Business Guide: Questions that will help leaders enable holistic organizational growth

Mangalam Nandakumar, Principal Consultant, ThoughtWorks outlines 4 questions that will help business leaders enable holistic organizational growth.

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Business Guide: Questions that will help leaders enable holistic organizational growth

Let’s hit the ball out of the park’, ‘Go for the kill’, ‘Bite the bullet’ — business vocabulary is filled with war and action sports metaphors. Today, leaders favour language that incites excitement and fervour, and tactics that ensure the instant gratification of a dopamine kick. A high level of aggression, playing to win, throttling down the competition has become the norm. In reality, though, businesses are nothing like war or sports. There is no enemy. There is no reason to rush. And there is no need to get everyone to fall in line. Business is not a zero-sum game, a finite game or an infinite game. In fact, it’s not a game at all.


A business, like a community, is bigger than the sum of all of its individuals. It has the potential to outlive the humans that founded it. It can foster diversity, creativity, community and purpose. To grow holistically, organizations must break the shackles of the quarter-on-quarter commercial metrics that we’ve constrained ourselves with. We have to adapt ourselves to a world that is redefining gross domestic product and introducing ecosystem accounting, to measure well being and social progress. The definition of growth needs to go beyond revenue growth and embrace the value we’re creating for our customers, people, partners, society, including our competition. In this article, we’ll explore key questions that leaders need to ask themselves to begin their journey towards holistic organizational growth.

#1 Who grew along with us? And who/what did we lose along the way?

Through the course of the pandemic, the time needed to close the global gender gap has increased by a generation from 99.5 years to 135.6 years. Growth in revenue at the cost of diversity, representation and inclusivity will only continue to widen this gap.  In pursuit of revenues or market share, are we leaving a trail of cultural destruction in our wake?  Company culture for instance. We should build a business that actively fosters diversity — not as an afterthought, but from the grassroots.


#2 Did we uproot other businesses when we grew? Or did we build an ecosystem for many to thrive?

Take the case of Gojek, who created an ecosystem for MSME players to benefit from. One might argue that the nature of the business determines whether or not it can create an ecosystem of this kind. And, they’d be right. However, nothing stops organizations from being intentional about how we support our vendors, suppliers, and partners. We can set up a culture of innovation and knowledge sharing that goes beyond the boundaries of our organization.

#3 Are we hoarding assets? Or are we sharing them to enable others?


Let’s take the example of data. The world is ready to move beyond thinking about data as an asset and is reframing data as a product. Even governments are exploring ways to democratize data sets for the public good. Today’s inequalities are as much from a lack of access to opportunities, information and network as they are from money. While building businesses, leaders can encourage transparency of information, pay parity, affirmative action, actively reduce bias in decision-making (human or AI) etc. to enable better access to opportunities for everyone.

#4 Who is excluded from our products/services narrative?

The minimum viable product (MVP) mindset can be valuable in quickly validating the viability of an idea. But it can also become a trap for building products for a specific target segment, which in many cases is the “male default”.

It is not enough to discuss inclusivity at workplaces. Products and services must not only be commercially viable but must also be inclusive by design and in end-to-end customer experience. The answers to these questions will not be easy. We will be making important trade-offs.  But asking these questions will help create intentionality about our growth. An acknowledgement that we’re not in a race towards capturing the biggest share of a diminishing pie, but to make the pie bigger for everyone – growth is possible only when we take everyone along. And creating that holistic growth must be deliberate and purposeful. No matter how long it takes.

The author of the article is Mangalam Nandakumar, Principal Consultant, ThoughtWorks

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