Cover of Grow by Jim StengelBook Review: Grow by Jim Stengel

Imagine if the recipe for maximum growth was having an ideal—the higher-order benefit a business brings to the world?

Sound too good to be true?

It’s not, according to Jim Stengel, the author of Grow: How Ideals Power Growth and Profit at the World’s Greatest Companies.

Jim Stengel, formerly the global marketing officer of Procter & Gamble, now runs the Jim Stengel Company—a think tank and a consultancy that puts helps businesses put the principles from Grow into practice.

The Stengel Study of Business Growth

To convince people of his belief that “doing the right thing in your business is doing the right thing for your business,” Jim Stengel worked with Millward Brown Optimor to conduct a 10-year growth study of more than 50,000 brands around the world.

The Stengel Study identified 50 brands with extraordinary growth over the 2000s relative to their competition. These businesses would have been 400% more profitable than an investment in the Standard & Poor’s (S&P) 500.

Across 28 different business categories, the study found that Stengel 50 had certain powerful commonalities as the highest growth businesses. Brand ideals drove their performance, and those brand ideals centered in one of five fields of fundamental human value.

The Stengel 50 includes some large and familiar names like Accenture,, Apple, Chipotle, Diesel, Discovery Communications, IBM, Jack Daniels, Method, Visa, Tsingtao, and Zappos.

Jim Stengel's Ideal TreeHow: The Ideal Tree

Grow’s argument centers on the the Ideal Tree framework.

To get started, Jim Stengel says you only need ask one simple question:

What higher-order value will you add to your customers’ lives?

The higher-order value of all the businesses that made the Stengel 50 fell into one of five categories:

1. Eliciting Joy: Activating experiences of happiness, wonder, and limitless possibility.
2. Enabling Connection: Enhancing the ability of people to connect with one another and the world in meaningful ways.
3. Inspiring Exploration: Helping people explore new horizons and new experiences.
4. Evoking Pride: Giving people increased confidence, strength, security and vitality.
5. Impacting Society: Affecting society broadly, including by challenging the status quo and redefining categories.

Once you have discovered your higher-order value, Grow takes you step-by-step through the process for infusing that ideal throughout the business.

As you can see from the Ideal Tree, that process involves building your culture around your ideal; communicating the ideal internally and externally; delivering a near-ideal customer experience; and evaluating your progress and people against the ideal.

Compelling Stories Deliver a Memorable Message

Jim Stengel, having already proven his hypothesis through the results of the study, provides an excellent roadmap for adopting an ideal-driven approach. He uses compelling and honest stories, both from his own experience and from the companies in the Stengel 50, to communicate and demonstrate his points.

Another strength of Grow is how the different elements of the Ideal Tree framework are layered on top of one another. As you move from one chapter to the next, Jim Stengel provides reminders and examples to help reinforce what you’ve already learned.

Process aside, the basic premise of the book—that your ideal should be at the center of everything your company does internally and externally—is simple and memorable.

Grow will especially appeal to leaders and managers within companies, but the book provides valuable lessons for anyone who is interested in doing something meaningful with their labor.

This post is the second in our new series of book reviews. We welcome your comments and feedback.

Everyone who comments here on the blog will go in a random draw to win a copy of Grow! The winner will be drawn on Wednesday, March 19.