Don’t get comfortable

18 Sep

Tiger diving under water

The biggest threat facing businesses today is not the economy, the digital revolution or the ever-tightening margins.

It’s complacency.

Simply put, no business can afford to think it has arrived. Every business-model is a work in progress. That’s because change is the new steady state, and that’s about the only thing that isn’t going to change.

All you have to do is look at the dwindling fortunes of RIM.

A mere 3 years ago, the Canadian tech giant stood astride a worldwide mobile phone empire. Now we have news that kindred spirit Yahoo, another former wunderkind of the digital era, has offered each of its employees a new smartphone of their choice – as long as it isn’t a Blackberry, which the Yahoo CEO dubbed “not a smartphone”.

Businesses that get comfortable with their position and the environment they operate in fail to see the threats coming, until it is much too late.

There’s a passage in Canadian author John Vaillant’s spellbinding book The Tiger: A True Story of Vengeance and Survival, in which he describes hunters in a boat, emboldened by the distance and the water, taking potshots at a tiger on the shore. The infuriated animal leaps into the water, swims out to the boat, claws his way on board and annihilates his stunned tormentors.

You can’t get complacent out there.

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2 Responses to “Don’t get comfortable”

  1. Andrea September 19, 2012 at 10:00 am #

    We’ve seen it time and time again- When the home team that is up 4-1 turns to defense only to be left awestruck when they lose 6-4, two periods later. Complacency will kill you every time.

    I’m currently reading Seth Godin’s book: The Purple Cow. He speaks that true business success requires innovation and uniqueness. You don’t call your friends to tell them you saw a normal cow when driving through the prairies. Yet, you’d tell everyone if you saw a purple cow grazing along the roadside. That is of course until you saw 2,3,5, or 10 purple cows.

    Complacency kills businesses but also makes marketing a painful process. When there is not something particular exciting, novel, or actually worthwhile to advertise, what type of ads do you get?

    …just open the newspaper.

    • Doug Brown September 19, 2012 at 11:32 am #

      Hey you summed up Seth’s book in a paragraph! I don’t have to read it now. 😉

      His argument made me think about a topic discussed on this blog a few weeks ago regarding the value of originality. It’s ok to be the second purple cow: “Wow, another purple cow!” But then the drop off is pretty steep.

      I think a lot of businesses are doing their own newspaper ads now – or having the paper do them – to save money. And it shows. They might have lots to say but are no longer asking the best storytellers to do that job. Depressing either way. Thanks for the comment Andrea.

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