Humility may be the most endearing, and enduring, quality one can ever have.


Wins, or successes, in a business career come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Just scan resumes and they are strewn with them. For the most part people like to highlight seemingly short term ‘causal’ wins: I did this and this happened. Let’s call those transactional successes. Business loves those because they appear to be “successful doer” stuff. “this person makes shit happen to the benefit of the business.” But as time goes on another successes emerges – enduring things. The ones that prove you really know your business shit and are not just a transactional winner. I do not mean to diminish the short-term successes because having the ability to meet a specific milestone or objective over and over again is a skill and essential to the success of the institutional business. But a structural win, one that embeds itself within a business for years, shows that in some form or fashion you have crafted an enduring idea – enduring in its concept as well as enduring in the actions/activity it begets. I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that other humans is often the most satisfying enduring success, i.e., people you managed have gone on to be successful not only in business but in life, but today is about business successes.

Which leads me to mistakes.

We all make mistakes, but not all mistakes are created equal. I would argue choiceful mistakes, or failures, are of incredibly high value to one’s enduring success strategy and actual successes. What I am actually talking about doing something and then enduring the inevitable gauntlet of “why did you do that?” and “whoa, that was a mistake” or even “I am not sure I would have done that” gauntlet.

This may seem like an odd way to talk about enduring value and success, but I have made more mistakes than I can count which makes the wins, the non-mistakes, so much more valuable to me. In fact. Many of my mistakes were so egregious because they were on things that should have been done, not things that were actually a waste of time. I bring this up before I bring up actual successes because I consider part of enduring ‘wins’ are actually ideas/thinking you had, failed to bring to life in some way, and, yet, someone else did at a later date with success. My point here is that, on occasion, I had the ability to envision an enduring idea/win just that I couldn’t figure out how to get it implemented. In a world which seems to overvalue things that get done versus ‘right things that for some reason didn’t occur at the time’ it is difficult to publicize these types of failures/mistakes, yet, they do have value. They show the ability to recognize enduring value as well as acknowledges that ‘wins’ aren’t just given to good ideas; they take work & resilience to navigate the natural gauntlet business offers even the best of ideas/thinking.

Which leads me to the enduring ideas with enduring performance.

One can embrace an enduring idea without attaching any performance which is a dangerous path to take on the argument of its value. To me the truest enduring value is found in “built to last” stuff. Ideas that become the underpinning, consistently implemented (in a coherent way), to ongoing business success/performance. To be clear. No enduring idea can be owned by one person. The reality of business is enduring ideas need a collection, or collective, of people over time to breath life into an idea. I would also add that for any enduring idea to gain the initial traction it takes a team or cohesive group of people who can articulate the idea in a way that gives it a solid platform from which to push forward on its progress. Here is my list:

  • CPG dual benefit.

When I first began my career, I worked on P&G healthcare and they had a couple of products with dual benefits. They crafted the art of how to communicate not one benefit, but two <in a company relentless in its pursuit of ‘one thing’>. I believe this embedded a fairly stubborn personal attitude that communicating just one thing really well was not the only path to successfully optimizing value. Which leads me to my first enduring idea contribution. I worked on a #2 product with a dual benefit and not only assisted in the strategy development but also the communication strategy. This was in the mid-1980s and the strategy, brand & communication, still exists today. This wasn’t groundbreaking in that the product itself, functionally, delivered a dual benefit well. That said. There was debate after debate on whether one thing should be focused on (hierarchy of benefits) or how to go about carving out market share and a ‘dual benefit’ strategy won out – and is still winning out 35 years later.


  • New product innovation.

Sometimes when you work with a business which has built its bones in B2B you see a bunch of shit in product development you can see some clear consumer business potential. This particular enduring idea stands out because I actually pointed out maybe 5 enduring ideas (they exist in the market today) that they did not want to pursue <the hearkens back to my mistake/failure point>. But this one was ‘cold chemical disinfectant’ for contact lenses. Going back into the way back machine would show you that in the beginning of contact lenses heat disinfection was the primary way you cleaned lenses (1980s). To a consumer it made sense, heat kills germs. But lurking within the new product innovation group there was a chemical disinfectant you didn’t need to heat, just drop lenses in. Much easier, more convenient, and, well, with much more resistance in consumer’s minds that ‘cold’ could never kill germs (safely, i.e., without harming your eyes). And, yet, we made it work. The brand itself was bought by someone else (now a market leader) but it is now a proven enduring idea (I know of no one who uses heat to disinfect their contact lenses).

  • Influencer strategy.

