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The secret of success of great visionary companies

vision, mission,purpose,goals,innovation, corporation

There has been a general impression that innovation in a visionary corporation innovation takes first place. Employees are often pressured to be innovative and that innovation as such does not follow a procedure and occurs randomly. While it is true that innovation is the life blood of enterprise, often it becomes meaningful only when it serves up a specific business requirement. It is fostered to address the same. My assertion is not to underplay those innovations that may not be useful to me today but can be so after 50 years in a big manner (I’m paraphrasing Michael faraday).

It is also very true that most business related commercial innovations are by products of those researches which actually focussed on building transportation and communication for serious military and space ventures. For example by using technologies used to build a nuclear cruise missile submarine we can produce more than 10,000 commercial applications that can very well be analysed and classified to suit specific business applications over a period of time. In fact Boeing serves as a good example. It is quite foolhardy and unadvisable from a visionary company perse to invest and foster innovations without purpose and I can tell you that visionary companies do not make this decision. After all technology is a temporary asset. There exists many technical options for a particular business requirement. Freedom of thought, speech expression and tolerance for mistakes comes as a part of a non-exploitative business practice. A company would infringe with employee rights and rules if he fires him unfairly. It is should not be a core-competence of any company. If a company behaves in that manner of being exploitative then it has to be blacklisted and dissolved. Ditto with ethics. Where as ethical business practices are most compulsively desired, they are not a property of company or its sole right.

A visionary company exists at the first place because of its vision and mission. It is service minded organization, that has carried itself ahead day-to-day by the virtue of its values and ethical, truthful conduct of business. In this regard it may be desirable to quote George Merck on Merck’s vision:

“We try to remember that medicine is for the patient. We try never to forget that medicine is for the people. It is not for the profits. The profits follow, and if we have remembered that, they have never failed to appear. The better we have remembered it, the larger they have been.“.

As excerpted from the talk by George. W. Merck
At the Medical College of Virginia at Richmond, December 1, 1950

A statement like above should confirm a visionary corporation’s stand on innovation.

The exceptional stress laid on being committed to service and make oneself more and more accountable for one’s activities is further enunciated from George Merck’s own confession that he :

" Firmly believes that management should not be in control of the board in a public company, owned by the public and in public service.".

Merck sets his own public responsibilities as high as his company's. Before World War II, he served (unpaid) on the Munitions Board's Chemical Advisory Committee. At the height of the war, he also directed all the Government's sprawling research on biological warfare (for which he was later awarded the Medal for Merit). Merck still makes frequent trips to Washington as a consultant to Defense Secretary Lovett. His public-duty commitments range from his local zoning board, his local hospital and state chamber of commerce, to the executive council of the American Cancer Society and the board of visitors of the chemistry and biology departments at Harvard.

The other factor that keeps a visionary company apart id their willingness to take risks. The policy for risk taking is usually defined as follows:

• Think smart and innovative.
• Take meaningful risks and avoid foolhardiness.
• Defy odds.
• Set yourselves high targets and time.
• Avoid plagiarism.

Next is commitment to preset goals. A visionary company stays committed in the following manner:

• Do more than just lip service to the goals.
• Take those steps that may seem unconventional but are productive.
• Discipline and focus the team towards achieving the same.
• Put the goal ahead of everything else.

The last point should remind one of Boeing corporation.

The next stage is building the vision. A lot of painstaking effort is expended at this front by visionary corporations. A lot of factors come into picture. After a careful analysis of data and purpose, a company’s vision is conceived with following guidelines:

• Adherence to truthful practices.
• Service orientation.
• Constant improvement.
• Meaningful business ventures.
• Operational excellence and efficiency.
• Value addition.

A trader is a go- between between a customer and a source of raw material. There by trade is a service. Honesty and ethics are requirement and not choices. What drives an enterprise is knowledge and innovation and not greed for resources. What keeps it alive is its accountability. The next thing is With respect to home grown leadership. Nothing can be further from truth than the assertion that I have the absolute right over resources of earth. If a company can diversify into many sectors it can also bring in people from other sectors and try new management practices that do not infringe with ethics or stifle an employee’s justifiable rights at promotion. Adopting strict policies on home grown management only can result in a lot of corrupt practices related to lobbying, nepotism and insider trading. I would be the last person to agree that it would be fair to put in a life time effort and take pains to identify and develop a business and then transfer the ownership of the same to a stranger but I have to consider honest and eligible people for managing assets. Aim of enterprise is to inculcate values, nurture talent while creating assets for noble causes and utilities. In this regard Johnson&Johnson and Nordstrom serve as very good examples. Come on let us start the noble mission of building visionary company!!
Published: 2009-03-05
Author: K Sethu Madhavan

About the author or the publisher
A management professional with eight years experience in telecommunications industry, I have written a lot of articles in subjects related to management and strategic information analysis.

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