“SAPIs” -“Simple And Powerful Ideas.” (Episode 124)

“SAPIs” -“Simple And Powerful Ideas.” (Episode 124)

Interview with Mette Refshauge, VP, Corporate Communication & Sustainability at A.P. Moller Maersk.

This might sound counter-intuitive, but there are some ideas that are “too good to become true” – at least if you do not pay attention.

Let’s call those ideas “SAPI”. SAPI stands for a “Simple And Powerful Idea”, and a SAPI is an idea that is so simple and so powerful that they are met with resistance, scepticism or doubt.

Now, it could be said that all great ideas have this in common that they are simple and powerful, but a SAPI is an idea is so simple and powerful that their simplicity makes them hard to sell – they just seem too simple.

I became aware of SAPI after having a conversation with Mette Refshauge, VP, Corporate Communication & Sustainability at A.P. Moller Maersk. If you haven’t heard of Maersk you might have been spending your life on a deserted island: Maersk Line, the largest contributor to group revenue and earnings, has been the largest container shipping company globally for more than 20 years.

Mette, who handles corporate communication, told me of a great example of a SAPI. The company’s top management was looking for a simple and powerful way of communicating the Maersk’s new strategy of having a more customer centric approach. The team was reminded of how the Maersk CEO recently had been visiting the CEO of one of their clients, Puma, and how the Puma CEO had gifted the Maersk CEO with a pair of custom-made Puma shoes in the distinct blue color of Maersk.

The Maersk CEO had, half jokingly, said: “Can you mass produce these shoes?”

And that triggered the idea that Maersk should buy one pair of Maersk-blue Puma shoes for every employee (!) of Maersk to communicate the new strategy’s focus on customer centricity by having the shows symbolize the importance of – literally! – “walking in the shoes of their customers”!

Do note: Maersk has over 100,000 employees…

And yes, Maersk put in an order of 100,000+ shoes to Puma!

And on the day of the launch of the new strategy the Maersk CEO walked up on stage wearing his Maersk-blue shoes and expressing the message of how everyone in the company now should “walk in their customer’s shoes” and see things from the perspective of the customers.

Picture from the launch with the CEO wearing the special edition Puma shoes.


Simple and powerful.

Stripping down a whole corporate strategy into a pair of shoes and then giving a pair of shoes to everyone to make the strategy tangible, real and meaningful is such a strong idea.

And the campaign became a huge success with employees posting pictures both internally and externally of both receiving and wearing their shoes and employees all over the world getting a better understanding of what the strategy means to them.

But the idea was not an immediate success from the get-go. When the idea was initially introduced some people did not get it, so the team had to work on getting acceptance within the company, and they did that by not overselling the idea.

Mette: “A Simple And Powerful Idea should not be oversold. You have to almost undersell it to give people a chance to be sceptical about it first and then come to their own conclusions that the idea really is as great as it is. Great ideas do not benefit from being pushed on people.”

If you have a Simple And Powerful Idea your challenge is to get others to understand how great it is and to make them understand that by themselves. If you don’t, then the very best of ideas might die because someone thought it was just too good to be true.

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