#5 Grounded in identity.

Each bonsai is distinct. While each genus has its common qualities, each individual plant is unique in an oddly balanced way. Each bonsai has its own original quirkiness. As far as we can know, one bonsai is not comparing itself to neighboring bonsai.

A bonsai business is similarly grounded in its authentic identity, neither reactively opportunistic nor immediately conforming to the ways of its competitors. Rather, it knows what business it is in, and what business it is not in. Consider the perils of not knowing, illustrated annually in the litany of failed acquisitions.

A bonsai business derives its identity more from inside than outside, calling to mind David Riesman’s metaphor of the gyroscope versus radar in his work, The Lonely Crowd, an insightful look into the American character. A gyroscope is inner-directed while radar is other directed, always scanning the environment, with no inner direction.

Perhaps a healthy business requires the integrated qualities of both gyroscope and radar, with an ear to the market and to competition, without sacrificing its core identity. Or stated  another way, perhaps a bonsai company takes information received from its customers and competitors, and then applies this learning to its offering, without sacrificing its essential character.