I was talking to my dad this morning about how it’s difficult for me not to watch the World Cup. It’s also difficult to sacrifice half the day in front of the television, so I try my best to multi-task. I told him I can’t just not watch a World Cup match because it’s once every four years, so the opportunity cost of not watching it is four years of my life. It got a laugh out of him, so I felt my job was done.
Anyway, I was multi-tasking by reviewing Jim Collins’ Built To Last. For those who haven’t read anything by Collins, I highly recommend you do. His content is easily digestible; he offers tangible advice to follow, and his research goes back over a century in some cases. It’s an excellent baseline for someone in any stage of their business to build off.
A lot of the advice is stuff most of us sort of know on our own but always need a reminder about. Like who knew the companies that encouraged innovation amongst its staff would be more successful than those who stifled it to focus on a single goal, and who knew a fervent belief in the ideology of a company would create an efficient workforce and be more productive than one built on the support of a single charismatic individual? See what I mean, stuff we all sort of know already but when we read about it, we go “oh yeah, that’s right.”
What really stood out to me though was what I included in my cover image for this article. The battle of conjunctions. Companies that struggled to reach the same level of growth as iconic ones (like HP, Disney, 3M) saw the conflict as this OR that. They fought with sticking to their core values vs. creating an atmosphere for innovation. They were nervous to experiment or potentially stray from the vision they saw for the company.
While companies that surpassed all their competition encouraged innovation. They saw it as a battle for this AND that. They wanted their company to grow. They wanted an environment full of energy and experimentation, understanding that a company is never done growing or evolving. They operated within the boundaries of what Collins coined BHAG (or Big Hairy Audacious Goal) to give them some cardinal direction then gave freedom of thought to their staff to create and build.
One may think this counters what Collins writes in Good to Great about the importance of keeping a hedgehog concept and not just growing for the sake of growing, but as long as you are operating within some cardinal direction (an over the top wildest fantasy dream of where you see your business going in twenty years) then you shouldn’t be afraid to take risks and change; or include new branches you never thought to include. If ideas come from within and are built on dialogue within the company, then the growth will all be authentic and organic. It won’t be growth for the sake of growth because its endogenous factors that spur the opportunity.