Prediction: Mission-driven business models will outperform traditional business models over the next 50 years

Mandatory beautiful inspiring photo for thought leader prediction blog post.

This past week I’ve taken three short seminars here at MIT:

  1. Distributed Leadership (24 total hours over 3 days)— about leadership in flat heiarchy and rapidly changing (high growth, shifting market, restructuring, etc.) organizations.
  2. Nuts & Bolts of New Ventures (18 total hours over 6 days, evenings) — a crash course in the accepted wisdom, for MIT students from all disciplines, on the traditional technology-driven Silicon Valley startup model.
  3. Shakespeare, Speeches & Leadership (20 total hours over 3 days)— examining leadership through the acting discipline, including treating Shakespeare plays as business cases.

The contrast between these three seminars, back-to-back over the past five days is interesting. Here are some key tidbits that stand out:

  • Research shows “envisioning” or picturing, and “choosing,” success before a major undertaking increases odds of success.
  • Very clearly knowing your core objectives, values, and “best alternative” to the negotiation (known as a BATNA in negotiation parlance) before you enter a negotiation is a top tip from expert negotiators (such as the Harvard Negotiation Project) to bargain with success.
  • Ethical dillemas are nearly impossible to successfully navigate without a clear understanding of your own ethical values and boundaries before the dilemma happens.

In other words: all three of these fairly separate approaches to leadership suggest knowing your own values is key to succeeding.

In this light, it is no surprise at all the global economy appears to be in a long term shift towards businesses with famous missions (e.g., Google: “to organize the world’s information”) and away from traditional business models that simply “mazimize shareholder value” with no higher purpose.

A mission is a powerful tool to recruit top talent; to inspire employees to higher productivity; to signal long term strategy to shareholders; to attract customers & build loyalty.

I predict: Mission-driven business models will outperform — produce higher return on investment than — traditional business models over the next 50 years.

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