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Does your company “think differently”?

Leonardo da Vinci had a different way of thinking from all of his peers. Albert Einstein, too, had an “uncommon” brain. Even Steve Jobs was of above-average intelligence. Call them geniuses or simply men who were able to face reality, analyse it and process it differently from the rest of society. This is why men like Da Vinci, Einstein and Jobs were, each in their own way, men of great success.

The same sort of thing happens for organizations, those that are able to make a splash, grow, overcome difficulties in the economy, or simply solve problems brought about by competition by being able to think “outside the box”. There are no pre-packaged formulas for success. Some organizations make it. Others – the majority – don’t, or they just scrape by. It may be easier for smaller businesses, but it’s much more difficult when large-scale corporations are faced with the need to “think differently”.

The mechanisms that it requires are both intriguing and complex and are yet to be fully understood. One of the many to try, though, is Rosabeth Moss Kanter – referred to, alternately, as either one of the 50 most powerful women in the world or one of the 50 most influential financial minds on the planet – in her book How Great Companies Think Differently, published by the Harvard Business Review in 2011 but still highly relevant and a greatly interesting read.

Moss Kanter shows that, far from being mere money-making machines, large corporations can combine financial and social strategies in order to create long-lasting success. At the heart of it all, according to her study, there is not just calculations, but also emotion, involvement, a spirit of adventure, and broad-mindedness. Because, according to the author, organizations are social entities that, when faced with uncertainty, are able to generate and transmit social values through those who work there. In short, a great company generates not only profits, but also its own culture, its own way of understanding business, and its own role in society, all of which becomes a powerful driver of growth and development. So long as they are able to make everything work the way it’s supposed to.

How Great Companies Think Differently

Rosabeth Moss Kanter

Harvard Business Review, 2011