Will Your Business Still Be Around A Decade From Now?
Enduring organizations focus not just on themselves, but also on others in the ecosystem
We live in a world where "VUCA" has become the norm. Coined in the 1990s by the U.S. Army, the acronym stands for Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity - terms that have become part of the contemporary lexicon. Add "Pace" to this list and we would have fully characterized our lives today. In these choppy waters, leaders are struggling to find agile strategies that help them manage changes in markets, customer preferences, technology and human capital.
Despite the gloom and doom created by VUCA, there is hope if we re-architect organizational mindsets so that they enable us to deal with the ever-changing social, business and technological landscape. Businesses must not see themselves as mere engines of profitable delivery; instead they must aspire to become enduring organizations at the level of their DNA. Being an enduring organization is not a choice but an imperative. It is time to stop reacting to situations; it is time to stop experimenting with short-term fixes. Instead, it is time to go back to the basics of constructing profitable, respected, and lasting organizations - one brick at a time. Such organizations are the answer to Peter Thiel's question, "Will this business still be around a decade from now"?
So, what does an Enduring Organization look like? Inspired by iconic names like IBM, Google, Tata and Wipro the following six areas convey the cultural and business practices that give enduring organizations their unique character:
Enduring organizations excel at what they do - be it building airplanes or connecting people through social media. Because they are sharply customer-centric in their strategies and execution, enduring organizations produce exceptional products or services for their customers while delivering great financial and non-financial results for their shareholders. Culturally, such organizations promote performance accountability, cross-functional teamwork and aligned goal setting.
Enduring organizations focus not just on themselves, but also on others in the ecosystem. They see themselves as an integral part of society. Hence as they grow, they take their employees, communities, partners and customers along with them. Often, these organizations create new industry segments that other players leverage to create more businesses. They work on creating a better shared future that is reflective of their mindset of abundance.
Enduring organizations are lean and mean learning machines. They are proactive about changing themselves, often in anticipation of external changes, and sometimes because of internal triggers. Continuous innovations - incremental and breakthrough - are common in their culture, enabling them to outlive cycles of business, social and economic disruptions.
Enduring organizations define, and live by, values that are humane, just and ecologically-responsible. Such values help their employees know what they stand for and guide them in moments of crises. Ethics and integrity are not just matters of corporate governance, but are intrinsic parts of the culture at an enduring organization.
People working for enduring organizations feel a deep sense of belonging and pride. They bring their whole selves to work each day as they commit to the shared vision by their heart and apply their minds to innovate for the future. The organization's work culture is built on mutual respect and trust, and encourages empowered leadership and participative decision-making
Enduring organizations (and their leaders) are admired for their integrity, humane actions and social contribution. These organizations become icons in their communities and nations. Over time, they earn the respect of customers and non-customers alike - not due to marketing and branding programmes - but due to the positive experiences of the people who engage with them.
An enduring organization-building mindset is critical not only for the long-term success of businesses, but also for the well-being of nations. Government policies, entrepreneurial action and investment decisions need to be driven by not just the desire to launch startups, but to help build organizations that add value to people's lives and offer livelihoods to millions of people on a enduring basis.
Ajay Batra is a startup founder, mentor, and an active contributor to the Indian startup ecosystem. Currently, he is Executive Vice President at Venture Fastrack – an initiative of the Wadwani Foundation. He is the Founding Director of Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Bennett University. He also headed Bennett Hatchery – the startup incubator.
He serves on several national committees of FICCI and CII, and is a sought-after jury member for national and international startup competitions like HULT Challenge, CII Startpreneur Awards, Babson Challenge, ET Power of Ideas, Innovation Launchpad, etc. He was the only Indian to be selected for IDEO ’s global program on Design Thinking for Social Impact, and has recently been recognized as Top 10 entrepreneurship contributors in the world by Arist, USA
His next book, “The Startup LaunchBook” (Wiley) is slated for a late 2020 release.