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Many of these companies at one point had a clear purpose, if not narrative, but somehow lost it along the way. A couple of airlines come to mind, some technology and energy companies. Many are small companies that grew large.
In the lower-right, we have a small, fascinating set of companies. These are companies that have an intrinsic purpose that they are delivering on, but can’t quite articulate. Many highly innovative companies — especially tech companies — live here. Think about Twitter early on or Reddit: they had some fanatical loyalists, but ask any of them why it was so great, and you got a lot of stuttering.
One could say that the entire “social” marketplace still lives here to a large extent. There is one local tech company that I am a big fan of. They have an incredibly powerful approach technology and they are making a lot of money, but only two or three guys in the whole company can sell the product because they are the only ones who can convey the tacit value of the company and what differentiates them from their competition.
Their fans adore them, but they can’t quite cross the chasm because they lack a narrative that connects with a broader market. They recruit their team very, very carefully and indoctrinate them with a long reading list and a very strong culture — all good, but very tricky. They see themselves as a small band of brothers (with a few sisters thrown in) who are, in many ways, superior to all they see.
They aren’t necessarily wrong. Such companies tend to have charismatic personalities leading the way, standing in for mission. We are not quite certain as to whether Apple’s mission is clear enough to withstand succession from its charismatic founder to its COO.
Check out this recent Apple ad campaign. I’ll let you judge the merits. An ad, of course, is not a mission, but Apple recently had to reveal its generous marketing budget, (really, we already knew they were spending serious money, didn’t we?) and an expensive ad is generally a company’s best shot at expressing its narrative.
In fact, based on this quadrant, we can probably predict the effectiveness of a company’s sales and marketing, their level of employee engagement, rate of innovation and market perception of the brand. This is an hypothesis that I am researching, and look forward to sharing the results, along with some of what we’ve learned on how to gain entry into that coveted top-right Leader category, the companies who have found their greatness.
The best is yet to come.
Editor's Note: Other articles by Deb Lavoy you might be interested in:
— What it Takes to Do Good Work and Where Social Business Fits In
About the Author
Deb Lavoy has been studying the dynamics, culture and technology of collaborative teams and knowledge transfer for 12 years, while working in product marketing and strategy for companies as diverse as AOL and Adobe. She is currently Director of Product Marketing for Social Media at OpenText.