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Selected Works

In what one Bloomberg reporter called "the nerd book of the summer", Don Sull and his co-author (also partially ghost written by other co-founder Charlie Sull) present a powerful and intutive way to master complexity, drawing on over a decade of research. Simple Rules address a number of corporate issues. When turned to culture, they offer a clean, evidence-based way to cut through what can be convoluted and often emotionally-laden problems, and produce demonstrable results.

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In this thirty minute discussion, Don Sull talks with John Doerr-- the legendary venture capitalist who was one of the first funders of Google-- about the role goals play in culture. 

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Strategy execution-- the mechanism through which a strategy is translated into results-- is a pillar of corporate culture. In this research feature Don and Charlie Sull present an overview of strategy execution and discuss an actionable way forward, drawing from real life companies like Apple and Trader Joe's.  

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In this HBR cover story, Don and Charlie Sull draw on years of research to dispel five commonly held myths of strategy execution, shedding light on how a culture can most effectively gleam value from a strategy. 

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For decades, SMART goals were the gold standard for goal-setting in corporate cultures. Drawing on research of over 400 companies, as well as case studies with goal-setting pioneers like AB InBev, Don and Charlie Sull present a 21st-century model for how goals can most effectively unlock value in corporations. 

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Although over 97% of corporate leaders claim to have a clear understanding of their company's most important strategic priorities, only 28% could actually list three of them when asked in our survey of 124 organizations. This presents many issues, some of them cultural. Don and Charlie Sull discuss a way forward. 

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Don and Charlie Sull present a practical guide for effective strategy execution, from coming up with an inspiring yet concrete vision, to prioritizing competing demands for time and resources in a strategically harmonious manner. 

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Here Don and Charlie Sull present underlying logics that determine what kind of strategy your company should be cultivating. The answers to these fundamental questions influence all sorts of cultural drivers, such as collaboration and prioritization. 

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What can you learn about how a company lives and breathes if you look at its financial reports? Here Don Sull analyzes 10-K statements from 494 large companies. What percentage of large firms are customer-focused? What are the most frequently cited resources and capabilities of large firms? (Hint: culture makes the top 3) 

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In the 1990s, a very influential idea emerged in managerial literature called disruptive innovation. In this piece, Don discusses this idea and his own contributions to it. For any manager looking to enrich their understanding of innovation, it makes a strong starting point. 

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This Forbes piece provides a readable overview of Don and Charlie Sull's work, circa 2015. 

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If you'd rather read the article than the book, this HBR piece is a good  place to learn about Simple Rules, the powerful and evidence-based method Don Sull and Kathleen Eisenhardt developed to harness complexity and demonstrably improve a variety of strategic and cultural issues. 

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Written in the wake of the financial crisis, this book by Don Sull draws on substantial research to advocate for cultural values like agility and improvisation in certain circumstances. It offers practical ways to seize growth in turbulent times, when everything appears to be in flux.

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This HBR piece offers a short introduction to Don Sull's post-financial crisis book, The Upside of Turbulence. 

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Active inertia, one of Don Sull's most influential ideas, is, in his words, “management's tendency to respond to the most disruptive changes by accelerating activities that succeeded in the past”. This Economist profile gives a good overview. 

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In a HBR article that every manager interested in collaboration and candor should read, Don Sull and his co-author re-imagine the modern company as "a dynamic network of promises". 

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Don Sull discusses the challenges and opportunities of managing companies in a turbulent world. In this Financial Times interview he broaches topics ranging from Alexander the Great's wartime strategies to Microsoft's early success to prioritizing beer brewing opportunities in Brazil. 

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Here Don Sull imagines strategy as a process of actively waiting for promising opportunities. This approach to managing uncertainty is the antithesis of rigorously sticking to a complicated strategy, and has a variety of implications for corporate culture. 

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Don Sull spent a lot of time working with the top teams of Chinese companies, right as the economy was starting to accelerate. He wrote this book about what he learned there. 

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In this book, Don Sull revisits one of his most influential ideas-- active inertia-- and offers a practical way to avoid the pitfalls many historically successful companies face when confronted with changing markets. An essential text on innovation. 

In this groundbreaking article, Don Sull lays out his theory of active inertia in more depth than the above Economist profile. 

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