Must Read Weekend Reading

Seems like most of the content we find online starts with a list as in 6 ways to do X, or 5 ways to improve Y. Curating the more thoughtful pieces worth reading in full is what this post theme of must-read work is all about. This week’s assortment has a very corporate theme.  Must be where my mind is focused, given a magazine article project I’m working on for/with Harvard Business Review. Enjoy the reads:

Corporations Have A Purpose Beyond Making Money? Really?


This piece of research and insight from an icon in leadership, Rosabeth Moss Kanter is worth reading a few times. It’s called How Great Companies Think Differently:

Rather than viewing organizational processes as ways of extracting more economic value, great companies create frameworks that use societal value and human values as decision-making criteria. They believe that corporations have a purpose and meet stakeholders’ needs in many ways: by producing goods and services that improve the lives of users; by providing jobs and enhancing workers’ quality of life; by developing a strong network of suppliers and business partners; and by ensuring financial viability, which provides resources for improvements, innovations, and returns to investors.

More here. And you can download full article if you’ve not downloaded 3 this month.

The one thing I think is missing is this. Great companies don’t think differently, great people do. I might say this too much or not enough, but this is a truth for me: Until and when any of us decide things will change, nothing will. You can be that spark that lights the fire.

The Culture Imperative

Strategy & Business (Booz’ magazine) did a phenomenal story on culture being key to growth. 36 percent of all respondents to their survey admitted that their innovation strategy is not well aligned to their company’s overall strategy, and 47 percent said their company’s culture does not support their innovation strategy. Not surprisingly, companies saddled with both poor alignment and poor cultural support perform at a much lower level than well-aligned companies. In fact, companies with both highly aligned cultures and highly aligned innovation strategies have 30 percent higher enterprise value growth and 17 percent higher profit growth than companies with low degrees of alignment.

The larger lesson for companies that struggle to convert their R&D expenditures into successful products, solid financial returns, and unassailable market positions is that it may not just be traditional factors like the innovation pipeline that need rethinking. Instead, companies should follow the lead of the most successful innovators in ensuring that the company’s culture not only supports innovation, but actually accelerates its execution. First, make sure that the innovation strategy is clearly articulated, and communicated throughout the organization from the top all the way down to the lab bench. Second, align the technical community with top management, and give the technical leaders a real seat at the executive table. Third, ensure that the innovation agenda translates into a tangible action plan, clearly linked to a short, focused list of capabilities that will allow you to stand out in the marketplace. The tighter the connections between strategy, culture, and innovation, the more leverage your company will bring to bear in converting innovation spending into marketplace results and superior long-term financial performance

Interestingly, this entire long and wonderful article makes the argument to close the “Air Sandwich” of an organization. More here.

Break your own rules.

This is the business equivalent post of “Flat Abs in 5 Minutes a Day”.

Let’s spend five minutes making your company entrepreneurial. First things first: line up all the obstacles that present themselves on a daily basis–the restrictions, barriers, problems and complications. Then, beside each point, describe the scenario from a start-up’s perspective. Bear in mind that committees rarely come up with great ideas and breakthrough concepts. So, why have them? Then demonstrate real courage (as opposed to the sort of courage written about in your vision statement). Be prepared to offend. Every environment that values transparency will have its detractors and those who will always take offense. Some of the greatest entrepreneurs of our time are predisposed to ruffling a few feathers–think Richard Branson, head of the Virgin Group. By this I mean making decisions that are so bold that people can’t stop talking about them, so courageous that you become afraid of the competition getting a hold of the information, and so outrageous that you don’t need to invest millions promoting them because they tend to promote themselves.

Sounds too easy, right? Well, read more here. That said, I think people make culture seem impossibly hard when it’s really “just” stepping into a new state of being and then doing it anew.


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