When Dr. George Land published his seminal work on transformation theory in 1973, he set in motion a line of thinking that would completely transform American business. In its earliest stages, Land’s “Grow or Die” principles served business well by instilling in executives and company owners the need to continually look forward to encourage growth and expansion. In the years since though, the grow or die concept has taken on a whole new meaning – and it’s not a good one.
Activate Group proposes an alternative to grow or die: grow with purpose. This alternative way of thinking is more in line with Land’s original premise without promoting growth for its own sake. It is a healthier way of doing business in a day and age in which far too many companies are suffering from a destructive tunnel vision that can’t see beyond revenue data.
Grow or Die as Motivation
One of the ways in which the grow or die concept has been misappropriated since the 1970s is its use as a way to motivate workers to do more. Let’s face it, we all know that growth and improvement are important ingredients to business success. But how many companies harp on grow or die in order to scare employees into thinking that the organization will die if it doesn’t grow?
The fact is that long-term company health and growth are not intrinsically tied together. Just look at any multi-generational mom-and-pop store. All that store needs to do to remain viable is maintain enough revenue to pay the bills and generate some profit. It doesn’t need to grow into a big box retailer to survive.
Unfortunately, far too many business leaders incorrectly correlate long-term health with size, scale, and growth. In so doing, they’re also jeopardizing their own organizations. They are focusing so much on growth and development that they are ignoring, and even harming, the most important factor in their success: the employees who make the organization work.
Impetus Behind Grow or Die
It is instructive to step back and try to understand how we got from Land’s 1973 book to the current state of the grow or die philosophy. Observation suggests the impetus behind our modern application of Land’s transformational theory is two-fold. It involves corporate pride and an insatiable desire for the next big thing.
Beginning with the pride factor, companies and their executive management teams measure themselves on the size and scope of their organizations. Executives only look good when their organizations are growing. Therefore, they latch on to the grow or die principal as a means of stroking their own egos. Even SMEs can fall into the same trap.
As for the drive to achieve the next big thing, it is a result of pride in boredom mixed together. Business leaders are too easily bored with the companies they run if those companies are not constantly chasing something new. Many feel they are not doing their jobs if their organizations aren’t innovating; they are not promoting growth and development if they are not promoting something new.
The Grow With Purpose Principle
The Grow With Purpose principle accounts for costs, revenues, and profits. Grow or die looks only at revenues, yet a company that only chases revenue won’t find it. Why? Because growth always requires more financial investment. Chasing purpose is the better way to go. When employees have purpose, especially when they are passionate about that purpose, they give their best. They work hard; they innovate; they become the best they can be. More importantly, employees will follow their employers in the pursuit of purpose, but not in the pursuit of revenue.
In light of that employees need, want, and deserve competitive compensation. They need regular raises to support their aspirations. In order to be motivated to produce their best work, they need to know their employees value their contributions to purpose.
Where grow or die seeks to boost productivity through fear, grow with purpose motivates employees by offering mutually beneficial reasons for growth. The company invests in its employees to support their individual aspirations while the employees invest their best efforts in the company to ensure its long-term success. Both feed off one another; both benefit from one another.
Growing Profits and Revenue
One last thing to consider is the relationship between profits and revenue in the grow with purpose paradigm. Profits are essential for business – they are why one does business to begin with – but profits must be grown in a meaningful way. You do that by growing revenue in a profitable way.
Grow with purpose gives employees an opportunity to pursue something meaningful. In turn, revenue generation becomes profit generation. Profits become meangingful and as such, they provide the fuel that keeps the grow with purpose engine running.
George Land’s grow or die transformational theory was a stroke of genius in its original construct. Unfortunately, modern business has taken the theory in directions it was never intended to go. It’s time for us to replace grow or die with a new way of thinking. It’s time to grow with purpose.