From this project, it is clear that not only is growth still a universally attractive ambition, but that its manifestation is highly varied. From the insights it is evident that any company wishing to successfully grow needs to pay attention to a number of core points. Although there is no master to-do list for growth, from all the analysis and discussions, we can see the unmistakable ingredients that support success, not only in the companies profiled, but also in others that were part of the wider analysis that informed this project. We see ten core implications for the future of successful and sustained growth.
1. Clear Ambition
Growth Champions know what and where is the prize. They know whether there is a ‘gap in the market and a market in the gap’ and also have a clear view on how to create a new market that will be a sustained growth platform. The leaders in their fields know what will differentiate a company from tomorrow’s competition just as much as today’s and in making full use of this have a clear, succinct and individual ambition that employees, customers and wider stakeholder all understand.
2. Distinctive Competence
While many organizations have identified capabilities and competences that enable them to operate and deliver products and services to their customers, few seem to have distinctive competences. Although the associated thinking has been around for many years, surprisingly few firms are yet to be clear about their real and defendable USP, what advantage it gives you and for how long. The Growth Champions by contrast do know and even those that don’t yet possess a truly future-proof distinctive competence, recognize what it should be and how they can most effectively build and develop it.
3. Innovation Priority
Successful companies not only innovate better than their peers, but they also have clear priority. They know where to most effectively innovate to put clear blue water between themselves and the competition. They use multiple innovation across product, service and business model to create a complete innovation ecosystem, and they recognize what will be the future priority and why.
4. Unique Insight
While many organizations have access to ever better insights, many are buying them off the shelf using the same suppliers as their peers. The Growth Champions really know what is it that is needed next ahead of their peers. They have experience and informed gut feel, but they also have evidence from bespoke research. The organizations that win by placing informed bets do so because they have unique insight.
5. Organizational Confidence
All the companies profiled have self-belief in what they are doing and why. They are all confident that they can deliver their respective ambitions. Partly this is based on a track record of exceptional delivery and both understanding and nurturing their distinctive competencies. However, it is also very much seeding in a conviction that they are sure that they are doing the right thing and that you can do it well – and better than anyone else.
6. Risk Appetite
The interplay between success and failure is a well-debated issue. While some companies favor processes to reduce failure, others permit creativity and experimentation. However, the Growth Champions all have a proportionate appetite for risk: Some will gives things a go, even before they are 100% defined, and are confident that they can learn quickly from mistakes and manage the upside. Others keep everything internal and obsessively experiment within the tent so that what gets delivered is as close to perfect as they can make it. However both extremes are comfortable with risk and see it as an essential ingredient.
7. Innovation Balance
Linked to but distinct from the above, the successful growth companies of the past few years have the right balance between systematic innovation and creativity. Within their organizations, the culture and structure is in place to enable both to co-exist and work together. Whether as part of a planned portfolio of activities or as a core element for every growth platform, they balance the level of innovation as much as the type. Incremental and disruptive products, services and business models are emerging simultaneously from within single organizations as part of a coherent strategy.
8. Disruptive Innovation
Conventional thinking has it that disruption usually happens when small companies want to take on big ones and introduce change into a market. What is clear from many of the companies profiled is that disruption is no longer the sole property of startups – the growth champions clearly show that disruptive innovation can be nurtured and thrive within large corporations to deliver transformational growth. Some have done it, some are doing it and others are getting ready to do it. But for all, disruptive innovation is no longer something just done to them but can also be a source of major growth as well.
9. Aligned Investment
After years of analysis, it is clear to the majority that innovation pays dividends but requires support. Whether solely focused to organic growth or including the targeted acquisition of new capabilities, the investments being made on delivering the future growth platforms is evidently aligned with the growth strategy. Access to lower cost capital than peers is critical for many and, whether from internal or external sources, is increasingly being well used. The high return on innovation achieved by the Growth Champions relies equally on innovation impact as it does on well-focused investment where it matters most.
10. Acting at Speed
Lastly, we come to speed. Across virtually all of the examples, being fast to market – either as a leader or a follower has been a critical commonality. Whether exploiting new technologies and business models ahead of peers, or doing a better job soon after their first move, Growth champions operate at a speed that eclipses the competition. These companies have accelerated cycle times and in many cases halved their industry’s established clock speed. They deliver the core incremental changes better and faster than the competition while also creating the next big thing that disrupts the market.