The Innovation Journal. No 2.

By Anders Drejer & Christer Windeloew-Lidzélius

Innovate or die is the harsh reality of business. Over time only those who progress survive and thrive.

Extinct but not dead yet? It is a question worth pondering.

 

In nature, the mighty dinosaurs ruled the Earth for millions of years. Until a hammer blow from the sky in the form of a meteor blocked the sun’s life-giving waves for several years with its debris, making it an evolutionary disadvantage to be cold-blooded. Enter the warm-blooded mammals, eventually resulting in the evolution of the Modern Man. But consider this: For days, maybe even weeks, the dinosaurs were still alive whilst being extinct.

We assert to you that there are modern-day dinosaurs, staggering on in the corporate world. For instance, while Kodak’s failure to capitalize on its own invention of digital photography is known to most, it is less well-known that Kodak, as a company, lingered on for another 17 years before finally succumbing to the realities of extinction. Other examples are ample. Consider this question: Is your company one of those doomed dinosaurs?

 

COVID-19 – an example of a recent hammer blow from nowhere

In the authors’ homeland, the international pandemic caused by COVID-19 was met by a near total closedown of the country, effected over one hectic day on March 11, 2020. The amount of surprise over this is evidenced by that fact that one of us, being on a date, managed to remain blissfully unaware of the situation for half of that day while bars, restaurants and hotel closed down all around. More importantly, many companies effectively lost their livelihood that very day. A company that we have worked with has a successful business providing solutions to large events, like concerts and music festivals – said company lost 95% of its sales in one day! It is not alone.

 

Does Darwinism apply to the corporate world?

It is tempting to believe that Charles Darwin’s principle of “Survival of the Fittest” also applies in the world of management and organization – that “it is not the strongest of species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change!”. So, Kodak inadvertently made way for a revolution in the world of photography yet failed to evolve with that revolution and had to die? This, despite the fact that it is notoriously well-known that – especially in instances of so-called disruptive changes – established market leaders often fail, while new-comers and entrepreneurs step in to capture the opportunities of the new industry. It was not Nokia, the absolute leader of GSM-based cell phones, that won the battle for market for smartphones. Rather, it was new-comers like Apple and others.

Perhaps you are getting a bit worried now? Worried about the many disruptions lurking on the horizon, each one threatening to change your business environment, thereby rendering your company extinct? Well, there is hope. Darwin’s principle hinges on the fact that a species cannot change its basic nature (expect in the extremely unlike case of mutations at the exact right time). Organizations, however, whilst being part of the natural world, can actually change their very nature to be suited to a changed environmental situation.

 

The Innovation Imperative

Not dead yet? Sure, market leader in minicomputers IBM did not invent the personal computer, leaving the creation of an entirely new industry to players such as Apple, but they did manage to transform themselves and capture a market leader position in personal computers. There is hope! You can innovate your way to survival, even if you have not invented something. Invention and innovation are not the same thing.

By mastering the managerial skill of Innovation – the creation of new business models, prolonging the lifespan of an organization – it is possible to evolve and even revolutionize your organization. The Innovation Imperative is that (1) in the age of disruption, globalization and sustainability changes have never been more apparent, and (2) if you do not innovate, your competitors will – leaving you extinct.

While the bad news is that all too few organizations and managers master the skill of innovation, the good news is that it is not magic. It is a systematic skill that can be codified and learned. And mastered. So, you may be in the situation of a dinosaur, but you are not a dinosaur and do not need to go extinct. You are a manager, and you can create the future of your organization.

 

Kaospilot Publishing launches a journal aimed at disseminating research, ideas and opinions about innovation and related fields. This piece is out is by Anders Drejer and Christer Windeløv-Lidzélius. It speaks to the fundamental need of renewal and development.

Also available through Spiro School of Business -The Innovation Series

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