All Glory is Fleeting
An old friend of mine had a list of rules once. They were the guidelines he used to deal with other people. The list was made up of a couple dozen brief statements that covered most everything. How honest one should be. How much effort one should put into a relationship. When you should kiss her. Etcetera. He called them his Laws of Social Interaction.
One of my favorites went like this, and I’m paraphrasing, “All glory is fleeting. If there’s nobody faster, stronger, smarter or better than you right now, then just wait.” It’s an important thing to remember. Especially when it comes to business and enterprise.
[…]Kodak can’t count on a guaranteed revenue stream: If consumers abandon its products, sales will be zero, and the company will disappear. The history of private-sector duopolies and even monopolies is filled with such seemingly sudden disappearance acts: The A&P supermarket chain–if you’re under forty years old, you probably haven’t even heard of it–enjoyed a U.S. market share of 75 percent as recently as the 1950s. Big-box music retailers and bookstores were supposed to bestride the land like collosi at the turn of our new century, but Virgin mega-stores have all but disappeared, and Borders has just gone bankrupt. Dominant newspapers in one-paper towns were able to book some of the economy’s highest profit margins for four decades–more than 20 percent a year, on average, positively dwarfing such hated industrial icons as Walmart–yet with the explosion of Web-based competition, these onetime mints are now among the least attractive companies in the economy.
There is a positive correlation between an organization’s former dominance and its present inability to cope with twenty-first century change. As technology business consultant Nilofer Merchant has aptly put it, “The Web turns old industries on their head. Industries that have had monopolies or highly profitable duopolies are the ones most likely to be completely gutted when a more powerful, more efficient system comes along.”
Matt Welch and Nick Gillespie, The Declaration of Independents
How quickly the giants can fall, even when you least expect them to. And it’s not just technology that can undo them. Markets shift, and what was a household staple just a decade ago is no longer. Leadership changes, and the once driving vision is lost.
Which organizations will fall in the next decade? Change is a constant. In the grand scheme of things, everything is vapor.
But what does that mean for us?
Maybe we should prepare ourselves to be more accepting when such changes happen.
Maybe we shouldn’t find ourselves as fearful or frustrated by the strength of certain industry leaders.
Maybe we need to take a longer view of the world around us, and just wait.
Think about all of the change in the last ten years. What do you think the next ten years will bring?
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