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pankaj ghemawat > articles
Harvard Business Review

Ghemawat, Pankaj.
"Growth Boosters."
Harvard Business Review
82, nos. 7-8 (July-August 2004): 35-40.
Hundreds of books on business growth are published each year, but which ones are really worth reading? Harvard Business School professor Pankaj Ghemawat takes a close look at three recent offerings: Chris Zook's Beyond the Core, Ram Charan's Profitable Growth Is Everyone's Business, and Adrian Slywotzky and Richard Wise's How to Grow When Markets Don't. He finds that all three are likely to succeed at prompting readers to take action. Zook defines the various adjacencies along which a business might extend its scope. Charan presents 10 tools that can be put to use immediately. And Slywotzky and Wise advise executives to inventory their companies' "hidden assets" and conduct an analysis of ways to solve customer problems. But Ghemawat wonders if the current crop of books harbors a subtle pro-growth bias. Ghemawat makes a sobering case for the dangers of setting growth targets too high. Ryanair and Coca-Cola, for instance, stumbled badly when they set unreachable growth targets. Even companies that are considered efficient growth machines run into constraints related to their size. Wal-Mart, for example, has had to accept declining growth rates as it has grown ever larger. Yet none of the three books discusses this dynamic. According to Ghemawat, readers interested in growth would be well advised to revisit a classic: Alfred Chandler's The Visible Hand. Chandler's propositions about growth and the managerial enterprise have withstood years of scrutiny, and his central idea--that technological changes, broadly defined, can affect the relative efficiency of different modes of organizing economic activity--still provides a frame for rich debate.

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