Gore’s Text for Innovation

W.L. Gore’s new rules of business start with breaking the old rules.


The Power of Small Teams
Gore tries to keep its teams small (and caps even its manufacturing plants at 200 people). That way, everyone can get to know one another and work together with minimal rules, as though they were a task force tackling a crisis.


No Ranks, No Titles, No Bosses
Employees, dubbed “associates,” have “sponsors,” who serve as mentors, not bosses. Associates decide for themselves what new commitments to take on. Committees evaluate an associate’s contribution and decide on compensation. There are no standardized job descriptions or categories: Everyone is supposed to be like an amoeba, taking on a unique shape.

Take the Long View
Gore is shockingly impatient with the status quo but patient about the time — often years, sometimes decades — it takes to develop revolutionary products and bring them to market.

Make Time for Face Time
There’s no hierarchical chain of command; anyone in the company can talk to anyone else. Gore discourages memos and prefers in-person communication to email.

Lead by Leading
Associates should spend some of their time — usually around 10% — pursuing speculative new ideas. Anyone is free to launch a project and be a leader, so long as they have the passion and ideas to attract followers. Many of Gore’s breakthroughs started with one person acting on his or her own initiative, and developed as colleagues helped in their spare time.

Celebrate Failure
Don’t stigmatize it. When a project doesn’t work out and the team kills it, they celebrate with beer or champagne just as they would if it had been a success. Celebrating a failure encourages risk taking.