Growing Towards Who You Want to Be
“Grow or die” seems to be the mantra for most organizations. The vast majority of companies use some form of comparative metrics in order to see if they are making progress compared to their past efforts. Top line growth (revenue) has often been enough to provide the next round of financing, a larger bonus, or consideration for a better position. Growth implies positive movement and momentum towards achieving potential. The good news is that companies can choose a number of paths to achieve growth.
In Growth IQ, Tiffani Bova, identifies ten different approaches available to organizations looking to grow. Bova cites context or understanding your environment as the key starting point. From there leaders need to select the right combination of growth paths and choose the right sequence to get the needed impact. Most of the growth paths are what you expect to find like improve the customer experience, go deeper with existing customers, expand to new markets, and expand your product line. Not surprisingly, the one growth path that was unexpected was labeled “unconventional strategies.”
Since the author had done a good job of offering the fundamentals of growth strategies, I assumed unconventional strategies would be a catch all for random strategies that didn’t fit neatly into one of the other categories. I was surprised to discover that this category dealt exclusively with connecting growth to social good. Until recent years, there was little thought to integrating business success with social and personal significance. For most of history, companies primarily contributed to solving social problems through generous giving. For the past several years, the corporate social responsibility movement has challenged organizations to contribute their staff and expertise to raise their engagement level in tackling community challenges. This has laid the foundations for organizations to dig deeper into their “why” or purpose question. More and more organizations are seeing their business growth tied to communicating and delivering on a promise to make positive contributions to their communities.
For some organizations like TOMS and Warby Parker, they directly tie their social giving (shoes and glasses given away for every pair sold) with their commercial activities. But more than just a sales promotional technique, the giving approach influences the organizational cultures which influences everything else within the companies. Bova cites research that 81% of business executives believe “purpose driven” firms deliver higher quality products and services. Also, “mission driven” companies tend to have 30 percent higher levels of innovation and 40 percent higher levels of retention.
It may be that “Unconventional Strategies” is not just one of the 10 growth paths but it is uniquely foundational and transformational. More than ever, talented and motivated people want to see their work reflect their values. And customers have little tolerance for organizations that deliver products with desirable cost and quality but harm their workers and the environment in the process. Organizations that pursue good rather than expend energy to hide their negative practices provide the long term economic growth engines. More importantly, they will be the ones that produce the leaders who know how to apply the vast resources of the marketplace and their organizations to solve many of the social problems created by neglect and indifference.