With a little push from Hope's PR firm I have finally started serious work on my book about old companies. I'd like to get a little more flesh on the skeleton before running it past them to see if it's worth continuing to work on. My dilemma is this: I know people will be most interested in stories about real companies, but when books profile specific companies it not only invites criticism (no one is perfect, and that applies to companies too) but risks questioning the principles themselves (not all companies profiled in the book Good to Great are still great, or even operating). The fact that there are statistically significant differences in the practices of old companies compared with young ones doesn't mean all old companies practice these principles, nor does practicing all the principles guarantee that a company will survive. Our research has identified certain practices that correlate with longevity, but that doesn't make them causal. So the approach I'm thinking about using is to give company examples for each factor in the theoretical model, but not to profile specific companies as a whole. I may also include my data base of companies over 100 years old (or those founded before 1900, or before World War I) in the appendix since people always ask what companies are on the list. We'll see. Built to Last, Enduring Success, Managing for the Long Run, are all titles of previous books profiling very large, public corporations. I'm struggling to come up with an appropriate title for my book. Perhaps Survival is the Ultimate Performance Measure? (this is a quote from Ian Davis, former managing partner of McKinsey). Or Secrets of the Corporate Century Club?
I attended the TEDxMacatawa event in Holland. I had attended two of the original TED events in California when I was still at Herman Miller and was interested to see how well these local events do in comparison. It was interesting to hear local people present interesting ideas. The 18-20 minute time limit keeps things moving. Most enjoyable were the conversations during breaks with former Herman Miller colleagues, former Hope students, former and current neighbors and friends.
The month also included a couple of short trips: Detroit to help Nick celebrate his 26th birthday and to Ann Arbor to reminisce with Randy and Babette about our recent trips to Australia and New Zealand. And a baby shower for Alison!
The month ended with intense work on my paper for the summer GBATA conference. The good news is that it was accepted for presentation and inclusion in their readings book; the bad news is that the reviewers requested significant revisions. I was able to address all their concerns, except the request to include the names of companies we surveyed, since we had promised anonymity to participants. By the time I added or revised things, the paper was three pages over the limit for the readings book so I had to do some major editing. I think I finally have it ready to go. My opinion: the revisions suggested by the reviewers did make it a stronger paper, but the longer version is better than the edited one.