Do all good ideas originate outside the organization? Of course not. Motorola understood all the critical technologies for smart phones, and taught Apple how to use them in a joint development project that created the ROKR. That's just one example of a company that had the idea for growth, but didn't move forward effectively. In this case Apple captured the value of new technology and a market shift.
On the Harvard Business Review blog site one of consulting firm Innosight's leaders, Mark Johnson, covers two stories of companies that had all the technology and capability to lead their markets, but got Locked-in to old practices. In "Have You Already Killed Your Next Big Thing" Mr. Johnson talks about Xerox and Kodak – two stories profiled in my 2008 book "Create Marketplace Disruption." Both companies developed the technology that replaced their early products (Xerox developed desktop publishing and Kodak developed the amateur digital camera.) But Lock-in kept them doing what they did rather than exploiting their own innovation.
One of the causes is a fascination with metrics. Again on the Harvard Business Review blog site Roger Martin, Dean of the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto, tells us in "Why Good Spreadsheets Make Bad Strategies" that you can't measure everything. And often the most important information about markets and what you must do to succeed is beyond measuring – at least in the short term.
Measurements are good control tools. Measurements can help force a focus on short term improvements. But measurements, and the concomitant focus, reduces an organization's ability to look laterally. They lose sight of information from lost customers, from small customers, from fringe customers and fringe competitors. Measurement often leads to obsession, and a deepening of Defend & Extend behavior. It's not accidental that doctors often find anorexia patients measure everything in (liquids and solids) and everything out (liquids and solids).
Measurements are created when a business is doing well. In the Rapids. Like Kodak during the 1960s and Xerox in the 1970s. Measurements are structural Lock-ins that help "institutionalize" the behavior which makes the Success Formula operate most effectively. And they help growth. But they do nothing for recognizing a market shift, and when new technology comes along, they stand in the way. That's why a powerful Six Sigma or Total Quality Management (TQM) or Lean Manufacturing project can help reduce costs short term, but become an enormous barrier to innovation over time when markets shift. These institutionalized efforts keep people doing what they measure, even if it doesn't really add much incremental value any longer.
To overcome measurement Lock-ins we all have to use scenario planning. Scenarios can help us see that in a future marketplace, a changed marketplace, measuring what we've been doing won't aid success. And because we don't yet know what the future market will really look like, we can't just swap out existing metrics for something different. As we proceed to do new things, in White Space, it's about learning what the right metrics are – about getting into the growth Rapids – before we tie ourselves up in metrics.
Note: To all readers of my Forbes article last week – there has been an update. The very professional and polite leadership at Tribune Corporation took the time to educate me about the LBO transition. As a result I learned that what I previously read, and reported in my column as well as on this blog, as being an investment of employee retirement funds into the LBO was inaccurate. Although Tribune is in hard times right now, the very good news is that the employee retirement funds were NOT wiped out by the bankruptcy. The Forbes article has been corrected, and I am thankful to the Tribune Corporation for helping me report accurately on that issue.