Built for Growth: A book review by Bob Morris

Built for Growth: How Builder Personality Shapes Your Business, Your Team, and Your Ability to Win
Chris Kuenne and John Danner
Harvard Business Review Press (June 2017)

If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”
African proverb

As Chris Kuenne and John Danner explain, “Our research has discovered there is no single type of highly successful business builder, but rather four distinct Builder Personalities. We call them Driver, Explorer, Crusader, and Captain. Each Builder Personality Type builds for growth in markedly different ways, based on four discriminating factors — their motivation to become an entrepreneur and their styles of decision-making mode, management approach, and leadership style.” Kuenne and Danner devote a separate chapter to each.

While reading and then re-reading their book, I was frequently reminded of how important it is to establish a workplace culture within which personal growth and professional development are most likely to thrive. As the African proverb correctly suggests, there should be a chief architect when designing an organization for growth but achieving that growth requires a broad and deep base of collaboration. Moreover, the Builder Personality Type must be appropriate to the given circumstances. For example:

o Apple needed a Driver who was relentless, commercially focused, and high confident: Steve Jobs.

o Facebook needed an Explorer who was curious, systems-centric, and dispassionate: Mark Zuckerberg.

o Google needed Crusaders who were audacious, mission-inspired, and compassionate: Larry Page and Sergey Brin

o Hewlett-Packard needed Captains who were pragmatic, team-enabling, and direct: Bill Hewlett and David Packard

Descriptives such as Driver, Explorer, Crusader, and Captain refer to clusters of defining characteristics but keep in mind that all great leaders must be relentless, curious, audacious, and pragmatic depending on the given circumstances. I call this “leadership for all seasons.”

But it must be stressed again, as the African proverb suggests, achieving growth requires a broad and deep base of collaboration. This is precisely what Lao-tse has in mind in this passage in his Tao Te Ching:

“Learn from the people
Plan with the people
Begin with what they have
Build on what they know;
Of the best leaders
When the task is accomplished
The people will remark
We have done it ourselves.”

Kuenne and Danner have much of value to say about the interactions between and among the Builder Personality Types within the context of what their research suggests are five growth dynamics:

1. The Scale Dynamic: Elevating the business
2. The Solution Dynamic: Converting ideas into products
3. The Team Dynamic: Galvanizing individual talent for collaborative impact
4. The Customer Dynamic: Transforming the buyers into partners
5. The Sponsor Dynamic: Aligning financial and other supporters

Most of the information, insights, and counsel provided in this volume can be of incalculable value to leaders in almost any organization, whatever its size or mature may be. It remains for each reader to determine which of the material is most relevant to its current and imminent circumstances, especially perils and opportunities.

That said, I agree with Chris Kuenne and John Danner: “No Single Builder Personality Type holds the key to success: each builder fashions his or her own blueprint for building. Some builders’ strategies work better than others’ strategies, reflecting the gifts and gaps of each Builder Type. But together, the strategies of all four types offer a portfolio of pragmatic lessons you can apply to leverage your own particular strengths, address the challenges your business faces, and — in the process — become a stronger builder.”

What have you built for growth lately?

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