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efficiency and repeatability. If I plant seeds every year, I know I will reap crops.
And if I do a few other things, I’ll get more crop per acre.
But what is efficient in a farm is not necessarily what is effective in a rain
forest. This concept comes from a very good book called The Rainforest: The
Secret to Building the Next Silicon Valley, by Victor W. Hwang and Greg Horowitt.
Effectiveness and creativity go hand in hand. And the reason large organizations
suffer from — or believe they suffer from — lack of innovation and creativity is
because they’re focusing too much on efficiency and not enough on effectiveness.
Shapers are business leaders who have learned to pursue both goals. They are
running enterprises like cultivated agriculture, with the ideals of the rain forest.
That is the basic principle that’s emerging from the interviews we’ve done so far.
S+B: Why is it so important that shapers operate through institutions?
GOPAL: So that the ability to be a holistic leader is not just in one person. So that
at least for some time after they are gone — not forever — the show can carry on.
The institution will be capable of making decisions that sustain its identity,
contribution, and value over the long run.
S+B: What do you think of the startups emerging today — like the unicorns and
startups in India? Are they building holistic institutions?
GOPAL: The outcome is yet to be seen. Some of them are trying to influence
society for the better. But I don’t know if they will institutionalize it. For one
thing, it isn’t clear whether they can do it profitably. It’s easy to make one electric
vehicle. Can you make 100,000 of them and bring them to market?
I don’t think we know yet how many of these enterprises — even the largest
ones — will sustain themselves. It isn’t enough to start a company. You have to
keep shaping it into an institution, and that takes you on a long journey. +
Art Kleiner
is editor-in-chief of

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