The Issue

Sustained corporate success that extends over decades and continuously expands without apparent end or limit has thus far been a luxury enjoyed by very few companies. So unusual is this phenomenon that when it does occur, we tend to look upon it in awe and admiration rather than closely scrutinizing its origins and history for a clue to the process. In fact, we are so sure that this high achievement is the result of some exceptional talent or extraordinary luck that we rarely even ask the most fundamental question: "What is the process by which sustained corporate success is achieved?" Some may even wonder whether there actually is a process at all. But science assures us that there is a process behind all phenomena—physical, social, psychological, and even spiritual.

This question that we have asked first is actually the last that can be answered. Before we ask how an organization grows, and grows continuously, we must ask several other questions. If organizations grow, there must be an energy or force that drives that growth. What is that energy? Where does it come from? How is it converted into achievement? How does it generate growth?

Our search for answers to these questions spanned more than a decade and literally circled the globe. Drawing inspiration from such diverse sources as the philosophy of Indian yoga, the process of social development, and the psychology of personality, we caught a glimpse of a wider vision, arrived at a hypothesis, and applied it to a study of some of America’s most successful corporations.

Our aim was to trace the historical development of these companies from their early days, to identify the most prominent factors, both internal and external, responsible for their growth, and at the same time to examine each of these companies at different levels from top to bottom and in cross section of their activities in order to identify characteristics common to the entire organization. Our work involved an extensive research of literature and more than 100 interviews in 15 leading companies.

The first and probably the most important of our findings is the all-pervasive role of human energy in the development of individuals, companies, and societies. We observed that this energy is converted by successful corporations into an atmosphere of intensity, which other companies lack. We have sought to discover the origins of that energy and the process of its conversion into intensity for a clue to the secret of enduring success.

The generation and conversion of energy is the key to corporate development. But who or what accomplishes this great transformation? In answering this question, we have to introduce the reader to the most important personality in the life of any company—the personality of the corporation itself.

Personality is a comprehensive term that includes several component parts. We found that the parallel between the individual and the company is far more than a metaphor. It contains a deeper truth. All the pieces of the corporate puzzle began to fall into place, and a pattern of interrelationships emerged. Values, organization, people, systems, skills, technology, machines, materials, and money are not isolated components; they are parts of an integrated, living whole—a personality.

Each of these parts contains a vast reserve of untapped energies and potentials, which the corporate personality releases and utilizes for its growth. We are all familiar with the power of money and technology, so much so that we easily overlook other powers of the corporate personality that contain equal or greater potentials. Henry Ford started with $28,000 and tapped one of these powers to fuel a 25,000-fold expansion of his company in 25 years, without any additional investment. J. Willard Marriott and his son exploited another of these powers to convert a few small drive-in restaurants into the eighth largest U.S.-based hotel chain in the world. A considerable portion of this book is devoted to exploring the rich creative potentials of the powers of corporate personality.

It is very easy to get lost in admiration of one or two powers of the corporate personality and lose sight of the whole, of which they form only a part. But much of the power of organization results from the interrelationships between these parts, the golden gaps that have to be bridged to combine them into a single, unified whole. Merck & Company, Inc. rose from sixth place to first in the American pharmaceuticals industry by bridging the gap between research and marketing. C. E. Woolman—a simple, friendly, lovable man—transformed Delta Air Lines, Inc. from a crop-dusting operation into the world’s most profitable airline by building bridges between people. We have tried to focus in on these organizational interrelationships and illustrate how they have been built up by successful corporations.

The whole we have been describing is itself a part of a greater whole. The living organization is a child of society. The difference between the individual and the company is that people grow by becoming independent of their parents, while corporations grow by forging a more intimate relationship and interdependence with the society that fostered them. A stationmaster who recognized this truth 100 years ago founded what is today the largest retail operation in the world, Sears, Roebuck and Company. Tomas Bata, an uneducated shoemaker who discovered it, expanded his company 15-fold in 5 years and built it up into the largest shoe manufacturer in the world. A couple of young computer buffs made it the springboard for the 1,500-fold growth of Apple Computers, Inc. in a period of 8 years. Shy, inarticulate Robert Woodruff used it to build up The Coca-Cola Company into the most articulate marketing organization and the most popular soft drink in the whole world. Later in the book we explore some of the infinite potentials of this perpetual child-parent relationship.

Finally we come to the process that leads to enduring success. It is the process by which personality develops. We have sought to discover and explain the intimate relationship between the growth of individual personality and the development of the corporation and show how both are expressions of the same process. By consciously following this process, any manager can become a significant individual in the life of the organization, and any company can energize itself and embark on a course that leads to endless expansion and enduring success.

For those who seek the ultimate boon of endless corporate expansion, we invite you to that great adventure and to share our glimpse of a vision of the process. For those who seek a more limited boon like doubling your profits or sales, the book presents specific strategies for achieving your goal.

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