How great companies think differently, insights by Rosabeth Moss Kanter

Rosabeth explores some interesting and valid points in her article which I believe all business owners can benefit from. Key points are discussed and I engourage you to take the time to look at her work if you are wanting to take a deper dive on this concept

Instead of being mere money generating machines, great companies combine financial and social logic to build enduring success.

Making money has long been the ultimate aim of a business. This capitalism vision has seen corporations to limit their goals to generating the highest profits, regardless of societal impacts.

Traditional financiers and economists have argued that the sole purpose of a business is to make money without giving thought to the societal cost. This disconnects firms from society, posing conflicts between them. Institutional logic is unlike traditional practices, defining a successful company as one which is a vehicle for enhancing societal welfares, rather than only a machine to make money.

Great companies believe that business is an intrinsic part of society, recognising society as a pillar like family, government and religion. They invest in the future and have a focus of meeting the needs of people and society.

They focus on their purpose and address all stakeholder needs by;

  • Improving the lives of users through their products and service.
  • Providing jobs and enhancing workers quality of life
  • Developing strong networks of suppliers and business partners
  • Financial viability that provides the resources required for the improvements, innovations and ROI.

Organisations need to change and adapt frequently in today’s ever-changing environment. The pressure that comes from the forever changeover of human capital possess many risks and burdens on firms.


Common purpose

A way to mitigate this risk and burden is to have a common purpose and a set of values that underpin the organisation. Purpose and values are the very core of an organisation’s identity! They guide people and foster the organisation’s direction, providing the firm with a valuable resource to engage all stakeholders who can assist in the development of diversity, inclusiveness and profit. It enables people to rise and foster a culture that endures and institutionalises firms.


Develop a long-term focus

Thinking of the company as a social institution it helps generate a long-term perspective that will help justify the short-term financial sacrifices that are often required to fulfil the firms’ purpose.

Great companies will sacrifice short term financial opportunities if they are incompatible with instrumental values. The values matter because they act as a guide, they identify the company and forms its reputation, it represents the product and helps form opinions of its customers, service and any by-products. The very best business owners and executives commit a great deal of their time to breathe life into the culture of their firm. Investing resources and time in communicating values maintains, in fact, grows social purpose by keeping it at the forefront of everyone’s mind. This makes the work of the company emotionally compelling. By mobilising everybody else to own these values and this ensures they become embedded into the very fabric of the products and services, in fact they become one with the tasks, goals and performance. This ensures that charisma is not solely dependent on the leader or leadership group but its routinise and spread throughout the company.


Partnering with the public

For many small to medium-size firms, partnering with the public which is a way great companies evolve may not be top of mind, or present itself as obvious.  However, in my experience it’s an important area often overlooked. The kind of partnerships that are considered are international, national or local activities, large domestic projects as well as small community initiatives. You could do some R and D with your product or service that addresses a public interest or an unmet societal need.  If you are a sole trader or an SME, consider volunteering efforts. 

Partnering with the public is much more than sales and marketing.  It’s about you and your firm having a high-level conversation that demonstrates your commitment to furthering the development of your community, state or countries in which you operate.



When leaders allocate time, talent and resources to community projects that serve the community without seeking profit it gives that company credibility and legitimacy. Placing attention on social needs it will often spawn ideas that lead to innovations. Similarly, with you produce business model innovation from institution building as it helps connect partners across ecosystems.



Great companies assume they can trust people and can rely on relationships, not just rules and structures. They are more likely to treat employees as self-determining professionals who coordinate and integrate activities by self-organising and generating new ideas. Great companies understand than a social investment is required to fully understand its social structure and informal networks to optimise performance. Leaders in these companies reconfigure the rigid formal structures to accommodate for multidirectional pathways for resource and ideal flow.


So, what makes great companies great? They look at the whole environment they operate in holistically and with a long-term vision. Great take action on societal purpose and are driven by values that change the very fabric of their products and services, investing in employee empowerment, emotional engagement, values based responsible leadership and related societal contributions.

Live with purpose,

Kristian Livolsi


About Rosabeth

Rosabeth Moss Kanter is the Ernest L. Arbuckle Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School, where she specialises in strategy, innovation and leadership for change. She is also the co-founder and former director and chair of the Harvard University Advanced Leadership Initiative, which was created to enhance and leverage the skills of already accomplished leaders for maximum impact on significant social problems.

We work with highly driven top performers to create meaningful change that impact their business and life through mastering a growth mindset and implementing systems and processes that support scaling.

Kristian Livolsi | Business Growth Mindset


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