Beyond Great: A book review by Bob Morris

Beyond Great: Nine Strategies for Thriving in an Era of Social Tension, Economic Nationalism, and Technological Revolution
Arindam Bhattacharya, Nikolaus Lang, and Jim Hemerling

To paraohrase Marshall Goldsmith, “What got you great won’t keep you great”

For most organizations, greatness is both an admirable destination and a potential trap. According to Arindam Bhattacharya, Nikolaus Lang, and Jim Hemerling, only a few companies have begun to forge a new path forward, “pioneering strategies designed to help them adapt to the new era and become resilient. As these leading-edge firms realize, it’s no longer enough to deliver great performance by selling differentiated products and services. Companies must go [begin italics] beyond [end italics] and offer customized solutions that deliver outcomes and experiences that delight customers.”

They go on to observe, “But leading-edge firms are going [begin italics] beyond great [end italics] in a second sense. refining the very notion of outstandin

PublicAffairs (October 2020)g performance. Shareholder returns remain a corfe standard for these companies, but they’re pursuing these returns with a new sense of purpose, aiming to make a difference not only to shareholders but to [begin italics] all [end italics] stakeholders, including customers, employees, local communities, governments, and the natural environment.”

Bhattacharya, Lang, and Hemerling suggest that three “fundamental forces” are changing the world: first, social tension triggdered increased strain on our natural ecosystem in combination and rising discontent with capitalism; second, rising economic nationalism and erosion of U.S. hegemony; and third, a technological revolution fueled by the exponential growth of global data and digital technologies. “Collectively, these three rorces are transforming the global landscape, scrambling the traditional playbook leaders have long used to compete.”

As the title of one of Marshall Goldsmith’s recent books suggests, “What got you here won’t get you there.” In fact, I am convinced — and perhaps Goldsmith agrees with me — that what got you here won’t even allow you to remain where you are now, however “here” and “there” are defined.

These are among the passages of greatest interest and value to me, also listed to suggest the scope of Bhattacharya, Lang, and Hemerling’s coverage:

o Three Forces That Are Changing the World (Pages 6-8)
o Nine Strategies for Going Beyoind Great (9-12)
o The Push for Total Societal Impact (24-28)
o Three Pathways to Delivering TSI and and Total Shareholder Returns (28-39)

o Products, Services, and Experiences Made for You (55-59)
o The Many Flavors of Asset Light (70-74)
o Go Deeply Local (79-82)
o Thed Fundamentals of Ecosystems (92-97)

o Three Types of Ecosystems, and, The Secrets of Successful Ecosystems (97-101)
o Reimagining Closed Supply Chains (113-116)
o Build Your Data-Advantaged Operating Model (130-139)
o Focused on Customers (150-154)

o The Essential Role of Culture and Leadership (162-164)
o Attracting Talent (170-174)
o Upskiling the Talent Pool (180-184)
o Place the Heart of Transformation at the Center (191-196)

Obviously, companies that have achieved greatness — such as John Deere, ING, Mixcrosoft, and TCS — only because their people have achieved greatness with what they do and how well they do it. Their leaders would be making a serious mistake to rest on their laurels. I agree with Bhattacharya, Lang, and Hemerling that leaders must also go beyond great in an era “of social tension, economic nationalism, and technological revolution.”

More specifically, beyond great leadership consists of six fundamental imperatives:

1. Lead with conviction to positively impact society.
2. Pivot from a command-and-control mindset to a more collaborative, agile-friendly approach.
3. Guide their firms to become more open-minded toward their peers — small and big, in the industry and beyond — than they were previously.
4. Observe and embed a continuous learning mindset.
5. Embrace transforational leadership.
6. Develop a new [or improved] ability to navigate through Ambiguity, tension, and paradox.

Easier said than done? Of course. The journey beyond great is perilous and uncertain, to be sure, and few (if any) “pilgrims” accommodate all or even most of the six imperatives. But that effort must be made — and continuous — especially now when the global marketplace is more volatile, more uncertain, more complex, and more ambiguous than it was at an prior time that I can remember.

For all of the reasons that Arindam Bhattacharya, Nikolaus Lang, and Jim Hemerling cite, great organizations need effective leadership at all levels and in all areas of the given enterprise. They also need [begin italics] a sense of urgency [end italics] throughout the workplace culture. This is precisely what a former Intel chairman and CEO, Andrew Grove, had in mind when insisting that “only the paranoid survive.” True then and even more true now.

Beyond Great is a brilliant achievement, a “must read.” Bravo!


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