What Personality is Your Company?

Craig Apatov / Managing Partner – Strategic Marketing Practice Leader

“We would accomplish more things if we did not think them impossible” – Vince Lombardi.

Organizations today can be classified into one of four categories based on their:

– Propensity to innovate

– Predisposition to take action

– Willingness to assume risk

Like people, companies have personalities and tendencies as well. These are almost hard wired and typically evolve culturally based on ownership structure, internal political norms. and the impact of “larger than life” founders and senior managers.

The four classifications for which most all organizations fit are:

  1. Dreamers
  2. Me-too’s
  3. Incumbents
  4. Insurgents.

“Dreamer” Organizations

Dreamers have a high propensity to innovate, but are slow to capitalize and are weak in execution. This is because many ideas within the organization compete for the limited resources available to fund them. With dreamers, many ideas have a difficult time ever get off the drawing board.  They are vulnerable to pre-preemption by competitors that that are faster and better able to execute.

“Me-Too” Organizations

The opposite of dreamers are the me-too’s.  These are the “copy cats” of business.

Companies in this profile have a low propensity to innovate themselves because they also have a low propensity for risk.  Internal managers are quick, however, to pounce on someone else’s ideas and to tweak the innovation suggested by others within the company.  They are masters at playing the business version of “follow the leader”.

“Incumbent” Organizations

The incumbents are most often the recognized category leaders. The dominant, established companies with long histories of business success and enviable, consistent financial performance.

They are typically highly bureaucratic; risk averse, slower to innovate and even slower to act. These characteristics make them highly vulnerable to competitive threats in fast-paced business environments.


The “Insurgent” Organization

Insurgents are most relentless and fiercest competitors in most categories.

They are typically the innovation leaders boasting highly agile organizations who seek first-mover advantage. Insurgents, by nature, are less risk averse; and more likely to employ unconventional methods and strategies to gain competitive advantage.

Insurgents think outside the box. They challenge the status quo and realize quantum growth and long term dominance requires them to march to a vastly different drummer than do their competitors.

Where others see problems, insurgents see opportunities.

While others manage time, an insurgent exploits it.

While others understand time is crucial, an insurgent understands timing is everything.

While others hesitate or procrastinate, insurgents move quickly to capitalize.

Others want everyone to get on the same page while insurgents conspire to write a new chapter.

Insurgents are always on the offensive.

“If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading” – Lao Tzu

The Insurgent Approach to Planning

A key difference between insurgents and others lies in their respective business planning methodologies.

For most companies, it is a linear process. First, strategy is developed and then tactics are determined.  This is generally a complex and time consuming process involving many meetings and countless hours and internal strife. Plus, once the plan is developed, little deviation occurs.  In other words, the plan is the plan.

Insurgents, on the other hand, compress strategy and tactics into a single-minded and highly-focused offensive. They begin with the end in mind. They develop a dynamic and fluid plan – one with flexibility to deal with changing circumstances without the loss of momentum.

There are countless examples of insurgent-minded companies who have challenged the status quo and, not only succeeded, but continue to succeed, more often than not, at the expense of competitors. These include Apple, Amazon.com, and Tesla.

How Insurgent Thinking Can Benefit Your Company

Thinking more like an insurgent will keep your company ahead of the curve and more competitive in the marketplace.

Determine where your company lies today and be willing to make the necessary changes to become more nimble and reactive to potential opportunities when they arise. If you don’t, others certainly will.