Tag Archives: Polly LaBarre

(The Woes of MySpace) The Future is Utterly Predictable — it is a Future of Constant Innovation

Boy, those old staid companies sure do get in trouble because they fail to innovate.  Yes, the times are changing, and companies better learn how to stay fresh, keep improving, keep changing.  When they’ve been around forever, it is awfully easy to get set in their ways, and watch the competition sweep right on by them.

Take that old venerable company known as MySpace.  It has been around forever.  It was way back in August, 2003 when they launched.  Times were different then.  And what they set in place back in those long-gone days just doesn’t seem to work anymore.  So the CEO Owen Van Natta, in a letter to his employees in which he announced and explained the decision to lay off 30% of their workers (400 workers), included this sober assessment:  “We need to become a more innovative company.” (read about the layoffs here, and the entire letter from the CEO here).  (Here’s a little more of his letter:  “The future success of MySpace is dependent upon us operating as a nimble and entrepreneurial company with the adaptive mentality of a start-up…  I believe this is the first difficult step toward a major turnaround – a step that will not only shore us up in the short term, but position us for long term success. We need to become a more innovative company.  Becoming more innovative is an ongoing responsibility for all of us, not a one-time effort”).

It does sound a little ludicrous, doesn’t it?  I mean, I can understand that a company as old and established as GM might get a little behind in the innovation contest.   But MySpace?  This company is only six years old.  It’s been less than six years ago that you could not have built your own MySpace page.  And yet, here it is in stark, sobering words:  “We need to become a more innovative company.”  Competitors like Facebook, and now Twitter, have just swept right on by MySpace because they are more innovative.  Who would have thought?

We should have known it was coming.  We’ve been warned.  The business books of the last 12 years have all said it, loud and clear.  The future is coming, and it’s going to be different from the past.  Constantly different.  Perpetually innovating.  The world is changing faster and faster and faster…  Here’s just a sampling of quotes:

“If it seems like your world has been topsy-turvy over the past few years…  Consider what’s coming…  Technology is not kind.  It does not wait.  It does not say please.  It slams into existing systems, and often destroys them – while creating a new system.”  (Juan Enriquez, As the Future Catches You).

“It’s finally happened.  I’ve seen a company where I can imagine working!”  Innovation is it, for the foreseeable future…”  {Tom Peters, from the foreword}.  (Tom Kelley, The Art of Innovation:  Lessons in Creativity from IDEO, America’s Leading Design Firm).

“You want to wake up your organization to the need for a strategic shift and a break from the status quo.”  (W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne,  Blue Ocean Strategy:  How to Create Uncontested Market Space and make the Competition Irrelevant).

“Even the world’s “most admired” companies aren’t as adaptable as they need to be, as innovative as they need to be, or as much fun to work in as they should be…  To put it bluntly, management innovation pays…  Remember the old saw about the tendency of generals to refight the last war rather than the one at hand?”  (Gary Hamel, The Future of Management).

“The premise of this book is a simple one:  that breakthrough innovations come by recombining the people, ideas, and objects of past technologies.  The implication, recalling William Gibson, is that the future is already here – it’s just unevenly distributed.”  (Andrew Hargadon, How Breakthroughs Happen:  The Surprising Truth About How Companies Innovate).

“When it comes to thriving in a hypercompetitive marketplace, “playing it safe” is no longer playing it smart…  the more you do something, the more important it is to challenge the assumptions and habits that built your success so as to generate a wave of innovations to build the future…  Remember, the most effective leaders are the most insatiable learners. (William C. Taylor and Polly LaBarre,  Mavericks at Work:  Why the Most Original Minds in Business Win).

“To change is to take a risk – to give up a current state in an attempt to reach a potentially more desirable one.  We tend to resist change…  In this new (postmodern or post-Web corporate world) hypercompetitive environment, market transitions are a lot faster, and the cycle of innovation has gotten increasingly shorter…  new products and services started appearing more and more frequently, resulting in even more competition.  (including:  real-time information).  Reengineering found itself outdated.”  (Benham N. Tabrizi, Rapid Transformation:  A 90-Day Plan For Fast And Effective Change).

“I held only positions that did not exist before I had them…  Conceptualizers see the future.”  (Robert Greenleaf, Servant Leadership:  A Journey into the Nature of Legitimate Power and Greatness).

Everyone needs to think differently about the future, a future that is riddled with change, challenge, and risk.  It is a new kind of future, not the steady plodding of progress from one moment to the next, punctuated by brief bursts of innovation that characterizes much of history.  Now we face a post-9/11 future.  The future of our lives, of our work, of our businesses – and most of all, the future of our world – depends on us gaining a new understanding of the dizzying changes that lie ahead.  I call this future-readiness…  The coming Innovation Economy will herald an age of rapid, dramatic change, one in which ideas that create value, offer solutions, and fulfill needs will thrive, sweeping into the recesses of memory the comparatively primitive ideas, products, services, and processes that came before.  Innovation will be the prime source of productivity, prosperity, competition, and potentially even peace.  Innovation will be recognized as an empowering force that will drive individual prosperity and global competition.  (James Canton, Ph.D., CEO and Chairman, Institute for Global Futures, The Extreme Future:  The Top Ten Trends That Will Reshape the World for the Next 5, 10, and 20 Years).

“Never get comfortable with where you are.  Anticipate the inevitability of having to modify or change how you do business to meet your customers’ needs…  Organizations that refuse to change their methods to meet demands are likely the same stubborn organizations that are slowly going out of business.  Change is never over, said Jack Welch.”  (Ron Hunter Jr. & Michael E. Waddell, Toy Box Leadership:  Leadership Lessons from the Toys You Loved as a Child).

So, let’s all let the MySpace story be an object lesson for us all.  If we are not constantly innovating, the competition will simply pass us by.  Remember the warning from Gary Hamel:”  Every business is successful — until it’s not.”

(To purchase my synopses of many of the books quoted, with handout + audio, go to our 15 Minute Business Book site).