The Growth Catalyst Kicks-Off, Challenging Participants to ‘Think Bigger’

Growth Compass
5 min readNov 13, 2020

Author: Dr. Simon Raby

Bringing you a behind the scenes look at the Growth Catalyst program!

This week saw the inaugural kick-off of Mount Royal University’s Growth Catalyst program. Over half a day, participants were challenged to define a ‘growth catalyst’, think bigger, share their growth stories, and future ambitions.

Here are 3 key insights to the conversation in the room.

1. What is a Growth Catalyst?

We were first joined by entrepreneur and innovation strategist Jim Gibson who recently published the Tip of the Spear: Our Species and Technology at a Crossroads. Jim was interviewed by our very own Ray DePaul, Director for the Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

The first question posed, “it’s in the program name, but what is a growth catalyst?”

Here is what our cohort said:

  • An accelerant: recounting childhood experiences from chemistry classes, one of our cohorts shared the textbook definition of a catalyst, being a substance that increases the rate of a chemical reaction without itself undergoing any permanent chemical change.
  • A disruptor: we quickly moved to the notion that a growth catalyst is a disrupter, both internal and external to the organization. For instance, our industries can disrupt us and we can simultaneously disrupt our internal operations and process.
  • An agent of change: Finally, Jim put forward that a Growth Catalyst is an agent of change, an organization that chooses to enact change with the purpose of improving themselves, their people, and their ecosystems.

❔Question: What one thing can you do today to drive growth in your organization or ecosystem?

2. Think Bigger!

Next, we turned our attention to the opportunity that lies ahead. Jim shared that, according to a new report from the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate, US$90 trillion will be invested globally in cities, land use, and energy infrastructure alone between now and 2030 [1]. To capture opportunities like these, leaders will need to embrace the duality of exploiting and optimizing their current business model, to release profits and time to invest in exploring the future. Easier said than done? Here’s a couple of tips that were discussed:

  • Make time for strategic thinking: Too often we get pulled into the operational vacuum. As leaders, we need to give ourselves permission to spend part of our working day(s) on strategic thinking. We could (literally) take a leaf out of Bill Gates’ book and shut ourselves away for a ‘Think Week’ or work in a more iterative fashion, making a concerted effort to schedule regular time in our calendars.
  • Move beyond the shiny ‘things’: It is human nature to become enchanted by what is new, and this often leads to a fixation with tangible products. However, what is new and shiny is often expensive and diverts resources away from other more important projects. To win at the innovation game we need to broaden our definition of what innovation is, and make sure our investments in innovation deliver squarely on our strategic growth priorities, no more, no less.

❔Question: What one thing can you do now to release time for strategic thinking?

3. Growth Story + Ambitions

The rest of the time was reserved for the cohort to share their growth experiences and to articulate their future ambitions.

If you were to sit in a traditional MBA class and discuss organizational growth, conversations would typically explore the concept of an ‘S-curve’. So-called due to its shape, an S-curve presumes that growth over the lifetime of an organization occurs across four main phases, (i) startup, (ii) expand/grow, (iii) mature, and (iv) decline / reinvent. The reality? No evidence exists that proves this to be the trajectory that organizations experience, however the myth persists!

The six companies in the growth catalyst program reported experiencing growth in one of three ways:

  • Linear
  • Peaks and troughs
  • Growth leading to a plateau

What was common was the influence of triggers, factors internal (e.g., office fire!) or external (e.g., economic recession) to the organization that catalyzed innovation and change. There was also a shared appreciation of a looming growth ceiling, which brought pause for thought among our cohort and the innate desire to search out their next growth episode!

When asked, companies in the Growth Catalyst program reported an ambition to grow upwards of 38 percent, per annum. These ambitions exceed the often quoted OECD-Eurostat definition of high growth, being 20% per year per annum. This is the type of ambition that will see these leaders drive growth in their organizations.

❔Question: In revenue, state your 5-year growth ambition. Work out what this gap is and how much you need to grow every year to make this real. Isolate specific barriers that will stand in your way of achieving this.


[1] The Report of the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate, accessed via

Looking Forward

Next week we will deliver the first module of the Growth Catalyst Program. Here we will explore the ‘Compass’ and ‘Coach’ — two of the 7 Scaling Strategies to help organizations scale up. Stay tuned to learn more!

Win a Book on Scaling Up!

We’ll leave you with a trivia question and a chance to win a copy of Verne Harnish’s book “Mastering the Rockefeller Habits: Scaling Up: How a Few Companies Make It… and Why the Rest Don’t”.

The question…

Which of the six companies in our inaugural cohort started by making the spurs for cowboy boots? Submit your answer here by Thursday, November 19 to win.

About the Growth Catalyst Program

Led by Mount Royal University’s Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, the Growth Catalyst is an intensive program designed to spark the creation and set the foundation for executing a growth strategy by CEOs and their senior leadership teams.

To learn more about the program and apply, visit us at:



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