Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Time for Reinvention! But First, a Few
Ground Rules

We are entering a strange moment in history when nothing seems to make sense. As I point out in Liquid Leadership....

Technology has given more and more start-ups the ability to compete head-on with larger companies. These start-ups are interested in one thing: disrupting the status quo. Their survival depends on proving themselves to be right. And they take leaps to do so. Many of the top corporations today were started because the original founder didn’t like how things were being done. They had a better way, and built a company around it.

The key is to stay open to new ideas and methods, to entrepreneurial startups and their ideas, and to new fads that could become trends. Look high and low for big ideas. Actively support the fact that although you make widgets today, you may be a completely different company doing completely different things within the next five years, and you may be doing these things for companies located on the other side of the globe.

...excerpt from Liquid Leadership, page 14...The Credo of The Liquid Leader

Too many are clinging to an old rigid set of rules hoping the economy will return someday soon. Without realizing it, they have created a paradigm they cannot escape from. For a company, a person or a system to reinvent itself, a new realm of possibilities must be embraced, and the old rules placed on the back burner.

Case in point, is Smith Corona. One of the original typewriter manufacturers, Smith Corona did some pretty amazing things over the years...

Smith Corona's history on their website: From drawing boards to desktops around the globe, Smith Corona has been turning creative ideas into breakthroughs for well over a century. Our 115 year legacy of Ink on Paper began with innovative, value-packed typewriters, but it stands for so much more than that today."

This is an awesome story about Smith Corona's past...a past when typewriters ruled every office around the world. Then they dabbled in computers for a short time...It actually states on their site: "1989 Launched the world´s first Laptop Personal Word Processor"...and "1994 Produces personal digital assistant products"...and then everything stops. Almost 20 years now and nothing new has come out of Smith Corona. They stopped evolving...stopped creating new product offerings and they stopped taking risks.

Is it possible that they just can't get past
Smith Corona: Typewriter Company?

To reinvent Smith Corona will require a new set of rules and an understanding of what is really happening: devices need to be portable, with access to all kinds of data networks...on the go. Typewriters do NOT fit into that paradigm. What Smith Corona could do is reinvent a better keyboard for texting...or create a better app that accesses a better functioning keyboard for Android and the iPhone. Or better still invent a digital device with a roll out expandable screen with a touch sensitive keyboard! Or a portable office with a small travel size printer. Cool ideas huh?

ZAGGmate Accessory Case with
Bluetooth Keyboard for Apple iPad

So, why didn't Smith Corona invent the ZAGGmate?

Look at that...the ZAGG Bluetooth keyboard is hot. It's so cool and hip I want one. Smith Corona SHOULD have invented this, but because they refused to evolve and reinvent their company they will be phased out like so many brands Baby Boomers grew up with.

The first step to reinvention is to redefine what your company actually does!

Ray Kroc while flying from one McDonald's to the next started to realize their core business wasn't about hamburgers...he was the largest real estate owner in the country...and started charging all his franchisee's rent. It saved his company from bankruptcy. McDonald's is one of the largest landlords in the world...and THAT is their core business.

ABC, NBC, CBS, TBS, SyFy and Fox etc...aren't in the business of giving us television shows, they are in the business of providing a captive audience for advertisers!

Walmart reinvented themselves as well by creating a niche business from the medical facilities in each store...you know, the eye doctors, pharmaceutical counters and such all around the world? Well that means they have access to millions of digital medical records...so the started a division the handles Electronic Medical Records. And overnight, by sheer size of their network, took the lead away from longtime dominant player of EMR's Siemens! Wow!

So, when was the last time you actually
spotted a working typewriter?

But I have to hand it to Smith Corona. It takes a stubborn belief in your product to continue to tell the world just how great you are when no one is paying attention...and the market is shrinking. Kind of like watching the designer of the RMS Titanic telling everyone to stay put, "we can't sink."

If Smith Corona doesn't reinvent themselves quickly, they will be the horse drawn carriage manufacturer of the 21st Century. Of course those horse & buggy manufacturers never completely died out...a few are still handcrafting carriages for the Queen of England and the carriages of Central Park, but it is antiquated technology. A reminder of the days before automobiles and airplanes.

Smith Corona needs to hurry up, they don't have much time. I wonder if they will discover that they are not a typewriter company but a document creation device company?

Let's take a look at the ZAGGmate again. When it completely engulfs your iPad it becomes a protective case making your Apple iPad virtually indestructible. Man that is a sexy product. No wonder it has won so many awards.

Reinvention starts with getting rid of the old rules for a while, redefine what you are really about, and open up to as many new, creative ideas that can reinvent your company for a 21st Century world. Pay attention to the technology that has completely eliminated your business sectors as well as creating product offerings that enhance the leaders already in the field...like Apple.

Oh, and keep it fun-can't be creative in a room filled with anxiety.

Thanks again for reading...

Brad Szollose

Brad is the award winning author of Liquid Leadership: From Woodstock to Wikipedia: Multigenerational Management Ideas That Are Changing The Way We Run Things ISBN-13: 978-1608320554