In July, the Boeing Company will celebrate the centennial of its founding in 1916. From modest beginnings, it has grown to become the biggest aerospace company in the world. So many assume it will continue dominating global markets for the foreseeable future. But a look back at the company’s first hundred years reveals numerous times when critical choices had to be made, and some of them might have spelled the end of the road — just as they did for over 90% of the other companies that once made airplanes in America. Looking backward, several qualities stand out that explain why Boeing survived while competitors faltered, and those same qualities may well be decisive in keeping the company at the top of its industry for another century. The five qualities are: (1) a talent for disruptive innovation, (2) strategic flexibility from generation to generation, (3) rigorous risk-taking backed by careful analysis, (4) commercial-military synergy among diverse product lines, and (5) political acumen in dealing with Washington. I have written a commentary for Forbes here.
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