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What’s a Corporation to Do? Choose to be Great.

How do we make the transformation to a better form of capitalism? The devil – or God, depending on your perspective – is in the details and these “What’s a . . . to Do?” blog posts provide those details. For you, there’s nothing to it but to do it.

In our previous post we referenced Jim Collins and the concept of “core ideology” that emerged from his research and two bestselling books, Good to Great and Built to Last. You can read that post here. This post continues and finishes the previous post.

In the last few pages of Good to Great, Collins shares the story of a question posed during a professional seminar by one of his former Stanford University students. This was an accomplished student, both academically and later as an entrepreneur, and someone Collins says he has come to respect. So, Collins took this business owner seriously when he asked, “Why should I try to build a great company? What if I just want to be successful?” Hypothetically, you might ask a similar question, “Why should I choose to build or run a company that benefits as many stakeholders as possible, rather than just maximize shareholder profit?” Collins’ two-fold response to that entrepreneur’s question is instructive for your hypothetical.

Image Credit : Clark Tibbs on

First, Collins is of the opinion that it is no harder to build a great company than it is to build a merely successful company. In fact, as suggested by some of the comparison companies in his study, building a great company “involves less suffering and perhaps even less work.” Second, Collins is also of the opinion that the quest for greatness equates to the search for meaningful work. If you are engaged in something you care about with a purpose that you believe deeply in, “then it is impossible to imagine not trying to make it great. It’s just a given” (emphasis in original). Collins’s response, knowingly or unknowingly, speaks to spirituality and the spiritual journey.

I’m an attorney and frequent speaker at law practice-related seminars where I introduce to lawyers the proposition that spirituality and the spiritual journey are dimensions of the legal practice. The faith-neutral definition of spirituality I provide these lawyers is, “The nature of every person to possess an inner trust and strength, which in turn gives meaning to work and life.” The definition of spiritual journey I provide these lawyers is, “The process of developing inner trust and strength, which manifests in being increasingly empowered and fulfilled.” These definitions, as well as the proposition of spirituality as a dimension of the legal practice, are overwhelmingly accepted by these typically most critical of audiences. Based on this experience, as well as feedback from peers in the legal profession, a person’s intentional spirituality and spiritual journey pushes him or her to excel, if not setting them on an active quest to be great.

Collins’s response to the rewards of pursuing greatness rather than the rewards of merely being successful, is supported by the research foundational behind both Built to Last and Good to Great, as well as the lived experience. We’re curious whether you’ve had the same or similar lived experience of striving for greatness rather than just being successful? What was that experience like for you, or what might the challenge of pursing greatness for your corporation look like for you? The list of corporate action items below first appeared in the previous post, and we repeat them here. Do you have additional action items to add?

What to Do Corporate Action Items:

  • Choose a core ideology that comprises core values and purpose beyond just making money.

  • Write and explain your core ideology, which includes benefits for as many stakeholders as possible.

  • Embed your core ideology in your business or strategic plans. Draft and implement strategies, plans, and policies that support your core ideology. This becomes the DNA of your culture.

  • Become grounded in and never waiver from your core ideology, which cultivates a company culture that circles back to inform and support your core ideology. Culture dominates and beats strategies, plans, and policies every time.

  • Integrating your lived culture and official policies based on core ideology provides you the desirable both/and rather than the more mediocre either/or.

As you implement these action items, we'd love to hear from you. And if you have other items, especially items you're willing to share with our readers, we'd love to hear from you.

What about you? Share your story, question, comment, idea, disagreement -- yes, we welcome disagreement for the sake of mutual benefit! -- with us at We will give a thoughtful response, with prioritized attention to emails from our subscribers. Subscribe here >>

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