We are all inspired by the success of companies like Apple, Zappos and Google. Seen as iconoclastic through their creativity and innovative, these firms attract the best and brightest. They also consistently and produce exceptional products and deliver impeccable service. What makes them so different than their competitors?

Here are three characteristics that the most successful American businesses have in common:

1. They Work in Teams: The best firms have all instituted a team-based approach to innovation and service delivery. Zappos team-based hiring practices, for instance, has already become B-School case study staples. Surely, Apple serves as a shining example of a firm that celebrates the power of teams, as well. Just recall the famous story of how Apple inscribed the signatures of Steven Jobs and the rest of their historic development team into the inside rear panel case of each of Apple's original 128k, 512k and Mac Plus machines and you'll get my point.

Clearly, team-centered work works! It does so because teams establish a common sense of purpose and encourage cooperation among staff in ways that enable trust and sharing-virtues that pay dividends when the going gets tough.

2. They Build Internal Social Capital: As mentioned, trust and sharing are important factors in establishing a resilient culture-one that succeeds even when confronting the greatest of challenges. That said, the most successful firms invest in building strong internal social capital among staff.

Google, for example, promotes heavy social interaction among its staff. From a pub-style lounge in its Dublin, Ireland office to the bowling alley at its California headquarters, each of its locations boast designs that stimulate cross-company contact and communication among its personnel. Zappos and Apple use similar devices at their offices, as well.

The idea behind such concepts is to encourage collaboration and cooperation and to dissuade rivalry and internal competition. Social connectedness enables staff to appreciate individual diversity, while establishing a work environment rich in self-reliance.

3. They Have Established an "In It Together" Culture: Wise social capital investments compound with time and lead to an "In It Together" culture. Such corporate cultures lead to the recognition among staffers that everyone is needed in order to remain on top. In turn, this recognition promotes a sense of community that leads to the kind of breakthroughs that make firms like Apple, Zappos and Google the iconoclastic powerhouses that they are today.

In closing, it's important to note that the best firms place value on helpfulness and trust among staff members. They institute ways of doing business that reinforce these values and insist that their people buy-in or move out. My hope is, by gaining an understanding of the characteristics that set the best companies apart, that you can borrow these ideas and make them your own-using them to drive your organization to unparalleled success-just like Apple, Zappos and Google have done.

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Published on: Sep 21, 2015
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