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Is Your Company Reinventing Itself?

I have just figured out what my company does! It may sound strange that a CEO of seven years has this epiphany, but it's true. Lytica Inc. makes knowledge power tools for supply management. Freebenchmarking.com was our first tool and Component Cost Estimator is our second. Oh, and by the way, this is what we do and will be doing going forward — not looking back at what we have done.

Reinvention is critical for business success. Many successful companies have done it while others have stalled like a deer in the headlights, unable to see the danger approaching them. {complink 2470|IBM Corp.} and {complink 379|Apple Inc.} are good examples of success while most traditional telecom companies are not. We need more corporate reinvention.

In his book The Third Industrial Revolution , author and economist Jeremy Rifkin talks about how every industrial revolution is spurred by a shift in both energy and communication technology. Corporations are living this shift in communications; in energy, this is not so evident. Most of the energy innovation is happening on the fringe while the major players continue to drill for oil and burn coal. A brilliant Ruskin insight is that power utilities need to reframe themselves from sellers of electricity to managers of energy.

This mental shift, just like mine with knowledge power tools, opens up many new avenues for prosperity and pulls fringe ideas into the mainstream, which benefits everyone. We need lower energy prices and abundant energy for prosperity. Maybe the energy industry will figure out what it should be doing before the headlights get much closer.

Let's get back to my epiphany. Why have I focused on knowledge?

Knowledge enables action and makes possible a knowledge-action-results cycle. With all of the “time to” challenges (time-to-market, time-to-source, time-to-cost), the longest time interval is the one required to acquire knowledge. Knowledge is needed to make decisions. Getting it faster would make things happen faster, boosting productivity and competitiveness. Right now, our businesses need boosting and I am placing my bets on productivity and competitiveness enhancement through knowledge availability.

I see knowledge as a combination of information and wisdom. I can supply the information; wisdom comes from experience and education. With BRIC countries emerging as business competitors, we will be positioned against cultures and workers who may have an edge over North America on knowledge acquisition, given that these countries are graduating more engineers than we are and that their students are driven to improve their quality of life through high achievement in education. It is also clear that they have gained significant experience in manufacturing and technology, thanks to our technology transfers.

And there's more; their cultures give them access to information advantages while ours tend to be restrictive. We weren't always like this.

I remember the stories about Silicon Valley in its heyday. Engineers would meet at a pub called the Wagon Wheel and, over a beer, talk about what they were working on. An intellectual property sieve by today's standards, this was one of the most stimulating, high growth, and productive times in California's history. It was a culture of information sharing that we have mostly shut down with tight IP controls in the northern hemisphere of the West.

While I do not endorse or support IP infractions, I do see that access to knowledge is a significant factor in maintaining a competitive environment. The cultures of the BRIC countries are, in my opinion, more open to Wagon Wheel sharing than ours. They will prosper just as the Silicon Valley of old did, as we remain somewhat stalled.

7 comments on “Is Your Company Reinventing Itself?

  1. FLYINGSCOT
    November 26, 2012

    Do you think publicly traded companies (with impatient shareholdrs) can innovate enough to creat the next major breakthroughs or will it be up to privately held companies that can chase their dream unencumbered by the need to produce each quarterly result?

  2. Ken Bradley
    November 26, 2012

     I am not sure that the issue is a private verse public one. The two company examples that I gave of successful transformations were public companies. The greater issues I feel are knowing where the company should be going and organizational culture resisting change. In this regard smaller companies have an advantage.

    It's not easy to recognize that a company needs to change before it's too late. Giving up on what has worked in the past and embarking on a new unproven quest takes incredible courage and fortitude.

  3. bolaji ojo
    November 27, 2012

    Rich, I am a bit at a loss here. Companies of the future “must create jobs that no one can fill”? Please help me understand better what you are saying here. Are we moving so far that labor is being left far behind in terms of the skills companies need or was that a joke? If no one can fill the jobs we're all in for a rude jolt.

  4. bolaji ojo
    November 27, 2012

    Rich, The greater problem I've seen in the labor marketplace is the fact that companies continue to play musical chair with the same workers and managers. The idea that the job vacancies aren't matched by the available skills is a reflection of bad management preparation or that the company is experiencing a transition it isn't managing well.

  5. Taimoor Zubar
    November 27, 2012

    “The idea that the job vacancies aren't matched by the available skills is a reflection of bad management preparation or that the company is experiencing a transition it isn't managing well.”

    @Bolaji: If the companies feel the gap in skills in terms of the requirements and what's available in the market, why don't they for trainings in the area of supply chain? Is not a good solution to bridge the gap that's causing so many problems?

  6. Taimoor Zubar
    November 27, 2012

    @Ken: I agree. While many people may not give credit to the culture in a company's success or failure, I certainly think culture can play an important role when it comes to setting up the direction for future. If your culture discourages innovation and makes you avoid risks, you can never try on something new and you'll continue to stick to a strategy that has worked in the past and may not work in future.

  7. elctrnx_lyf
    November 27, 2012

    With growing number of ambitious people and companies, the strive to succeed and stay on the top is pushing many firms for the theft of technology or IP. This could only get worse in the future.

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