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Big ideas are lenses for envisioning the future. Every article and video on bigthink.com and on our learning platforms is based on an emerging “big idea” that is significant, widely relevant, and actionable. We’re sifting the noise for the questions and insights that have the power to change all of our lives, for decades to come. For example, reverse-engineering is a big idea in that the concept is increasingly useful across multiple disciplines, from education to nanotechnology.

Themes are the seven broad umbrellas under which we organize the hundreds of big ideas that populate Big Think. They include New World Order, Earth and Beyond, 21st Century Living, Going Mental, Extreme Biology, Power and Influence, and Inventing the Future.

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Relentless Learning: A New Definition of Business Success for the 21st Century

December 22, 2011, 12:52 PM
Learning

What's the Big Idea?

Aron CramerCEO of Business for Social Responsibility, has a powerful new definition for business success in the 21st century. He describes it as a "kaleidoscopic measure of business success." Cramer says " the imperative for companies to think about sustainability as a core element of their business strategy has never been more important." Is your business a creative engine of change? 

Cramer identifies three challenges that all businesses face in his book Sustainable Excellence: The Future of Business in a Fast-Changing World. These are:

  • Deep economic recession
  • Environmental/natural resource sustainability
  • Collapse of trust in business
  • According to Cramer, these challenges represent "an urgent and compelling mission for every company," and for creative companies, like Walmart and GE, these challenges have been turned into opportunities.
    The world is changing faster than ever before. Therefore, the only companies that will succeed in the decades to come, Cramer tells Big Think, "are those who are relentless learners." 

    Watch the video here:

    What's the Significance?

    According to Cramer, in order for companies to be "relentless learners," it has to start at the top, with the CEO. That means listening to a diverse range of voices, not just the typical voices you hear in the boardroom. It also means understanding what society really wants from your enterprise, not just slavishly following what Wall Street wants for next quarter. "If society isn't interested in the products and services that a company is making," Cramer tells Big Think, "and if the public doesn't accept the way companies interact with consumers, no business can succeed."

    Cramer interviewed Cal Patel, an ex-executive at Best Buy, for his book Sustainable Excellence. In explaining how his company succeeds, Patel coined a phrase "chasing the disruption." As Cramer explains:

    Don’t look at disruption as something that is a problem, look at it as something that’s creating new kinds of opportunities for a company. Don’t rest on what worked yesterday because what worked yesterday may be completely useless tomorrow.  And this is something that is not really what we as human beings are very good at and big institutions aren’t necessarily very good at.  

    The CEOs who understand this, "and who listen to all the voices who can shape their company’s ability to compete," Cramer says "are the CEOs who are going to be most successful." 

    Image courtesy of Shutterstock

     

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