Companies with vision are not only stable, long-lasting firms but also widely respected.
Such organizations have an enormous impact on the world. The 2004 bestseller Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies, written by James Collins and Jerry Porras, says that the key to success lies in building and maintaining core ideologies.
The 18 visionary companies in the book all share certain characteristics. The first of these is transcendence. These companies transcend the restrictions of their structure and of words, as well as themselves, and they are always prepared for constantly changing challenges. In other words, a fundamental part of their ideology is that they have to keep challenging themselves.
Visionary companies never think that they are doing well enough. They continually ask themselves: How can I improve, so as to do even better tomorrow? In addition, success and defeating the competition are not their driving goals.
Second, almost all of them devoutly follow their core ideologies, and teach their employees to preserve them, creating an atmosphere and identity specific to a company that is somewhat cult-like. What really matters is not what a company’s ideology is, but whether its strategies are in line with those values.
These companies do not just ask what they should covet and pursue without the guidance of their core values.
Third, their core ideologies are based on harmony. They don’t see things in black and white, which would be detrimental to internal unity. On the contrary, they pursue co-existence and integration for the sake of stability and progress and promote their company identity while respecting their employees as individuals.
If we look at the Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP) incoming chairwoman, Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文), and former senior presidential adviser Koo Kwang-ming (辜寬敏), whom she defeated in the party election, it is not difficult to see that Tsai aims for transcendence and hopes to realize Taiwanese autonomy through innovative ways. Koo, on the other hand, would have sought to strengthen the DPP’s unique atmosphere and beat the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) by bolstering his party’s pro-localization identity.
As for harmony, the whole DPP has failed to pursue a platform based on that ideal. In its eight years at the helm of the Executive Yuan, the party failed to transcend its pro-Taiwan independence agenda through innovation, while DPP “dummy members” discredited its identity and shifted the party toward aggression. When the party wasn’t busy scaring off moderate voters with the same old pro-independence credo, it was busy staging conflict in the name of localization. These are the reasons that the party suffered crushing defeats in the legislative and presidential elections.
As German sociologist Jurgen Habermas observed, the present is the past that is on its way to the future. From a visionary perspective, the characteristics of transcendence, a cult-like, unique identity and non-aggressive policies can integrate the past, the present and the future. However, over the past eight years, the DPP has repeatedly adjusted its ideology and policies, which has had negative repercussions for the independence agenda.
Being visionary means seeing the past not as a shameful history to bury in the archives. Instead, the DPP must pursue transcendence by reforming itself and becoming visionaries who will make Taiwan a nation of knowledge in the 21st century.