Adapt to the market, or shape it?
An interesting piece by Greg Satell on Harvard Business Review this week, arguing that what ensures companies’ survival isn’t being able to adapt to changing market conditions, but actually shaping those changes in the market through preparation and investment. He gives the example of Microsoft, which has not been eradicated by its failure to adapt to the iPhone but instead is growing year on year; Google, which has not yet produced a viable social network to compete with Facebook or Twitter but whose core business of search continues to thrive; and IBM, whose revenues are still dropping but which is showing signs of deriving value from long-standing investments in areas such as AI.
There is much to be said for challenging the idea that fast, agile innovation is the answer to all corporate ills, but the article raised a few questions here at Solverboard HQ.
Firstly, all three of these examples are huge, multi-faceted corporations with deep pockets, who can afford to fund long-term, in-depth research. It doesn’t go without saying that those with the most money can shape a market, but it can certainly help. (This is why our idea management platform is designed to help organisations make the most of the natural talent and ideas found within their walls in a cost-efficient way, without needing to set up innovation labs or research arms.)
Secondly, by virtue of being multi-faceted, these corporations can weather failures more easily than a company with a single product. Microsoft was not eradicated by its failure to adapt to the iPhone because its core business of software was not affected. If its only business had been the Microsoft phone, things would have been very different. Similarly, Google Plus may be in the doldrums, but Google continues to dominate in its core industry of search and advertising with ease.
And third, all three of these examples are tech behemoths. The tech industry has very specific needs in terms of driving innovation, relying not just on ideas but also on the kind of innovation that requires long-term investment – improvements to hardware or processors, for example, that cannot be brought about overnight.
It would be interesting to discuss this article more in the context of service driven industries, for example, where surfacing and discussing ideas could effect change in a business model or a practice in a matter of days, weeks or months. Our platform is designed to help organisations do just that, tapping into the unrealised potential of their people and partners.