a16z Podcast: The Business of Continual Change

Every large company — especially ones that have been around for a long time — goes through multiple cycles of change. But how do you know where to go next, and when, and how? The management literature is full of case studies, research, and of course, advice… but what if you borrowed from the principles of scientific and social progress instead? In fact, that’s what Charles Koch, chairman and CEO of Koch Industries (one of the largest private companies in the U.S., with over $100B in revenue as estimated by Forbes), did in thinking about how to evolve their business. They systematically grew their capabilities from oil and chemicals; to polymers, fibers, and related consumer products; and then into forest products, glass, steel; and now, electronics and software.

But this kind of “continual transformation” (and even stated company values) observes Marc Andreessen, sounds obvious; “every company must do that, every company must seek to be the partner of choice to all of its constituents, every company must seek to continually improve”. So how did it all work in practice, from strategy and management to incentives and compensation? And is this a new kind of conglomerate business model? This episode of the a16z Podcast covers these questions and more, touching briefly on policy and also sharing a bonus reading list at end. The conversation is based on a Q&A from our annual Summit events, which bring together large companies, finance investors, academics, and startups to talk all things innovation.