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The Pile is our weekly guide to what we’re reading to become better managers. You can find earlier installments here and here and here. Some of the resources we point to may require registration or payment to read.
Last week it seemed like everyone else was reading the autobiography of a self-styled maverick, while we were keeping up with the work of someone who’s been studying business mavericks and corporate innovation for many years, William C. Taylor. In his Acid test of strategy column for the Washington Post, Taylor, the author of Mavericks at Work and the forthcoming Practically Radical, urges companies to think of strategy as advocacy:
“In any field, winning organizations don’t just offer competitive products and services. They stand for important ideas–ideas that help to shape the agenda for their field, ideas that reshape the sense of what’s possible for customers, employees, investors, and society. The most successful organizations don’t just out-compete their rivals. They redefine the terms of competition by embracing one-of-a-kind ideas in a world filled with me-too thinking.
Oftentimes, the most original and distinctive business ideas–ideas that make tons of money and create loads of wealth–have a huge impact on society as a well. Who cares what Southwest Airlines does for philanthropic purposes (although I’m sure it does some great stuff), given that its growth and success has democratized air travel in the United States, and made it possible for tens of millions of people to see things and do things and visit places they never would have seen, done, or visited without this fabulously successful business?”
Taylor isn’t arguing against corporate philanthropy, to be sure. But he is arguing that philanthropy surely isn’t the only way companies can change the world.
One idea that many people are hoping will change one part of the world is the electric car. But are companies going about marketing the electric car correctly? The McKinsey Quarterly says the best way to sell electric cars is not to satisfy all consumer needs but to segment the market in new ways. In