and a vision, not merely a goal of earning return on capital. â€œAt the highest level the core vision of making people healthier cuts across what is today a hugely complicated organisation,â€ he said. â€œWhat excites me is building the best organisation in the world, not return on capital.â€
Gore said the best visions are the ones that are obvious to you: â€œEven when you fail, you will have gotten further than you would have without the vision, as it allows you to think about what you can be, rather than all your fears.â€
Other attributes of success Gore said he has found to have remained constant during his time in business are:
â€¢ A sense of urgency â€“ Successful people know that time is short. â€œYou have to do something today, or nothing will happen,â€ he said.
â€¢ Never stop learning â€“ â€œYour true potential is not as limited as you think it is,â€ Gore said. He added that it is important not to be arrogant and think that you have ever reached the pinnacle of your learning. â€œGet immersed and learn, it will make you more competitive and gives you a broad sense of the world. Donâ€™t stop asking the simple questions.â€
He said that the acquisition of knowledge is exponential and the more you learn, the easier it is to learn more.
â€¢ Persistency â€“ You can work harder. â€œIf you feel you are pushing too hard â€“ you are doing it wrong or doing the wrong thing. If you are passionate about what you do, your work should be inspiring. Your pursuit is success, not balance.â€
â€¢ Innovation, which used to be considered a â€˜nice to haveâ€™ by business, is now understood to be fundamental and is a key differentiator to success, he said.
The Discovery Group, which now has 5,5 million customers globally and has expanded from South Africa into the United States, United Kingdom and China, was based on such innovative ideas, such as the Groupâ€™s Vitality offering, which uses the concept of saving up points in a â€˜health bankâ€™ to promote wellness.
The use of incentives, Gore said, motivates people to change, and behavioural change with incentives can be instant: â€œThe beauty of innovation is that you start with the end in mind. People respond to incentives, and wellness and incentives are a universal concept.â€
â€œLooking at the world through our customerâ€™s eyes means that we are not defined by the industry we are in, but by the problems customers need to be solved. Innovation permeates everything and cannot be underestimated,â€ he said.
â€¢ Integrity and honesty - Sustainable success requires integrity and honesty, Gore explained: â€œIf you are a leader in business, people have to believe in you or they wonâ€™t follow you.â€
Gore conceded that he has a reputation for a passionate and focused leadership style and said that he is at his best when he focuses on positivity, vision and encouragement but also on pushing people hard: â€œI am not a great believer in balance. If you have balance, you may be happy, but you wonâ€™t be successful. If you want success, you have to work hard. The pursuit of happiness is different to the pursuit of success.â€