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 / Winter 2005 / Issue 41(originally published by Booz & Company)


Our 10 Most Enduring Ideas

2. The Learning Organization (1,807; 46.6 percent). A learning organization is one that is deliberately designed to encourage everyone in it to keep thinking, innovating, collaborating, talking candidly, improving their capabilities, making personal commitments to their collective future, and thereby increasing the firm’s long-term competitive advantage. In putting forth this idea, we invoked such influential authors as John Seely Brown (The Social Life of Information, The Only Sustainable Edge); Arie de Geus (The Living Company), and Peter Senge (The Fifth Discipline, Presence). The high ranking of this concept and many of the comments about it confirm something we see out in the world. Even the most hard-nosed managers are aware that they can gain sustained competitive advantage only by developing the learning capacity of their people, separately and together. This doesn’t just mean sharing knowledge and skills; it means cultivating the habits of personal character that lead people, up and down the hierarchy, to become more capable. Organizations that help their people do that will reap enormous benefits in the future (or so almost half of the respondents seemed to feel).
Related Articles:
Arie de Geus: The Thought Leader Interview
“The Living Company,? by Arie de Geus
An Interview with John Seely Brown
The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization

3. Corporate Values (1,555; 40.1 percent). Companies that care about ethics, trust, citizenship, and even meaning and spirituality in the workplace (or that simply articulate their values carefully) perform better in the marketplace than companies that care just about “making money.” So goes the concept — but does it correspond with on-the-ground reality? Skeptics abounded: “After so many scandals,” wrote one anonymously, “I doubt if this principle is really true!” But the concept ranked third in the vote, and our articles about normative ethics (such as “The Value of Corporate Values,” by Reggie Van Lee, Lisa Fabish, and Nancy McGaw, s+b, Summer 2005) have consistently ranked among our most popular features. Respondents regarded scandals like those at Enron and Tyco as proof that “in the long run, corporate and social agendas must converge. Relationships matter.” At the same time, many questions remain unanswered about the nature and role of values in corporations. For example, as one respondent wrote: “Given the ever smaller number of individuals with respect for ethics and values, how are corporations and governments expected to develop them in their DNA?”
Related Articles:
Why Bad Things Happen To Good Companies
The Value of Corporate Values
Daniel Yankelovich: The Thought Leader Interview

4. Customer Relationship Management (1,554; 40.1 percent). The cultivation of long-term relationships with customers, including awareness of their needs, leads to highly focused, capable companies that try to make consumers “part of the family.” Over the last decade, strategy+business has singled out such customer-centric organizations as Snap-on Tools, Virgin Atlantic Airways, Apple Computer, Starbucks, and the Boston Red Sox (a mention of which cost this idea the vote of one Yankees fan). Readers added more exemplars to that list: Sonic, Petco, Medline, HSBC’s First Direct division, and, with several mentions, Tesco. A large number of readers commented that despite 30 years of exhortations to “put the customer first,” many companies don’t manage to adequately meet their customers’ needs (or these days, give them an experience that reinforces their ongoing relationship with the brand or company). One fascinating qualification came from correspondent Malcolm Wicks: “Being customer-centric is not the same as CRM, which is more likely to be sales-centric. Being customer-centric is all about doing things that most benefit your targeted customers, even when there is no direct benefit for your company. As everything gets more commoditized, companies that are most customer-centric will be the most successful.”
Related Articles:
How the Auto Industry Should Embrace CRM
A New Window onto CRM Success

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