Monday, 23 March 2015

“The Global Companies that Failed to Adapt to Change”– Professor M.S.Rao

“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.” - Charles Darwin

When you look at Eastman Kodak which was a leader for many years filed for bankruptcy in 2012. When you look at Blockbuster Video it became defunct in 2013. Similarly, Borders which was one of the largest book retailers in US, it became defunct in 2011. Why these companies which had great brands initially failed finally? It is because they failed to adapt to change. Additionally, they failed to unlearn and relearn. Hence, we can address the importance of change in this article.  

Although everyone is aware that the only thing constant in the world is change, people resist change due to various reasons including fear of failure, fear of criticism and fear of unknown. They often think that known devil is better than unknown angel. They settle for the status quo and extinct ultimately. Similarly, companies fail to change with the changing times and technologies leading to extinction.

Joan Marques in her book, Leadership and Mindful Behavior: Action, Wakefulness, and Business unfolds that there are many people and companies who once performed at the top of their line because they were zestful and adventurous but became complacent. Just think of Blockbuster, which was crushed by Netflix; Dell, which got overridden by mobile devices; Kodak, which lost track of the digital era; Microsoft, which fell asleep when Web TV, e-books, smartphones, and tablets took over; Motorola, which got outmaneuvered by smartphones; Sears, which lost immense market share to aggressive discount stores such as Wal-Mart and Target; Sony, which focused on hardware in a time when software took the upper hand, leaving space for Samsung, Apple, and others to run away with its market; and Yahoo, which fell asleep when Google was inventing and making numerous smart moves. Some realized their mistake and reinvented themselves once they experienced the drawbacks of their myopia. Others never managed to maintain a broad mindset ensure that you also avoid falling prey to sleepwalking again. You just have to be awake to maintain a broad mindset.

A Blueprint to Embrace Change Effectively

"Greatness is not in where we stand, but in what direction we are moving. We must sail sometimes with the wind and sometimes against it—but sail we must, and not drift, nor lie at anchor." - Oliver Wendell Holmes

Leaders must adopt tools and techniques to adapt to change. Here is a blueprint to embrace change effectively. Keep the vision right and straight, and articulate it effectively. Create organizational culture conducive to bring out change. Communicate clearly about the need to change. Enlighten people about the implications of status quo.  Show them benefits once the change is implemented.  Coordinate all stakeholders effectively. Remove the roadblocks by allaying their apprehensions. Show them small gains to ensure that entire change takes place smoothly without any resistance.


Jack Welch once remarked, “If the rate of change on the outside exceeds the rate of change on the inside, the end is near.” Hence, accept change before the change is thrust on you. If people don’t perform, they perish. If companies don’t innovate, they become obsolete. If we were not changed, we would have remained still in stone age only. To conclude, cultivate a flexible mindset to embrace change effectively to ensure organizational excellence and effectiveness.  Benjamin Disraeli rightly quoted, “Change is inevitable in a progressive society.  Change is constant.”

Leadership and Mindful Behavior: Action, Wakefulness, and Business by Joan Marques (Palgrave Macmillan, October 23, 2014)

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Professor M.S.Rao, India
Founder of MSR Leadership Consultants India
Listed in Marquis Who's Who in the World in 2013
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