What if… you could teach an entire country to do CPR; you flew in a yet to built plane; you could treat arthrosclerosis faster and more easily than angioplasty? Wouldn’t it be cool to run a company that did that? Bernard Charlès thinks so. He’s CEO of Dassault Systèmes, (DS), creator of 3D simulation products that is doing just that.
I have rarely seen a CEO so genuinely passionate and excited about what his company can do for people, societies and economies, so devoted to his company’s vision and values, and who takes social responsibility so personally. I was privileged to have some time with him at DS’s customer conference. Bernard shared his belief that lifelike experiences are the heart of value creation – for companies and economies. To grow economies, we need to increase innovation; to increase innovation, we need to expand the number and ability of people to collaborate and test lifelike experiences for the real world in a virtual world. Isn’t it be better to evaluate consequences and ‘unanticipated’ second, third order effects before you’ve committed to a specific design or implementation; before you’ve put that solution into the real world?
Bernard’s passion is inspiring. He estimates $3 Trillion in global innovation programs depend on DS’s software giving him tremendous responsibility for how DS engages customers, helps them discover their own talents, and create purposeful and profitable solutions. As he leaned forward with an excited smile, he said how honored he was to be at this moment in his professional life where he can participate in a completely new structure for business. Societal disconnects emphasize the need for collaboration and co-creation: disconnects between citizens and politicians, between the younger generation and traditional jobs, etc. The need to integrate purpose and values in one’s professional and personal life has never been greater. So, DS must daily live its mission and values, make that visible and ‘contagious’.
DS’s culture of collaboration and innovation has been growing. The social community went viral quickly. Employees share work and non-work related passions, build strong relationships, and learn about talents and shared interests across the company. Their traditional HR systems are becoming obsolete since the social communities tell them more about their people than they ever knew. In fact, management’s old innovation award program is gone. Employees submit projects, nominating friends and colleagues who won’t nominate themselves, with more submissions and more visibility of DS’s great talent. People take the initiative to stand up and say, ‘I have talent; I’m passionate about doing “xyz” even though it’s not my job.” This is very exciting. So much so that Bernard prefers the ‘mess’ of trying to figure out this new way of working than the old, highly structured way it’s been.
Isn’t this risky? Not to Bernard, especially since DS’s products are designed to, reduce, even eliminate risk. Over the past 10 years, he’s placed a $2 Billion bet on integrating all DS’s products, solutions and acquisitions onto a single unified cloud-based platform. The risk of the status quo was (and is) greater than the risk of $2 Billion. The new platform allows DS more flexibility to customize customer solutions, down to smaller companies, entrepreneurs, even individuals and it provides an easier platform for partners to build applications. It democratizes DS’s products, allowing more people more capabilities to collaborate and innovate that let economies grow (sound familiar?).
DS’s consistent application of its mission and values is unusual to say the least. It permeates their culture, their product development, even their customers, and as Bernard hopes, our societies and economies. DS takes is social responsibility to heart, to market and to the world. Bernard Charlès excitement and passion is as transformative as his products. Now that is leadership.