Built to Last by James C. Collins and Jerry I. Porras is required reading at our company. The book presents the results of a six-year research project, in which they analyzed 18 exceptional, long-standing companies and compared them to their competitors to uncover the underlying principles that allowed these companies to thrive.
But, I think the book itself is sentient. Okay, AI has been on my mind a lot lately, so not only do I think about AI all day, it has gotten into my dreams. Today, I noticed that our bookshelf had five copies of itself. It’s replicating as its prime objective is to be built to last. It is achieving the objective by multiplying. In reality, the book has sold over a million copies and does offer some keen insight into standing the test of time.
- Have a strong core ideology: Visionary companies possess a clear sense of purpose and a set of core values that guide their actions and decisions.
- Build a culture of continuous improvement: These companies are committed to learning, adapting, and evolving over time in order to stay ahead of the competition.
- Embrace the “Genius of the AND”: Visionary companies reject the idea that they must choose between seemingly conflicting objectives, instead striving to achieve both (e.g., stability and innovation, or profits and social responsibility).
- Cultivate home-grown management: They often develop and promote leaders from within the organization, ensuring a deep understanding of the company’s core ideology and culture.
- Encourage “Big Hairy Audacious Goals” (BHAGs): These companies set ambitious, long-term goals that serve as a focal point for their efforts and push them to achieve more than they might have thought possible.
Big Hairy Audacious Goals
Big Hairy Audacious Goals (BHAGs) are ambitious, long-term goals set by visionary companies that aim to push their boundaries and inspire their employees. BHAGs are meant to be bold, daring, and seemingly out of reach, but they provide a clear and compelling target for the organization to strive towards. By setting and pursuing BHAGs, companies can create a sense of urgency and motivation that drives them to achieve more than they might have thought possible.
Here are three examples of BHAGs from Ford, Microsoft, and Amazon:
- Ford Motor Company: In the early 20th century, Henry Ford’s BHAG was to “democratize the automobile.” He aimed to make cars affordable and accessible to the average American, transforming the automobile from a luxury item for the wealthy to an essential means of transportation for the masses. Ford achieved this goal by introducing the Model T and pioneering assembly line production, which significantly reduced the cost of manufacturing and allowed for mass production of automobiles.
- Microsoft: Microsoft’s BHAG, as stated by Bill Gates in the 1970s, was to have “a computer on every desk and in every home.” At the time, personal computers were expensive and primarily used by large businesses, research institutions, and hobbyists. By developing the Windows operating system and partnering with IBM, Microsoft played a pivotal role in making personal computers more affordable and user-friendly, ultimately contributing to the widespread adoption of computers in homes and offices around the world.
- Amazon: In the 1990s, Amazon’s founder Jeff Bezos set the BHAG to become “Earth’s most customer-centric company.” This goal went beyond merely dominating the online book market, as Amazon sought to expand its product offerings and revolutionize the way people shop. By constantly innovating in areas such as logistics, customer service, and technology, Amazon has become a dominant force in the global e-commerce industry and has extended its reach into various other sectors, including cloud computing, streaming services, and artificial intelligence.