What Matters Now: How to Win in a World of Relentless Change, Ferocious Competition, and Unstoppable Innovation by Gary Hamel

Focusing on What Matters

Gary Hamel is a management consultant, professor and writer who’s been called the #1 most influential business thinker by the Wall Street Journal. Back in the 1990s, he was the co-creator of the idea of “core competencies”, an idea which describes the key factors that allow businesses (or communities in economic development) to differentiate themselves from each other.  His latest book is What Matters Now: How to Win in a World of Relentless Change, Ferocious Competition, and Unstoppable Innovation.

Put simply, What Matters Now is a book that matters for economic developers… Sure, like a lot of recent books, it describes the radically altered landscape of a post-recession economy.  Its overall structure is pretty straightforward – what matters, according to Hamel, is driven by equal parts innovation, values, ideology, passion and adaptability, a convenient five-point model that lends itself to five key chapters.  But what really makes What Matters Now – well – matter to economic developers, is a key element of his discussion on innovation.  Everyone, of course, talks about innovation these days – how we should embrace it, how we should found companies that espouse it, how we should support companies that use it…but no one provides the practical nuts and bolts advice on how to identify these innovative companies.  And if you’re running a BR+E program, or targeting companies for investment attraction efforts, that absence of advice can be keenly felt.


Hamel fills this void by very carefully and directly articulating five key types of innovative companies, describing the approach that each employs, the characteristics that will help an economic developer identify them in the wild, and examples of firms that epitomize each style of innovation.  His list includes:

  • Rockets – fast-growing young companies with wacky business models (like Hulu)
  • Laureates – companies that innovate year after year, albeit in narrow technology areas (like Intel)
  • Artistes – companies that share wild ideas for a living (like BMW DesignWorks)
  • Cyborgs – purpose-built to achieve super-human feats of innovation (like Google)
  • Born-Again Innovators – “geriatrics” who have cracked the innovation code (like
    Ford)

For genuinely helpful materials like these, What Matters Now is an important reference for economic developers seeking innovation in their local business community.  You can pick up a copy here.