Sustainable success, an oxymoron?

Being successful is hard enough, sustaining that success appears even harder, as success breeds a status quo that is focused on more of the same stuff that worked last time, but not necessarily what will work in the future. Safety first, risk elimination, self interest,  and hubris appear to become the norm.

This process is pretty well documented with the benefit of hindsight, but it is not always obvious as it is happening.

Microsoft was the success story of the 20th century, it transformed the way we worked and lived, it developed a virtual monopoly in a highly contested market, it remains hugely profitable, but has it dropped the ball whilst still generating those profits on the back of past success?

Microsoft missed the transformation of the music industry, tablet computing, gaming, were wiped out in search, and are losing share in their core server software markets to Linux, and now Google has a free alternative to Office, currently with microscopic share, but perhaps it is a beginning .

The  slow erosion of Microsoft a business that just a decade ago was considered sufficiently powerful to attract the attention of the anti-trust laws in the US, potentially forcing a break-up as happened to previous businesses that had developed a virtual monopoly.  Now, Microsoft appears to have lost all its edge, and is just trading on past success and the mountains of cash accumulated as a result.

The AT&T  telephone monopoly was broken up in 1984, probably a few years before it would have happened by the mergence of new technology,   Standard Oil of New Jersey broken up by the Sherman Act in 1911 would have taken a bit longer, but would certainly not have been able to maintain it monopoly after the discovery of oil in the Middle East. 

Again, we see the parallels to the natural eco-systems that provide so many lessons for corporations, where sustainable success is dependent on evolution, and change at the margins, not power over the existing environment.




About strategyaudit

StrategyAudit is a boutique strategy and marketing consultancy concentrating on the challenges of the medium sized manufacturing businesses that make up the backbone of our economy. The particular focus is on their strategic and marketing development. as well as the business and operational efficiency improvements necessary for day to day commercial survival. We not only give advice, we go down "into the weeds" to ensure and enable implementation.
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