A garment made with W.L. Gore products is probably hanging in your closet somewhere at your home. It’s nearly impossible to buy a ski jacket or slicker without seeing the “GORE-TEX” tag hanging from the garment. But W.L. Gore’s reach extends far beyond what most of us know, to dental floss, guitar strings, surgical products, and many other categories. Revered for its ability to innovate, W.L. Gore has been named “pound for pound, the most innovative company in America” by Fast Company.
Inspire Self-Motivation, Not Mandated Performance
What lies behind this ability is what founder Bill Gore decided to focus on as he began the business: how people inside the company come to make decisions among themselves. Deciding how to decide has driven the growth, ingenuity, and continued innovation at W.L. Gore.
Sustain a Culture of Innovation for the Long Run
W.L. Gore’s ability to drive a culture of continuous innovation rests with its ability to reject traditional hierarchical convention, titles, and rank in its decision making. The company focuses instead on a democratic process in which decisions stick. Founder Bill Gore wanted a company where employees’ spirit grew by what they accomplished, not by which corporate scrimmage they had won—where more time was spent generating ideas rather than generating ways to cover one’s backside. So he decided to create a “non-organization” approach for his new company that would inspire creativity in its employees. He envisioned a “lattice” structure where people would work interconnectedly with each other rather than through a hierarchy. Gore wanted “leaders” to emerge through the ideas they presented and the commitment received to put ideas into action. “Power” is about ideas and the ability to get them sold.
This radical idea for a culture sticks because Bill Gore’s idea honors and upholds the human spirit of the people inside the company. At W.L. Gore, the belief is that people will step up and deliver when they are not regulated. Through a democratic decision and innovation culture, W.L. Gore has grown to a $2.5 billion company. And 2012 marked the 15th consecutive year, W. L. Gore & Associates, Inc. earned a position on FORTUNE ‘s annual list of the U.S. “100 Best Companies to Work For.”
- Do you practice democratic decision making?
- What energy and innovation could you unleash with democratic decision making?