Before influencers were a thing I worked at an agency (Bozell) who embraced the idea as a strategic thing, not a selling tactic. Commodity-like categories, like motor oil, are a sonuvabitch to create differentiation let alone distinction. Like all automotive brands everyone went out and sponsored racing cars/teams and created some value through that. In this case, after rummaging around the sales force, we found out more independent car mechanics used/recommended the motor oil than any other brand in the market. So, we purposefully went out and solidified that segment usage and then made a claim – “people who know use”. 35 years later they still not only used the strategy, but they used the tagline. That’s an enduring idea with enduring value.

  • Yellow pages.

Oddly, mostly because I think the head of my office wanted to give me things to do so I wouldn’t be bored, I managed a Yellow Pages group just as the infamous world wide web was slinking its way into the world. to be clear. There was strategy, objectives and tactics surrounding yellow page plan of actions. Anyway. This was my first foray into publishing what I think. I not only thought YP was stuck in the past, but ignoring the future, and, maybe most importantly, ignoring the true value it offered <connectivity>. I gave a speech at a conference, followed it up with an op-ed, and, well, if I pulled that sonuvabitch out today someone may start calling me a futurist. But that’s not my point. My point was I offered an enduring idea to an industry on the cusp of becoming a dinosaur <although most didn’t see it as so> and that idea has come to fruition.

  • Bank positioning.

Here I get to circle back to dual benefit with a twist. Banks are banks and they say back like things all the frickin time. Interestingly almost every one of them will sit in some strategy meeting and claim “customer responsiveness” or some bullshit like that. Ask them why and how and there is a lot of mumbling. In this case I had no part in the ‘customer responsiveness’ <albeit I did push back hard on a suggestion that they should position themselves as ‘the trusted bank’ suggesting you cannot claim trust, it can only be give, i.e., it’s a response to shit you do>, but rather found an enduring way to support it and embody the benefit in a way that became part of company culture. “How can we help you?” a simple question as well as a call to action as well as a company behavior. And while the support may sound trite today, it was a fairly debatable positioning then to suggest a dual ‘positioning’: small bank attitude with large bank resources <owning a contradiction to create a compelling benefit>. But here’s the thing. Two decades later the dual positioning and mantra are alive and well.

  • Online education.

Beginning in about 2008 I started paying attention to technology and education. I would be remiss if I didn’t say that The Hole in Wall project, and the idea of self directed learning, had a huge impact on my thinking. I began to think about an early age education system built from the ground up using the web as the global classroom and augmented by teachers (rather than the other way around). I created an entire web-based concept. Once again this was a failure on my part to find anyone who believed in the idea as much as I. But. The proof of this as an enduring idea is that piece by piece, part by part, it is being implemented.

  • Agency positioning.

Its odd in that advertising agency, experts in communicating positioning & benefits, typically suck at doing so for themselves. I had some free time and purposefully walked through the doors of a small agency who I couldn’t figure out why they weren’t being more successful. After a number of conversations I suggested a phrase to capture the essence of who they were <attitudinally> and what they actually did <work that was different>. As the owner said “we used it as a baseline philosophy for culture and in new business to separate us from everyone saying – we are creative.” They used it for over 5 years and, well, while it certainly isn’t cause & effect, they won southeast small agency of the year. I include this in enduring ideas with enduring value mostly because any agency doing one thing for over 5 years is not typical of the agency world.

  • Manufacturing mantra.

Additive manufacturing is an exciting segment of the manufacturing world and the ones who play the long game well are clearly going to be winners. That said. Growth is a slippery sonuvabitch to have as a companion. Sometimes you want to chase things only to find out you forgot to build some important things and maybe chased some rabbit holes that led nowhere. In this case I gave one talk and one core idea: pragmatism & possibilities. Those words became culture cornerstones. I did nothing to drive strategy or communications, just offered up an enduring way to frame all the strategy, operations and culture discussions. I toss this one in to make a point that enduring value doesn’t necessarily mean some earthshattering idea, but rather sometimes an enduring idea endures because it is the glue for everything else or maybe in business vernacular – a mindset north star. It remains part of their narrative today.

Which leads me to value.

What I am suggesting is Value sold, or offered, is sneaky because there are so many ways to do things which can be called valuable & actually be valued in some way by a customer, but do not represent an enduring value. Transactional value, “I increased sales 15%”, is fairly easy. Enduring value, which is structural value, is more difficult and, yet, is a platform for ongoing success – it frees up a business, thru a constraint, to show progress.

To conclude.

None of these things made me a lot of money or even, in some cases, any money. For the most part the business world doesn’t really compensate, let alone recognize, enduring ideas with enduring value. What that means is being an enduring idea person insures you learn about humility. That said. When it comes legacy time, when you reflect upon your career, enduring ideas have the highest value. They show you didn’t just think in the present, but had some sense of what will have value in the future. Honestly, I am proud of these, not the transactional ones in my resume.

Written by Bruce