Monday, April 18, 2011

What You Know vs. What You Do

I am happy to report that my presentation on 100-year-old companies was met with great interest at the recent Forbes Business Leadership Forum/IBM Impact Conference. I was also very pleased to find many examples I could use for the key "survival" practices of old companies from the talks of other speakers at the conference, even though their topics were completely different. IBM started with a slide show titled "100 Years of Innovation in 100 Seconds;" the CIO of Caterpillar talked about the 83 year partnership they have had with IBM; "culture eats strategy for lunch" so you'd better have a good one; Forbes publisher Rich Karlgaard listed "real purpose" (a moral foundation - not financial) as one of the things that are needed for a company to survive in the new economy. One speaker began his talk by asking how many people in the audience believe that regular exercise is good for your health. Of course, most of us raised our hands. Then he asked how many of us regularly exercise. Far fewer hands were raised. His point: knowing what needs to be done is the first step, but doing is necessary and may require changing old habits. The life expectancy of people living in the United States increased by 80% in the 20th century by knowing what factors increase longevity and by acting on them. Now that we have identified some common factors in companies that have "lived" for over 100 years, perhaps in the 21st century we can increase the life expectancy of companies. But it will take changing some old habits.

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