Building a sustainable business with a dream and innovation

Building a sustainable business with a dream and innovation

In the second of a series of blogs on leadership, Sir George Buckley, former 3M Chairman and CEO of other multinational firms explains how a dream can make a business sustainable and successful.

One of my favourite heroes in history is Albert Einstein. He had a rather amusing but accurate phrase where he said, “the greatest force in nature is compound interest.” There is a parallel to this in business, which is “that the greatest force in corporate value creation is compound growth.”

If you want to make your organisation successful, you have to focus on steady, profitable growth. So how do you go about doing that?

At the 30,000-foot level, businesses and organisations are only about four things:

  1. A dream
  2. A strategy for achieving that dream
  3. People
  4. Relentless execution

A rather unpleasant investment banker in London once told me that my point about having a dream was stupid. Yet most certainly, the start of any journey is to know where we want to go. Otherwise, it just becomes ‘a mystery tour’. This was undoubtedly the reason behind the Cheshire cat’s question in his conversation with Alice in Wonderland, “If you don’t know where you want to get to, it doesn’t matter what route you take”.

Turning a dream into reality

Whether for ourselves, our children, or our organisation, we should have a dream. It may take some time to sort out what that dream is, but step one in creating anything significant – and therefore, in leadership – is about having a dream.

This next point may seem strange to most people. But in practice, the core business of every business or organisation is dying. How so you might ask? Well, it could be caused by end-of-life technology, competitive attack, changing regulations, or simply changing consumer preferences. So, unless we take action to reverse that erosion trend, your organisation’s core will slowly die.

Innovation is the key to reverse it. And it doesn’t matter if it’s a university, an excellent business, a large city or a local dentist’s office. If we don’t take actions to sustain the core via innovation, it will certainly die. Or in the vernacular, if you don’t invest in the future, it will certainly die. Or in the vernacular, if you don’t invest in the future, it won’t be there when you want it.

Do you have any advice for aspiring leaders? Drop us a line @SGBLeadership on Twitter or on LinkedIn

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Leaders must pick causes they won't abandon easily, remain committed despite setbacks, and communicate their big ideas over and over again in every encounter.

Rosabeth Moss Kanter

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