Articles: Strategy

Growing up

Note: This article is the concluding post in a four-part series about growth.   Following World War II, the United States enjoyed unprecedented economic success as a victor of the war and the only major nation that did not suffer homeland infrastructure losses. In the US, the post-War period included an expansion of worker rights but hit a turning point in roughly 1968 which began the dismantling of those same rights. We now refer to the dominant…

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Hypergrowth basics

Note: This article is part three in an ongoing series about growth.   The past twelve years have seen major changes in how Silicon Valley startups talk and think about growth. Around the time of the 2007-2008 financial crash, a set of integrated technologies (mobile, wifi, cloud, open source, HTML 5) reached what Carlota Perez calls the Deployment phase of maturity, sparking a new, long boom of technological innovation and VC investment. The FANGA companies and their…

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Growth basics

Note: This article is part two in an ongoing series about growth.   Let’s start with some timeless principles. All businesses grow like this: Geoffrey West has modeled this curve mathematically, and per his research, it’s consistent for all SMBs, all startups, all nonprofits—all businesses. Organizations are not perpetual motion machines, of course. They are complex systems. If they don’t respond to new stimuli and find ongoing sources of fuel, they expire. Once an organization has avoided…

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Growth by any other name

“All the new thinking is about loss. In this it resembles all the old thinking.”   – Robert Hass, “Meditation at Lagunitas”   Anyone working in the startup ecosystem today is well aware that the word “growth” has become ubiquitous, leading to the rewriting of many former job titles and the proliferation of new ones. For those promoting or seeking these jobs, there is an exciting sense that something new and important is breaking into view. A…

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It’s (partially) complicated

In my professional work, I think a lot about the differences between simple and complex systems. As I wrote in my earlier article “It’s (not) complicated”: “We all understand simple mechanical systems like pulleys. Complex systems, like rainforests, however, work differently. They exhibit unique characteristics, including modularity, homeostasis, self-organization, resilience, emergence, non-linearity, inter-dependence with other complex systems, and collapse.”   Some systems actually are complicated, though, or at least partially complicated—more like a Rube Goldberg machine than…

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