Your Company DNA: Honoring the Past and Embracing the Future

Hercules is a DJ, by Emre Yusufi, in the DIFC Sculpture Garden, represents the idea that even a legendary hero like Hercules can adapt and evolve with the times.

In March, I was in Dubai, which is very near and dear to my heart because I’ve spent so much time there, over the years. While at the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) – leading financial hub for the Middle East, Africa and South Asia – I was struck by this sculpture which, to me, symbolizes a place that tries very hard to honor the traditions of its culture while moving ahead into a bold new future.

And when companies aspire to do the same, they are often challenged.

How do you honor the history of your DNA and keep it relevant and modern?

This came up in a conversation with a CEO, recently, as his team was really excited about expanding into new offerings and geographies.

Ask the right questions

It comes down to this: all great, enduring companies operate on a set of principles, like a purpose or core values or strategic principles, a Flywheel or a Hedgehog, what they might stand forward to their community partners, or their value proposition for their employees.

These principles that help companies to endure and stay on the right track are critical to success. But you don’t want to let them constrict the ability to innovate and stay relevant.

If you are going to go against or recommend a change to one of those principles, you need to treat it with incredible respect. In some ways, it’s no different to the consideration you’d give to renovating your great grandmother’s heritage home.

Here are three simple questions to ask:

    • Have we proven that we can be successful and have we earned the right to go in a different direction from this principle?
    • Do we have to? Is it actually required?
    • What is the cost of doing so and what do we have to give up or trade, in order to try this change?

This ties back into two Jim Collins’ principles:

      1. Preserve the core and stimulate progress
      2. Bullets versus cannonballs.

Bullets before cannonballs

If, after realizing you are going against a core principle and believing you must do it – and after answering the three questions – you still want to proceed, the key is to do simple, low-risk tests. You don’t want to “bet the farm” on what you believe to be a brilliant idea or amazing opportunity. Like all bullets, make them low-capital and low-distraction risks that don’t take a lot of energy from the core business until you know that you’ve got a winner.

Innovation can continue to make a company relevant you have to proceed with incredible respect and attention.

The Challenge

    • Are you respecting your history and DNA enough?
    • Are you continuing to innovate enough or too much?
    • Where are you firing cannonballs when you should be firing bullets?

If you haven’t yet, there’s still time to register for our first-time, full-day Jim Collins’ Good to Great Team Workshop, October 17, 2023, in Chicago. This is a great opportunity for highly motivated CEOs and their teams to understand and implement Good to Great concepts, and Jim’s full body of work on what makes great companies tick – and to network and meet like-minded CEOs and professionals.

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