Innovate — Don’t Get Locked In

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[amazon 013706487X thumbnail]At a recent CIO Perspectives event, Adam Hartung presented the keynote address, Create Marketplace Disruption: Winning Through Growth. I’m usually not impressed by keynote speakers, but Adam’s talk was good enough for me to order his book, [amazon 013706487X inline], using the Amazon iPhone app while he was speaking. I’m looking forward to reading it.

If you remember Tom Peters’ [amazon B0007M2K8Q inline], you remember the phrase “stick to your knitting”. Peters talked a lot about understanding the core of the business, mastering it, and not straying afield into non-core businesses. Hartung takes another view. He says “Don’t get locked in” by what you know and what you do.

Xerox got rich by placing copying equipment in the office, disrupting and destroying the business lines of AB Dick, which sold centralized corporate printing systems. With that success, Xerox funded the PARC. Xerox PARC invented the modern user interface model. The scientists and engineers, tasked with the way to sell more Xerox equipment, invented systems that allowed people to self publish. Xerox management wanted to place copiers in offices. To leverage the PARC technologies, they created a large, complex copier, the DoucTech. And it got put into the same basement space that formerly housed the AB Dick printers. Xerox grew through disruption, then spent a number of stagnant years as it stuck to its knitting.

Hartung derives four basic principles:

  • Plan for the future, not from the past.
  • Focus on competitors.
  • Be disruptive.
  • Use White Space to innovate.

But is Tom Peters wrong? Was the world of 1982 so different from now? Or do things just come around in cycles. Innovation and disruption is one part of a cycle that returns to a core focus. You can’t get stuck at any one point on the great circle.

In the words of Robert Hunter, “The wheel is turning / and you can’t slow down / You can’t let go / and you can’t hold on / You can’t go back / and you can’t stand still / If the thunder don’t get you / then the lightning will.”

One Reply to “Innovate — Don’t Get Locked In”

  1. Thanks for the blog review Steven.  Great overview.  Responding to your question of whether the world is different, or this is all just about cycles, my response is sort of "neither."

    Businesses can always optimize performance in the short run by doing the Tom Peters sort of activities.  Years ago the world moved slowly enough that these periods of optimization were fairly long, thus leading consultant to recommend spending most time getting to them and staying in them.  But, inevitably, like Xerox, the market would shift and the business would falter.

    Today the world moves faster, making these periods of optimization much shorter.  The result is businesses that drift into optimization find themselves in trouble much, much faster than in the past.  So we're seeing many more companies with far shorter "half-lives" of high profits than previously.

    Have a great day!

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