Achiev­ing Longevity: How Great Firms Pros­per Through En­trepreneurial Think­ing

Jim De­wald Rot­man-utp Pub­lish­ing Hard­cover $32.95 (224pp) 978-1-4426-5029-9

Foreword Reviews - - Reviews - BARRY SILVERSTEIN

A busi­ness-school dean makes the case for achiev­ing cor­po­rate longevity through en­trepreneurial think­ing.

En­trepreneur­ship is most of­ten as­so­ci­ated with in­di­vid­u­als who start busi­nesses, but Jim De­wald be­lieves cor­po­rate en­trepreneur­ship is not only pos­si­ble, it is nec­es­sary. While he laments the fact that cor­po­rate en­trepreneur­ship is of­ten lack­ing be­cause of “in­sti­tu­tional bar­ri­ers,” De­wald is op­ti­mistic, pos­ing this key ques­tion: “Are we en­ter­ing a new era in which cor­po­rate en­trepreneur­ship will be­come es­sen­tial, even for short-term suc­cess?”

The ap­proach of Achiev­ing Longevity to the sub­ject is ap­pro­pri­ately me­thod­i­cal. It first of­fers a sweep­ing over­view of the cur­rent eco­nomic en­vi­ron­ment and its re­la­tion­ship to the suc­cess or fail­ure of busi­nesses. Then, it ex­plores “strate­gic en­trepreneur­ship” in de­tail

and demon­strates how cor­po­rate en­trepreneur­ship leads to busi­ness longevity. The last por­tion of the book turns the­ory into prac­tice, show­ing specif­i­cally how firms can sur­mount the chal­lenges as­so­ci­ated with in­sti­tut­ing cor­po­rate en­trepreneur­ship.

Achiev­ing Longevity is both well or­ga­nized and el­e­gantly writ­ten. Each chapter has a dis­tinct fo­cus and ends with a sum­mary of the chapter’s main mes­sages. Sprin­kled through­out the text, par­tic­u­larly in its last por­tion, are ex­cel­lent il­lus­tra­tions of en­trepreneurial firms that, be­cause of their in­no­va­tive think­ing, have sus­tained growth over time. The story of 3M, for ex­am­ple, vividly shows how the com­pany is con­stantly ex­per­i­ment­ing be­cause of its cor­po­rate cul­ture of “a tol­er­ance for tin­ker­ing;” in fact, “em­ploy­ees are en­cour­aged to use 15 per­cent of their time to do what­ever they want.” Sim­i­larly, IBM, writes De­wald, “went through at least five en­trepreneurial-driven shifts” to be­come “the poster corporation for strate­gic en­trepreneur­ship.”

De­wald cau­tions that cor­po­rate en­trepreneurial ini­tia­tives are risky and prone to fail­ure, but points out para­dox­i­cally that fail­ing as a busi­ness is still worse than fail­ing to in­no­vate. He ac­knowl­edges that busi­ness lead­ers who want to in­no­vate will meet with re­sis­tance from in­ter­nal and ex­ter­nal forces. Still, he is con­vinced that “the path to longevity and firm sus­tain­abil­ity is paved with the skill of en­trepreneurial think­ing.” Achiev­ing Longevity makes a con­vinc­ing ar­gu­ment that should bol­ster the courage of lead­ers who know they need to push their firms to great­ness.

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