As a management researcher, I've had the opportunity to peer inside a lot of organizations. Most are boringly similar. Once in a while, though, one comes across an eye–popping exception like W.L. Gore & Associates. Known mostly for its Gore–Tex range of high–performance fabrics, the company makes more than 1,000 products and employs 9,000 associates in 50 locations around the world. Wherever it operates, Gore is ranked as one of the “best places to work.”

I first visited Gore when doing research for The Future of Management. My friends at Fast Company magazine had labeled Gore “the world's most innovative company,” so I was eager to learn more. That first visit was weird, even disconcerting. I found virtually nothing ...

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