Inertia continues to be a major obstacle for companies, holding back innovation and making it difficult for them to adapt to the next wave of big things. The more successful a company is and the more glory it has in the past, the more likely it is to struggle with letting go of its past, whether it’s the top management or the collective organizational culture.
Success in the past creates a strong pull for a company to maintain its resources and focus on the next wave of big things, resulting in a wait and see approach, while others succeed in the new territory and experience hyper growth. This leaves the company playing catch up with the hope that its past success can repeat itself, even in a catch-up battle.
From great companies like Nokia in cellphones, to Kodak in the camera and film industry in the past, you can see examples of this. Once a company becomes established as a market leader, it is less likely to make disruptive innovations as it does not want to risk losing its market leadership. One example is the camera technology changing from DSLR to mirrorless technology, it’s Sony who mobilized resources and became the market leader in the mirrorless camera, while Canon continue to comfortably milk on the DSLR market leadership and passively roll out some of the mirrorless camera, but not really focusing on it. As more people continue to take photos with their smartphones, the overall market for cameras is shrinking and declining. As you can see, Canon is now attempting to move into the mirrorless camera market, but the market leader Sony is consolidating resources for cameras and smartphones and keep pushing for the best smartphone with camera technology.
As camera technology, particularly advanced technology, is being incorporated into smartphones (just like what Sony is doing by packing their smartphones with advanced camera technology), it’s clear that the direction of the market is shifting and the camera market will continue to shrink and decline, leading to more camera factories closing down due to a decrease in demand.
Tesla was the first and successful in electric cars, now it has attracted other conventional car producers to compete in the same market. Intel’s refusal to produce CPU chips for Apple’s first iPhone led to Apple switching to ARM chips, and as a result, Intel has had little influence in the smartphone market, where almost all smartphones now use ARM chips. From the experience of developing their own chip under ARM, Apple two years ago aimed to transition over from Intel for the rest of their product line, all the rest of computing using Intel processors to their very own M1 chip. Apple’s own M2 chip is launched in 2022. As you can see, there are many examples of how great companies miss the next wave of big things. In the past, complex technology and know-how, such as CPU making, if you do not innovate and try harder, someone else will outperform you.
In history, you can see how the Netscape web browser went from being the default to collapsing, while Internet Explorer won the battle of web browsers at that time. In the search engine domain, you can see how Google rose to become the absolute market leader, while the rest fell behind during that period.
Companies’ inertia to act or concerns about the impact of new changes on existing internal politics within a giant corporation, continue to be the first obstacle that they need to overcome, otherwise it will be a force that holds them back.
On the other hand, companies need to strategically focus on disruptive and continuous innovation, or at least neutralize their competition and avoid investing in innovations that the market does not value. In other words, they need to focus on researching that does not have any commercial value at all.
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The post original publish on 2022-Feb-17, rewrite and update on 2022-Oct-31, 2023-Jan-10.