After 29 years of consulting for, and working as a full-time Associate at, W. L. Gore & Associates, I’ve returned to academia as the Gore-Giovale Chair in Business Management at the Bill and Vieve Gore School of Business at Westminster College. My experience at Gore was transformative. I had had various prior not-so-positive work experiences in “traditional” organizations. At Gore, I was (and remain) in awe of the power of their trust-based culture to enable Associates to use their unique talents in unique ways to get things done for the good of the Enterprise. I did not feel like a cog in the wheel, but someone who could make things happen. I felt respected as a person. I felt encouraged to develop my talents. I was expected to understand enough about the culture and strategy of the Enterprise to know how to make my best contribution to collective success. Like so many other Associates, I thrived within this environment.
Most of my time at Gore was spent on special projects–strategic change initiatives. At the end of my career at Gore, I was working on two projects. One was on helping leaders articulate the strategic competitive advantage of the Gore culture–a long-term interest of mine. The other was on introducing the tools and training and deeper understandings necessary to enable Associates to work collaboratively on dispersed teams–a much newer interest of mine. I had expected that I would continue on these two projects until I retired from Gore.
But, amazingly, the opportunity to talk about, teach about, and introduce a broader audience to the specialness of Gore came about in the position as Gore-Giovale Chair of Business Innovation. My remit is to help extend the legacy of Bill and Vieve Gore–the founders of W. L. Gore & Associates. I know that not all organizations can be like Gore. And I also know that many good organizations will not be like Gore. But I do believe that there are lessons to be learned from the Gore experience that can infer the practices in all organizations, should they choose. So I look forward to working with students, with people in organizations, and speaking to curious and intelligent lay people, about my reflections on Gore and how management practice can be viewed, and transformed, through a Gore lens.