Part 1 – Introduction*
Bill Knudsen was president of General Motors when he decided that only business could prepare for America’s victory in World War II. He understood the role of business in restoring America’s greatness. With our country facing forces on several fronts that could have forever changed our democratic republic, thankfully Bill Knudsen stepped up.
As Arthur Herman noted in his 2012 book, Freedom’s Forge: How American Business Produced Victory in World War II: “If the country was going to make itself seriously ready for war, neither the politicians nor the generals nor the admirals were willing to take the lead. American business and industry would have to figure it out on their own.”
Today, forces on multiple fronts again threaten our way of life domestically and around the world. This time the four antagonists are the rapid economic inclusion of three billion people, climate change and the depletion of our natural capital, the contained depression supporting income inequality, and the crumbling infrastructure at the foundation of our worldwide economy.
Taken together, these four fused and interlocking dilemmas comprise the global challenge of our time. It will require focused and determined leadership. Today, only America possesses the capacity, weight, and cultural wherewithal to lead change of this magnitude.
And once again, American business and industry need to figure it out. But how?
In The New Grand Strategy: Restoring America’s Prosperity, Security, and Sustainability in the 21st Century, authors Mark Mykleby, Patrick Doherty, and Joel Makower answer that question.
Specifically, the book offers lucidity about a viable path forward based on proven and important historical precedent. They outline a clear “prosperity formula” for business leaders to follow, including where the money will come from to fund the strategy.
Importantly, the authors also provide a new framing of full spectrum sustainability and what’s required to achieve sustainable growth. They offer a view that the old concept of sustainability as green (only) is problematic. Too many Americans associate sustainability with the notion of sacrifice in the name of Mother Earth, rather than how we might align our immediate self-interests of personal well-being with our long-term interest of generational and environmental well-being. The New Grand Strategy shows us how companies can do well by doing good.
The book outlines current success stories in which alignment of business, social, and environmental priorities is generating triple bottom-line returns (for people, profit, planet). Companies ranging from Bank of America and BASF to Cisco, Dow, and Ford are demonstrating the path forward. Many more examples are offered.
In the three blogs that follow this introduction, we will review the case offered in The New Grand Strategy:
- Part 2 – The Prosperity Formula and Three Pools of Demand
- Part 3 – Finding the Money and Optimizing Assets
- Part 4 – A Business Plan for America
In summary, this blog series is intended to prompt readers to fully explore The New Grand Strategy as what I believe to be one of the most important books of our time.
The world needs the next set of Bill Knudsens to step up, and we need them to do it now.
*All content in this blog series is adapted from The New Grand Strategy: Restoring America’s Prosperity, Security, and Sustainability in the 21st Century with permission from authors Mark Mykleby, Patrick Doherty, and Joel Makower. Mr. Mykleby and Mr. Doherty currently serve as co-directors at the Strategic Innovation Lab (SIL) at Case Western Reserve University, as part of The Fowler Center for Business as an Agent of World Benefit. Full disclosure: I proudly serve as a strategic advisor to the SIL.