My father and I were talking the other day about the how difficult it is for businesses to stay in business for any serious period of time. I’m not sure I can put an exact number on many years a business has to exist to consider it a long-term play but companies like IBM and HP are definitely US examples. And yes. Both of those companies are in serious transition. Part of the issue with the companies is that they simply can evolve fast enough. Disruption, has been the economic mode for the last 20 years and recently, this statement summarized where we truly are.
Uber, the world’s largest taxi company, owns no vehicles. Facebook, the world’s most popular media owner, creates no content. Alibaba, the most valuable retailer, has no inventory. And Airbnb, the world’s largest accommodation provider, owns no real estate. Something interesting is happening (source)
The other issue is something I discuss with my clients and my students. I call it brand concrete and it simply means that when a company does something well, that experience is associated with the brand and is almost impossible to change. Traditionally a good thing but recently, not as much. (Think Google+.) This combined with our brains being hardwired to seek out new experiences, makes it very difficult for businesses to stay on top.
So what’s a company to do? Between brand concrete and the incessant disruption? (Taxis -> Uber -> Lyft)
One of the things a company can do is start small subsidiaries that aren’t associated directly with their brand. (Check out Google’s Sidewalk Labs) This is not a new idea but it may be more essential than ever as consumers get more liquid with their purchasing/etc decisions. Businesses need to be responsive to change. As Darwin said;
It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one that is most responsive to change.