The five-minute management idea: The growth paradox

09 November 2017 -

MBOYA weekly shot of new thinking for business leaders: for most managers growth is important but out of focus

Andrew Brent

A paradox is a statement that contains two contradictory ideas that are simultaneously true. Something tasting ‘bitter sweet’ is a paradox, or the expression ‘to be cruel to be kind’. Paradoxes exist within business strategy too.

What is a growth paradox?

It’s a fact that despite the overwhelming importance of growth to their long-term success, just ten per cent of businesses manage to grow profitably for any sustained period of time, according to analysis from consultancies including Bain & Company.


The first reason is a so-called ‘Focus Failure’. Businesses focus less on the subject of growth than on almost anything else they do. Across corporate cultures, organisations and structures, only four per cent of businesses have a dedicated ‘growth director’.

The second reason can be termed the ‘Big Growth Mistake’. Businesses misunderstand how customers make purchasing decisions and choose between brands. This leads to the creation of commercial plans that are complex and expensive, and which fail to deliver profitable growth.

The error is to assume that consumers make decisions in a rational way. Brand choice decisions are taken by our subconscious brains: we are driven largely by emotional, intuitive factors – not the logical processes that the business world assumes to be true.

Compounding this mistake is the fact that the research tools used by the business world to understand its consumers are only able to connect with the conscious part of our brains.

Further reading

The Growth Director’s Secret examines the implications of this basic misunderstanding for the business world, explores the new tools and techniques that have emerged from the world of neuroscience in the last ten years, and shows how the smartest businesses are using new ways of thinking to achieve transformational success.

The Growth Director’s Secret by Andrew Brent is published by Bloomsbury Publishing. It is shortlisted for the CMI Management Book of the Year 2017/18 in the Innovation and Entrepreneurship category

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