The trappings of success

March 20, 2010

Ah, the trappings of success.  Or should that read the traps of success?

Working with some colleagues on a proposition around open innovation, we identified Open Innovation as a way out of the organisational myopia that arises from success.

So what’re the disadvantages of succeeding?

Well, the organisation starts to believe its own hype, its business model, its grasp of the market and its skills and abilities.  They’re what made it great, aren’t they?

But maybe the market is shifting, perhaps the customers are becoming more sophisticated and demanding a different mix from the value proposition.  The emergence of new segments in the market might be opening the door for a competitor with a disruptive innovation.  Perhaps our ability to work as a tightly knit team prevents us from noticing the weak signals.  Perhaps the risks we took in the past are no longer possible because we need to get buy-in from too many people across the organisation.

A fierce focus on customer service has led some companies to follow a diminishing pool of more and more demanding, less profitable customers – neglecting adjacent customer groups that might be far more promising.  A focus on efficiency can trim all the fat, eliminating the capacity to be flexible, to experiment and to try new paths (see my other entries on resilience and innovation).

There may be new technology opportunities that need to be explored and assimilated – and these opportunities may threaten the competence that made the organisation great (and its staff secure).  Past technology decisions can often lead to ‘lock-in’, and a real myopia about new technology opportunities.

The companies that will sustain their success, despite their success, will overcome these traps.  And open innovation with its myriad opportunities to shake up old mind-sets may be one of the best defences against the traps of success.