How long does a transformation cycle take? Throughout history, corporations have risen to the top, ruled for a time, and then fallen and relegated to the footnotes of history. We’ve seen this with companies like Motorola reigning as kings of mobile telephony, only to be overthrown by Nokia of Finland.
A few short years later, brands like Apple emerged, and then from South Korea a brand called Samsung emerged and took a prominent place at the top of the pile. Is the cycle of leadership and dominance predictable or random?
What are the characteristics of those who overthrow kings? Is there a common thread that connects them? Do today’s Davids hope to one day overthrow the modern Goliaths? Remember, nobody was born a goliath of industry. They grew into Goliaths by divine providence, but were driven/motivated.
To understand what drives Davids to become Goliaths, we need to look at their mindset.
Andy Grove, who served as the CEO of Intel Corp. wrote a bestseller, Only the Paranoid Survive. This seems to be the one common thread that runs conspicuously through David’s. There is a healthy paranoia. It’s not fear that paralyzes, it drives. They never see themselves as sedentary. They’re always looking for the next big thing.
Want to stay on top
Bill Gates said at the height of Microsoft’s monopoly that they had to stay sharp, because he was sure some startup would catch her napping. The paranoia was so severe that in his book Business at the Speed of Thought he says they set a three-year lifespan for everything they produced and were working on an immediate replacement.
Jeff Amazon’s Bezos also shows this paranoia. He says Amazon isn’t too big to fail and actually predicts Amazon will fail one day. Brian Dumaine perfectly captures Bezos’ feelings in his book Bezonomics. He reveals Bezos’ greatest fear as that of Amazon succumbing to the so-called big company disease, where employees focus on each other rather than their customers, and where dealing with bureaucracy becomes more important than problem-solving.
The Plateau of Death is where businesses and people wallow in their success. They stop innovating and/or attacking. Your game moves from offensive to defensive. No one has ever won on defense.
What is the biggest threat to a company’s continued success? In SWOT analysis, no one ever presents success as a threat, but in reality the biggest threat to a successful business is its success. It opens the door wide open for Davids to take on Goliaths. Remember, Microsoft was once such a David confronting the almighty Goliath IBM.
In the book “Measure What Matters” by John Doerr, the author tells the story like a “David” great A company called Intel came up with an industry goliath called Motorola about the microprocessor’s soul.
As soon as he got wind that there was a challenge to the microprocessor, a paranoia-driven action set in. Grove launched Operation Crush. The memo read, “There’s only one company that competes with us, and that’s Motorola, and we must crush them.”
It was deliberate, well-defined, and reminiscent of what the little Jewish Boy named David Goliath said Philistine warrior. This Goliath, too, had strayed from attack, left only to intimidate its enemies with tales of its past victories. That was his downfall.
A David without a clear goal will never defeat a Goliath. A Goliath without a healthy dose of paranoia, who prefers to be defensive rather than attacking, eventually meets a David who knocks him out.
Wale Akinyemi is PowerTalks’ Chief Transformation Officer. Email: [emailprotected]
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