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Blockbuster. Yahoo. Kodak. Barnes & Noble. Xerox. MySpace. BlackBerry. Not only is it easy to recognize what these companies have in common, but you can probably also name the companies that displaced them.
Startup companies tend to be nimbler and more innovative than larger companies, allowing them to react and adapt more quickly to external forces. These larger entities implement processes and structures that allow them to easily replicate their past successes, closing them off from innovation and exploring what they don’t know.
Businesses can’t jump into a time-travelling DeLorean and magically become startups again. However, they can adopt a startup mentality to avoid a decline into irrelevance wrought by disruptive innovators. All companies must embrace a culture of change to build resilience during volatile times.
Steve Jobs is quoted in his biography as saying, “If you don’t cannibalize yourself, someone else will.” A quote inside Facebook’s culture and mission booklet for new employees (the Little Red Book) states, “If we don’t create the thing that kills Facebook, someone else will.” Two of the most successful companies today have designed their business models with a commitment to self-disruption.
To break out from an insular view that’s fixed on past wins, companies must look outward, focusing on the customer. Each of the seven companies listed at the beginning of this post failed to understand the customers who eventually left them. Innovation begins with and perpetuates through customer experience.
In my next post I will share how businesses can develop a customer-obsessed culture by mapping out the customer experience, focusing on personalization and delivering integrated brand interactions, which can bolster defenses against disruptive forces.