“In Times Like These, You Get A Chance To Show Your Strength.” As Part Of Our 30th Anniversary Issue, Inc. Asked Jim Collins, Author Of ‘Good To Great’ And ‘Built To Last,’ What We Might Expect In The Next 30 Years.

This article is in the form of a conversation between author and Inc. editor-at-large Bo Burlingham and Jim Collins, author of Good To Great and Built To Last. The discussion concerns Collins’ vision of entrepreneurship and what companies and their managers will become over the next 30 years. Readers must initially wrestle with a paradox: Business guru Collins is convinced that we are and increasingly will be facing a world of “big events, big forces, massive storms … ferocious” requiring the need to have a “realistic paranoia” and the ability to “be prepared for what we can’t predict.” At the same time we need an “unwavering faith” in our ability to deal with it all. The source of his optimism is his view of the younger generation beginning to assume leadership roles in business. In his own words, “They have a sense of responsibility and service and a lack of cynicism that is remarkable and wonderful and a collective ethos that is connected technologically.”

These future leaders are epitomized by entrepreneurs who have defined success on a grand scale – Steven Jobs is most often mentioned – and are not just in it for the money but to transform society. They build their business culture around responsibility and performance with “a laser-like focus on doing first things first” and the skill to “know how to sift through the blizzard of information that hits you all the time.”

This sort of entrepreneurship, whether independent or within an established company, is a learnable process that is being helped by a growing variety of “educational mechanisms” emerging to support them, from entrepreneurship courses in business schools to a “robust literature” in books and periodicals. Collins sees this as shifting entrepreneurship away from “building a better mousetrap” toward “developing a better process that will produce many mousetraps over time.” He sees the goal of entrepreneurship moving from building a great company [“Apple is a company with a great computer”] to building a great movement [“Apple is a company from which many things will happen”].

According to Collins, putting computers into the hands of people like the Gen-Yers [who instinctively share these emerging values] will speed this transformation to the point in which the social sector and the business sector begin to blur together. As the social side of the equation grows, Collins sees the nature of power changing from concentrated power to a more diffuse power where managers are forced by both inclination and necessity to use education, communication and consensus-building to lead, rather than imperial mandates.

Source: Bo Burlingham , Inc; April, 2009

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