competitiveness

Sustaining Excellence for the Long Term

In September’s question to the ASQ Influential Voices, CEO Paul Borawski asks how an established organization can maintain a record of excellence over the long term:

Let’s say you’ve reached the “holy grail” of quality and excellence. You make a great product. Your service is top-notch. You innovate. You’ve developed a culture of quality where employees and leaders are empowered. Now, how do you sustain all this…for years, decades, centuries? Everyone can name once-excellent companies that had trouble sustaining the very things that took them to the top.

I’m not going to summarize the messages of Jim Collins’ excellent summaries of research in Built to Last or Great by Choice, even though I think there are many important insights in both books. I want to focus on a new perspective on this question that I heard from Coca-Cola’s VP of Innovation, David Butler, at last week’s Business Innovation Factory (BIF-9) Summit in Providence, Rhode Island.

Butler acknowledges that startups are inherently great at launching new ideas and bringing them to fruition, whereas organizations like Coca-Coca are unparalleled in their ability to leverage their substantial assets (resources, skills, and networks) to scale ideas and broaden their impact.

This essential interplay between starting and scaling was what Butler wanted to capture within his organization.

By supporting the energy and enthusiasm within the maker movement, Coca-Cola is now participating in Startup Weekends that bring together Coca-Cola employees with community members to collaborate and explore possibilities for rapid innovation and a quick transition to commercialization. By providing the platform for entrepreneurs to explore new ideas alongside Coca-Cola employees who know the business, Coca-Cola is essentially acting as a hands-on Venture Capitalist who hops on board as idea generation is flourishing into actionable opportunity.

By inserting themselves into a unique slot in the value chain, Coca-Cola has found a novel way to sustain excellence for the long term.

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