How old is your business in dog years?
You might feel as though your business is immortal. But is it?
We tend to project human traits onto organisations to make them feel more relatable, like they’ll be around like an ageless uncle. But maybe our canine friends are a better reflection of business life. Research says that the average life expectancy of a publicly listed company is 10 years before it’s acquired, goes bankrupt or is merged with another business.
An average company will only last about one quarter of your working career.
Do you want to be part of an average company? Think your business will always be the same as your current experience of it? Think it has a right to exist indefinitely?
Old dogs and new tricks
That’s how the folks at Nokia felt 10 years ago. I know. I worked with them at the time. Then the iPhone launched.
While Nokia spent the next six months trying to restructure its employees into new divisions, it was effectively killed off by the younger, more aggressive ‘pup’ that was prepared to do things it wasn’t. Simple things like letting people connect their phone to wifi - something the carriers didn’t want Nokia to do because it would take away from their data fees.
The future of Nokia, a 100-year-old forestry company that rewrote the business of phones forever in the early ‘90s, was rewritten with a single product. Completely rewritten.
Nokia and its employees believed the company was immortal. They had the arrogance of most teenagers (as they were in ‘mobile phone years’) who think they’re immortal. In reality, they were more like the family dog who can’t be bothered playing with the new puppy that’s just shown up at Christmas. The backyard has always been its territory so why would it need to defend it against this little upstart?
Maintaining an innovation culture is incredibly difficult for any business - even one like Nokia, with thousands of engineers and constant NPD. An organisation will naturally reject the things that seem foreign to it. This tends to include everything from ideas, to processes and even people. Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo, then CEO of Nokia, purportedly told his employees he’d spent the whole night after the iPhone release researching touch-screen technology. They’d completely missed it. He couldn’t understand how?
A fear of the unknown paralyses progress. Fearlessness comes when you have nothing to lose. When you’re prepared to do what no one else has done before or what is believed to be ‘unpossible’.
Unpossible isn’t Impossible. It’s just something you haven’t done yet.
To make it to a ripe old age, your business needs to find a way to do the unpossible. Or someone else will. This is where true innovation lies. Every dog in business needs to learn new tricks. To find younger pups to teach them. To be open to possibility.
Get out there and sniff around. Go piss on someone else’s lawn.
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