Ignoring the Obvious = Disaster!

Bob Herbold's picture

A few years ago RIM's Blackberry was white hot; tens of millions of business people were trading e-mails via that revolutionary device. While you could get to the internet, it was an awkward device for getting to the specific information and services you were interested in.

Why not have specific user-selected application icons that go directly to what the user is interested in. Why not have a touch-screen so these can be launched with ease? Steve Jobs was noticing these things; why wasn't the market leader RIM? Jobs moved into action and Apple's iPhone has made RIM look like technology roadkill. RIM is madly trying to catch up, but frankly, they ignored the obvious.

Why do big, smart companies often get run over by the obvious? Think about Kodak, who had lots of R&D folks studying digital photography in the early 1990's, and got wiped out. They are now a struggling printer company that might not survive. For 25 years GM was described by the press as have boring, mediocre-quality cars and excessive labor costs, and they ignored it all for decades and went bankrupt.

Why does this happen? Pride, which leads to complacency? Loss of urgency due to success? Fear of change? Bureaucracy and slow decision-making due to excessive headcount?

How do you avoid such basic human tendencies that cause you to ignore the obvious?

1. Move people around so they don't get stale

2. Have a culture that showcases and rewards those who generate fresh new ideas and makes them happen

3. When a big idea emerges, organize fresh talent around it and hold the leader accountable for implementing it.

4. Keep the effort separate from the going business (which is often threatened by change)

Why do you think leaders ignore the obvious so often?

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