About the awards
In 2020 the Business Ecosystem Alliance (BEA) launched the Zero Distance Awards. The awards identify and celebrate the work of organizations throughout the world in eliminating the distance between their employees, their operations and their customers. The BEA believes that ecosystems are a dynamic means of bridging the gap between organizations and their customers. Each year, BEA acknowledges the groundbreaking work of ten organizations in seeking to achieve Zero Distance.
About Zero Distance
The concept of Zero Distance was introduced by the Haier Group. It emphasises the connection between the business and the end-user or customer. This has become central to the management model of the Internet of Things era.
In 2015, Professor Dennis Campbell published “Zero Distance to Users” as a Harvard Business School case. He taught the case in the “High Performance Organization and Cultural Design” class. From the case, the principles of Zero Distance are clear:
Having a management philosophy that allows the organization to proactively react to newly identified user needs
An organizational design and processes that eliminate organizational barriers that separate employees from end users
The use of user-focused and independent teams that can move fast and smoothly within the organization
End-to-end accountability for the experience of end users is taken by the company and/or independent teams
The systematic collection, storage and use of end user data in order to increase value for end users
Commitment to the ecosystem principles of openness, equality, co-creation and co-sharing.
With 3,800 employees the healthcare and health insurance company has created its Well-B Innovation Center, an ecosystem to proactively identify health care problems and opportunities. This is supported via a human-centered design approach which includes direct and frequent consumer engagement when understanding problems, coming up with ideas, prototyping concepts, and testing solutions.
Committed to empowering its users to build better lives, it started the biggest transformation in the company’s history in 2016 with the goal of transforming the Robert Bosch Power Tools division into a user-centric organization based on agile principles. It follows a holistic definition of agility embracing leadership, a collaboration culture, organisation, processes and methods as well as strategy. All underlined by a strong focus on communication internally as well as to and from customers.
For proving zero distance to customers in the consulting world. The mission of Centigo is to practice business wellness as a philosophy. They practice zero distance by being a bossless organization.
For pioneering the micro-enterprises model in a large corporation. Which they see as a “decisive action to create and drive a customer obsessed mindset in the organization.”
For implementing the Rendanheyi philosophy into the company. Zero Distance has unlocked business opportunities that are propelling GEA’s growth, through its “owner is boss philosophy” paired with its House of Brands approach.”
For proving the strength and resilience of the Rendanheyi model in times of crisis.
The London-based training company Happy has a management philosophy that allows the organization to proactively react to newly identified user needs. Founder and Chief Happiness Officer Henry Stewart sees his role as not to be the expert, making decisions, but to create the framework for others to make those decisions as close to the front line as possible and not need upward approval. The experience of end-users is the responsibility of all staff.
Haier’s Internet of Clothing has created a variety of smart scenarios including clothes washing, care, storage, matching, purchase, and recycling, built a full-process ecosystem, and realized Zero Distance to users.
For putting 40,000 weavers directly in contact with end-users in the western world, 42-year journey that has been able to transform the lives of 40,000 women weavers.
For its ‘no managers model,’ and creating a group of 100 companies with their customers. Based in the Basque region, the company has transformed over 80 businesses in the last 15 years, resulting in 50 to 200% growth and up to 5 times higher profitability. Under its model, productivity soars and salaries are up to 40% higher than the national average.
For exploring zero distance to customers to reinvent the steel industry. Severstal has introduced zero distance into the highly conservative industry of metallurgy, taking steps to reduce the distance between employees and customers.
The Think Tank Unit spearheads the PPP (Public, Private and People) initiative in Oman, which aims to reduce the distance between the three main parts of the national ecosystem – government, business, and citizens.
Led by Dr Ali Qassim Jawad, the initiative, which began in 2014, takes a three-fold approach, using: Dialogue – to build a collaborative spirit and mindset between the three parts by aligning their misaligned agendas; real projects – to build tangible win-win-win situations on the ground; and initiatives: to nudge the government toward competitiveness, the private sector toward innovation, and citizens toward entrepreneurship.
What does it mean to win a Zero Distance Award?
“For us, Zero Distance means having no barriers for front-line staff to interact directly with our clients and being able to respond as they wish without needing any approval. We certainly plan to continue to ensure there are no organisational barriers that separate our people from our clients.”
“It’s a great moment for Jaipur Rugs to win the Zero Distance Award and a testimony to our philosophy of connecting the weavers directly with the end consumers. I feel more confident than ever that our vision of democratizing the carpet value chain, by eliminating the middlemen to empower both the weavers and the end consumers, has been recognized by the Business Ecosystem Alliance.”
“Winning the Zero Distance Award means that our transformation is working. It was only four years ago when we read for the first time about Rendanheyi and its Zero Distance principle. In 2020, we confirmed the power of Zero Distance as a business driver that’s enabling our very successful performance. We have taken the Zero Distance concept to a totally new level, applying it to every single angle of our work.”
“Winning the Zero Distance Award is a source of great pride. External recognition is always a boost for confidence and a sign that our organization is moving in the right direction. We have been pushing for a customer-obsessed mindset in our organization. Zero Distance means that we are putting the customer at the heart of our organization and that we are more agile and more responsive to the customer’s requests and needs.”
“Government needs to improve the way it engages with citizens, taking the lead from business best practice. Ideas such as Zero Distance from customers, organizational agility and the lean start-up movement all have lessons for government. Taken to its logical conclusion this might even mean that every citizen has their own account manager – even if that account manager is an algorithm or AI-inspired bot or avatar.”