Tag Archives: innovation

Innovation vs. sticking to your knitting: another family business paradox

Jennifer Pendergast
Jennifer Pendergast

In a yesterday’s post, I shared a lesson from a study of large, old, successful family businesses – innovation is a key to success.  But, while companies in this study demonstrated an ability to innovate, they also clearly recognize their core competencies and stick to them.  So, we uncover another family business paradox – trying new things vs. sticking to your knitting.  How do we resolve this paradox?  As with all paradoxes, the answer is “both and” not “either or”. 

Successful family businesses are willing and able to try new things, but they select carefully when they branch out.  They choose new business areas that leverage prior knowledge and skills.  Sure, occasionally the businesses in the study branched out well beyond their comfort zone.  But, when they did they often did it with a partner (more on that in a future post).  And, many of the businesses were currently in the mode of paring back their portfolio to focus on what they do best, then innovating around that core. 

The key to successfully executing this strategy is to clearly understand what your competencies are, the ones that clearly differentiate you from your competitors, and how you might use them to take you to new places.  The fact that family business owners provide patient capital creates the opportunity to build and leverage these core competencies to their greatest potential.


Workplace Spirituality

Kent Rhodes

Workplace spirituality has continued to gain acceptance as a topic of study in B-schools across the country, presumably with application to practice within organizations. Though it may have been initially viewed as a passing fad, it now seems to have reached trend status that is distinct from religious connotation. In fact, even management textbooks routinely include sections about “workplace spirituality” and professional organizations like the Academy of Management offer membership in special interest groups emphasizing spirituality.

So, while any number of families associated with successful businesses may also be associated with a strong community of faith, if one of the many emerging definitions of workplace spirituality is looked at in the context of a family business, it starts to become clear why businesses with family at their cores also tend to be naturally spiritual workplaces.

Here’s a recent list of hallmarks of spiritual workplaces. Over the next week, I’ll be writing more about the three that seem to most show up in family businesses. I welcome your comments. The hallmarks are: Emphasizes Sustainability, Values Contribution, Regards Innovation, Cultivates Inclusion, Develops People, Promotes Vocation.