The fundamental challenge of modern business is finding that right balance between tactics and strategy, between execution and innovation, between management and entrepreneurship.
Typically, as companies grow and age, they naturally become more tactical, more execution - focused.
In contrast, the “tabula rasa” of startups has traditionally been the best milieu for out-of-the-box strategy and innovation to thrive.
Now in the old days, businesses could do okay by being very good at just one of these. Big businesses could sustain profitable franchises for years by leveraging their resource advantages to keep smaller competitors out and margins high.
As for startups, pre Global Internet, it was easy to stay in the “idea bubble.” Investors were more patient and it often just wasn’t that obvious if your team and technology had the right stuff. Time was on your side.
But no longer. Businesses must now be either good at it all or they perish.
This is mostly stressful, but do remember that while standards are so much higher now, so are the rewards. One has only to look at Facebook and Groupon’s multi-billion dollar valuations or Twitters 190 million+ users after just a few short years in business to see this.
And luckily, there is an easy shorthand to separate the company wheat from the chaff.
It is the simple idea that business PEOPLE must be all of these things too. And superstar companies are simply ones where lots and lots of superstar people work.
Find the superstar people, and the money will follow.
So who are these people? Well, in another context last week I laid them out in my “Walk Like an Egyptian ” post:
- Critical thinking and problem solving
- Collaboration across networks and leading by influence
- Agility and adaptability
- Initiative and entrepreneurship
- Effective oral and written communication
- Accessing and analyzing information
- Curiosity and imagination
To this, let me add one more: Ambition.
Now I am not talking about the garden variety get good grades, go to a nice college, start a small business, complain about taxes and regulation and how hard it all is type ambition. In this multi-billion person, highly educated, hard-working world of ours, that just doesn’t cut it.
No, the ambition I am talking about is one that burns so deep and hot that it is deeply dysfunctional. An ambition that usually translates for sure into an insane, other-worldly work ethic, but one that goes beyond that.
It is an ambition that is channeled daily into ongoing personal and professional improvement and learning.
An ambition that leads to goals beyond the realistically possible. Like Steve Jobs leading Apple into the music business, or Richard Branson Virgin into airlines, or Tony Hsieh with Zappos putting his life and considerable fortune on the line, for of all things, to sell shoes online.
This kind of ambition is the unifying force. It demands that everything be done right – strategy, tactics, innovation, execution, entrepreneurship, management.
Find this kind of ambition – channeled to ethical, capitalistic ends – and back it.
And you and the world will be better for it.
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