So success itself is not bad, but the complacency that often accompanies success is a company’s worst enemy. Over the years I have worked for many companies. The one thing that kept them from reaching the next level was complacency. There are often phrases such as “This is just how we do it” or “That’s the…way”. They take for granted that just because they have been successful in the past that they will continue to be successful in the future. The key is that they take success for granted. I can give you several notable examples Blackberry, Apple, and Microsoft just to name a few.
Blackberry had a corner on the smart phone market for years. They were the premier smart phone device and the company to beat. They had several missteps by management and did not keep up with the trend towards software based devices. They held on to dying ideas only trying to reinvent the products that they had used to carve out their market niche. Along came Apple and innovated the smart phone market. They took the market and made it more user-friendly and more consumer friendly. They put the smart phone in everyone’s hand (as opposed to Wall Street and corporate executives). A smart phone became ubiquitous.

Now Apple is in somewhat the same place as Blackberry was a few years ago. They now have reached a point where they no longer innovate but continually improve. Please understand there is nothing wrong with improving a product (in fact until the last couple of years the iPhone was inadequate at best), but the fact they are no longer bringing new products or making significant changes to their products does not bode well.

Microsoft is similar to both Blackberry and Apple, they were innovators in the late 80’s and 90’s. They were on top with Windows and no one was taking them down (they still are) but now they have made some pretty significant errors and it has cost them. I am usually on the forefront of technology. I like to try new operating systems before almost anyone and between Windows Vista and Windows 8, Microsoft has some issues. Windows Vista was a nightmare to use because not only was it a huge bloated program but it often annoyed users by requiring the UAC to pop up all the time. Windows 8 was trying to cross from a desktop operating system to a touch screen operating system. It was executed poorly, the user interface tried to do too much. An operating system cannot be all things to all devices. The needs of a desktop/laptop are different from the needs of a touchscreen device.

Even though these companies at one time or another were innovators they allowed success to create a culture of complacency. I understand that many of the projects take significant amounts of money and so the company’s will want to get as much life out of them as possible, but there comes a point where the next “big thing” needs to be true innovation and not just a different iteration. True success is not a point but a constant evolution. If a company wants to be successful they must constantly strive to break the chains of the status quo.

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