For the last four years, NewCo Festivals have sprung up in innovation hubs all over the world, literally opening the doors of thousands of fast-growing, disruptive companies. Along the way, we’ve observed some common characteristics of these innovative businesses. Foremost is the centrality of purpose. Purpose beyond extraction of profit, or maximization of shareholder value, unlocks many benefits for nimble, fast growing businesses. Purpose helps attract talent, accelerates key partnerships, and fosters truly innovative ideas.
Pop the hood on a NewCo, and you will inevitably find a purpose-fueled engine. These can be as broad as Google’s “Organize the world’s information,” or as precise as Best Bees’ “Expand bee populations.” As my colleague In “Does your Company Know Why It Exists,” John Battelle wrote that a corporate mission should speak to solving a real problem, and ultimately, making the world a better place. A good corporate mission situates a profit generating market opportunity within a nobler cause.
And missions can’t just be slogans. They must inspire engagement in their communities of employees, investors, and customers alike. NewCos walk the talk, and align their operations so as to accomplish their stated mission. When they do, the results are extraordinary.
Sandwiched between individual contributors and line managers on one hand and executives on the other hand, middle managers get satisfaction neither from tangible creation, nor from setting strategic direction. Instead, their role is to translate executive vision into an executable plan, hire/manage a team and set the processes and culture to ensure delivery.
In large corporations, middle management is the black hole where sizable input (brain power, time, $, energy) results in questionable output. It’s the place where careers stall and many former rising stars fizzle out. It’s also the layer — like our midriff — that has a tendency to expand stealthily, if kept unchecked.
It’s 2016. Nobody can reasonably expect to have a ‘job for life’, or even work within the same organization for more than a few years. As a result, you’re likely to dip into the jobs marketplace more often than your parents and grandparents did. That means it’s increasingly important to be able to prove:
who you are
what you know
who you know
what you can do
Unfortunately, hiring is still largely based on submitting a statement of skills and experience we call a ‘Curriculum Vitae’ (or résumé) along with a covering letter. This may lead to an interview and, if you like each other, the job is yours. We have safeguards in place at every step to ensure people don’t discriminate on age, gender, or postal code. Despite this, almost every part of the current process is woefully out-of-date. I’ve plenty to say about all of this, but will save most of it for another time.
Business gurus love buzzwords. One of the buzzwords that’s got a lot of attention in the past few years is “design,” or more specifically, “design thinking.”
Even as an admirer of the principles behind design thinking, I expected the hype to peak in the late ’00s. But instead of fading it’s actually finding a wider audience and pushing deeper into more industries and organizations. Harvard Business Review put it on the cover last September.