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The Upside of Turbulence by Donald Sull

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10.

AVOIDING A CORPORATE MIDLIFE CRISIS

Conventional management wisdom holds that companies, like people, must pass through a life cycle.1 Firms begin life with the rapid-fire experimentation of a start-up, scale the business during the corporate equivalent of adolescence, mature into the dull reliability of middle age, and lapse into inevitable decline. Sometimes companies progress through this sequence as a cohort. Minicomputer makers arrayed along Boston’s Route 128 and steelmakers in Sheffield, England, first rose and then fell as a group.2 Other times a company passes through the life cycle in isolation, as Polaroid or Laura Ashley did. Life cycle, according to this viewpoint, is destiny.

The corporate life cycle framework describes ...

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