Tuesday, April 22, 2008


One of my mentors, Joe Bower, has published new research on the very important topic of CEO succession. In his new work, Bower argues that firms should aspire to elevate "inside-outsiders" to the CEO post. Here is Bower's explanation:

The answer to problems with CEO succession is what I call inside-outsiders. These are men and women who have performed well and risen high, but have maintained their objectivity. They are aware ofhow much change is needed to sustain success or turn around a failure, but they also know the organization, its culture, and its people. They can do more than bring in consultants or make across-the-board cuts. Beyond getting short-term profits, they can build for future growth. These unusual people are often found at the periphery of the organization, managing new businesses or new markets.

The idea is that companies should try to find someone who combines the experience and knowledge of a typical insider with the fresh perspective and divergent thinking typical of an outside hire. I think it's good advice, and it's particularly interesting to note that these people often may have spent a great deal of time at the periphery of the organization, forging into new markets, launching new products, or coming up with entirely new business models. Those experiences at the periphery expose executives to new ways of thinking and give them a fresh perspective on deeply held assumptions and mental models to which many insiders perhaps become overly wedded over the years.

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