Inspire Self-Motivation, Not Mandated Performance
A garment made with W.L. Gore products is probably hanging in your closet somewhere at your home. It’s nearly impossible to buy a ski jacket or slicker without seeing the “GORE-TEX” tag hanging from the garment. But W.L. Gore’s reach extends far beyond the cold-weather gear most of us know, to dental floss, guitar strings, surgical products and many other categories.
Revered for its ability to innovate, W.L. Gore has been named “pound for pound, the most innovative company in America” by Fast Company. What lies behind this ability is what founder Bill Gore decided to focus on as he began the business: how people inside a company come to make decisions among themselves. Deciding how to decide has driven the growth, ingenuity and continued innovation at W.L. Gore.
Sustain a Culture of Innovation for the Long Run
W.L. Gore’s ability to drive a culture of continuous innovation rests with its ability to reject traditional hierarchical convention, titles and rank in its decision making. The company focuses instead on a democratic process in which decisions stick.
Founder Bill Gore wanted a company where employees’ spirit grew based on what they accomplished, not which corporate scrimmage they had won—where more time was spent generating ideas than generating ways to cover one’s backside. So he decided to create a “non-organization” approach for his new company that would inspire creativity in its employees.
Gore envisioned a “lattice” structure where people would work interconnectedly with each other rather than through a hierarchy. Gore wanted “leaders” to emerge through the ideas they presented and the commitment received to put ideas into action. “Power” is about ideas and the ability to get them sold.
Democratic Decision Making
This radical idea for a corporate culture has lasted because Bill Gore’s idea honors and upholds the human spirit of the people inside the company. At W.L. Gore, the belief is that people will step up and deliver when they are not regulated. Through a democratic decision and innovation culture, W.L. Gore has grown to a $2.5 billion company. And 2011 marked the 14th consecutive year W. L. Gore & Associates Inc. earned a position on FORTUNE ‘s annual list of the U.S. “100 Best Companies to Work For.”
Even though W.L. Gore is a large business now, it’s the decisions they made when they were just starting out that created their marketplace position of innovation.
As a small business, decision making is even more critical because everyone in your company is a Customer Ambassador. Does your company thrive and grow because of the people you hire and how you honor their contribution to the business? Does everyone feel like they are an equal part of the success of your business?
Do You Practice Democratic Decision Making?
W.L. Gore continues to innovate by shedding formal hierarchy in favor of the power of the idea. Belief that good ideas come from everyone is their growth engine. Do the best ideas of your company get to see the light of day? Are good ideas given a chance to prosper, no matter where they come from?