I always enjoy reading Umar (see link below). He consistently beats the ‘thick value’ drum, seemingly on a one man mission to change the world of business. As shallow as I can be, I generally get his point.
Too many business exist just to exist – or to Umar’s point, exist just to win. Other than being employers and beating up on competitors (sometimes), their value contributions and their ambitions seem limited.
Having worked with too many companies who ultimately were simply ’employers’ – lacking the leadership, foresight, ambition and creativity to scale to anything, it’s refreshing to see Umar’s passion for achievement on a much grander scale – say like Google.
There are a myriad of reasons – all inter-related I guess (which came first, the chicken or the egg?) that lead companies to thin-value mediocrity – but over the years I’ve worked with truly visionary leaders who could never be accused of low ambition. So why did those leaders fail?
I’ve never been quite sure on this one but what I keep netting back to is this: their products or services were never good enough. Never good enough to be almost instantly loved by the market place on a mass scale (do you remember the first time you used Google – and it delivered?!). Never good enough to overcome limited investment capital. Never good enough to overcome egotistical and naive management. And never good enough to rise above all realities to stand alone as the best product or service out there. Period.
Achieving best product status is clearly a challenge. It seems to be a combination of massive brain power, dumb luck and good connections. At critical points, good management does seem critical. How many future Googles never make it beyond the entrepreneurial phase? Most?
I like Umar’s thick value drum. It’s a little/lot idealistic, but having a vision for business beyond driving to work every day seems like a good thing.
…. 20th Century organizations were built to have strategic intent. The point of a strategic intent is merely to best rivals. That’s the opposite of an ambition: it’s just combat. Yesterday’s organizations were missing the burning desire to improve on yesterday in their very DNA. That’s what reduced them to passionless machines — and it’s what ultimately made our lives smaller, our economies less vibrant, and our societies poorer.
A real ambition, in contrast is a living expression of how an organizaton answers the four-word challenge of 21st Century economics. Twenty-first Century businesses have ambition — at giganto-mega-universe-sized scale instead. “To organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible:” now there’s an ambition at scale.
An ambition that scales is one that takes an organization already creating thick value, and expands it to affirmatively answer the three questions below:
- Is it globe-spanning?
- Is it world-changing?
- Is it life-altering?
For most organizations, the answers are: maybe, nope, not a chance. For a few, even, worse; the answers are: yes, for the worse, for even worse. Most organizations have only the tiniest, puniest, most inconsequential of ambitions. And that, quite simply, is why most are obsolete.