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The Newsletter | Edition 085
Progress Report is dedicated to providing inspiration for action. In our Off-White Papers, we provide practical guidance on how to respond to our rapidly-changing world. This newsletter explores those topics in real-time, with information and action steps on how to make progress now.

But in this special newsletter series, The State Of, we dive a little deeper into the long-term work that comes after, in the places where we’re seeing new types of progress in action. From brand strategy to design, internet trends to sustainability, music to science, beauty to travel, and more.



The hype around ‘growth’ as the be-all and end-all marker of success in business has become ubiquitous. The general consensus amongst leaders is “if you’re not growing, you’re dying.” Whether that growth be in employee count, products, services, or profit. But especially in the thralls of a recession, it’s important to remember that while growth itself is usually positive, we must also apply a healthy criticism to it. After all, there are many ways to prosper beyond traditional growth—ways that are more socially, economically, and environmentally responsible.


In recent months, we’ve seen massive employers like Meta, Amazon, and Twitter lay off tens of thousands of employees. This is just one Silicon Valley-shaped indicator that the looming recession is certainly different than the last one. Especially when it comes to tech companies.

There are several obvious reasons for this—tech companies enjoyed the tailwinds of strong growth during the pandemic. But now they’re feeling the reverberations of that growth, along with the effects of things like inflation, rising interest rates, a ‘maturing’ internet, changing consumption behaviors, and importantly, over-hiring.

These are all signs of a recession to come. But also that a uniform approach to growth can be risky and result in severe, unintended consequences. And while we don’t all work for big tech (it’s certainly not all one-to-one), there’s still a lesson to learn from these organizations. Sometimes, hyper-fast, traditional growth can make it harder for companies to maintain and/or achieve the kind of impact they want. It can pose a threat to the reason a company came into being in the first place. Why? Because as headcounts and footprints expand, everything gets just a little bit muddier. Priorities become harder to identify. Nuance gets lost. Egos get too big. Issues get overlooked. Future responsibilities become distorted by the excitement of the present.

We shouldn’t be too critical of linear growth. Of course, economic expansion depends on it. And that’s a good thing. But it is important to ask ourselves: are there times when growth should take a back seat to responsibility in the world of business? Can it actually lead to setbacks? Can we diversify our understanding and approaches to growth to, ultimately, better serve ourselves?

The point is, growth doesn’t have to be homogeneous. It doesn’t have to be MORE to equal success. There are times when growth can and should be sideways—360 degrees and qualitative. Even though this doesn’t always translate directly into more $$$, diversifying your growth is simply the responsible choice when the market is in chaos.

Can we find other less traditional ways to grow? As leaders, why aren’t we more invested in more diversified approaches that are, in turn, actually more responsible?

We’re in an economic and cultural moment in which leaders must prioritize the types of growth that can identify new value for people, society, and the companies they represent.


Reflect on the unique capabilities—mindsets, skills, knowledge, tools—of your teams and departments and consider how you might protect these strengths from the inevitable strains of growth. Make them explicit, instill them into your operating rhythm, and look for opportunities that would leverage those strengths.

Renew with attention to your legacy products, services, and infrastructure, and resist the temptation to give up on them at the first signs of obsolescence. Instead, consider investing in maintaining them as if creating something wholly new was not an option, and examine how else you could apply those legacy assets to open up new potential (for consumers, for markets, for sectors).

Generate using a focus on the ends (outcomes, indicators) versus just the means (growth!) when setting goals. Challenge yourself to set markers for success beyond increased scale or profitability, and regularly check in on progress to make necessary changes to your strategy and plans. Socialize the wins to instill confidence and the learnings to encourage responsive planning.


It’s a poignant moment to think about responsible growth. With so much uncertainty and doubt around the economy going into 2023, many companies feel paralyzed, limited in what they can do and how they can grow. But as we well know, the worst of times can breed new opportunities.

Leaders with a balance of discernment and ambition are going to thrive.

P.S. You'll be hearing much more on this topic from SYLVAIN in our upcoming impact report. For now, check out last year's, and stay tuned.

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