Corporate Growth Strategy: Stay True to Your Core

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Built to Last" by Jim Collins and Jerry Porras. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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How can your company grow while remaining true to itself? What’s a corporate growth strategy that allows your company to progress without changing its values and purpose?

Visionary companies grow while staying true to what they’re all about. They have a corporate growth strategy that preserves the core while stimulating progress. You, too, can achieve this when you believe in the power of “and”—and when you understand the difference between your core company philosophy and your non-core company practices.

Keep reading to learn more about this corporate growth strategy.

A Winning Corporate Growth Strategy

It’s a myth that visionary companies are constantly changing. While they do have an incredible drive for progress and innovation—they don’t evolve at the expense of their core ideals. And this is the corporate growth strategy of a visionary company: They use the power of and to maintain the core and stimulate progress.

Core Philosophy vs. Non-Core Practices

While a core philosophy is fundamental, visionary companies don’t thrive by their ideals alone. If you don’t pair your guiding principles with action and innovation, you’ll be left behind in a world that’s constantly on the move. The key to moving forward is to implement a corporate growth strategy that allows you to stick to your core ideals while changing only non-core practices. 

A core philosophy is an unwavering set of guiding principles, while a non-core practice is a new product line, a new organization structure, or even a new office layout—anything that can change and evolve as long as it aligns with the core philosophy.

  • For example, Boeing’s core ideology is “Being on the leading edge of aviation,” while their non-core practice is making jumbo jets. If they stop making jumbo jets and start making flying cars, they would be changing a non-core practice while still adhering to their core ideology.  

Stimulate Progress

When you mistake a non-core practice that can (and should) be changed for a core ideal that can’t be changed, you remain stagnant and will eventually fall behind as the world passes you by. It’s thus important to have a corporate growth strategy that allows you to maintain the yin of preserving the core alongside the yang of stimulating progress. A visionary company uses a core ideology to define the boundaries between what they can and can’t do, then use a drive for progress to fly within those lines.

Visionary companies have a relentless drive for progress that isn’t influenced by external factors, like what their competition is doing or what industry pundits think they should be doing. Instead, they serve as their own biggest critics, constantly evaluating their non-core practices to see what can be improved. 

  • For example, 3M doesn’t wait to see what competitors are doing before taking action. Through experimentation and innovation to meet needs that consumers didn’t even think they had, they came up with ingenious products like Scotch tape and Post-it Notes.

The Key Takeaway

The concept of maintaining the core while stimulating progress is the foundation of the next steps, which are practical, actionable steps toward attaining visionary status:

  • Commit to challenging, even risky, goals or what the authors call Big Hairy Audacious Goals (stimulates progress) 
  • Foster a cult-like workplace culture that’s suited only to those who are aligned with the core ideology (maintains the core)
  • Keep experimenting (stimulates progress)
  • Promote from within (maintains the core)
  • Never settle for “good enough” and keep striving to do better (stimulates progress)

A winning corporate growth strategy is one that embraces the power of and—allowing you to preserve your core philosophy while stimulating progress with non-core practices.

Corporate Growth Strategy: Stay True to Your Core

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Elizabeth Whitworth

Elizabeth has a lifelong love of books. She devours nonfiction, especially in the areas of history, theology, science, and philosophy. A switch to audio books has kindled her enjoyment of well-narrated fiction, particularly Victorian and early 20th-century works. She appreciates idea-driven books—and a classic murder mystery now and then. Elizabeth has a blog and is writing a creative nonfiction book about the beginning and the end of suffering.

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