Articles: Strategy

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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Product and Marketing

In 2017, Brad Feld wrote an article in which he proposed that any startup can be viewed as essentially three machines: “(1) the Product machine, (2) the Customer machine, and (3) the Company machine.” I love this model. For me, it captures what day-to-day strategy and execution feels like at a typical startup and many other kinds of organizations, too. The three machines must be high-functioning, and they must be aligned. Feld adapted this framework from one…

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Corporate strategy and board optimization

Organizations excel when they connect their business, brand, and marketing strategies. Doing so increases internal efficiency and creates a scalable foundation for future growth.     I’ve been fleshing out this idea for several years as a series of concepts and practical exercises, starting with my original post “Three kinds of strategy” (2012), up to the most recent one “Brand marketing vs. performance marketing” (2017). I’ve explored each of these three circles from left to right—from business…

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