Bob's Gutsy Leadership Blog

Warning: Strength = Weakness!

It was 2004 that Sony unveiled its Librie e-book reader.  Technologists marveled at the clarity of the type, and most industry analysts believed it was a harbinger of a new wave of products that would revolutionize the book industry.  Folks soon realized that the consumer appeal was very limited, since Sony paid little inadequate attention to the selection of books available; for the Librie it was woefully limited.

Today, Amazon’s Kindle dominates the e-reader business and the Librie is long gone.  Sony does have a successor device, but it is a minor player in the fast growing global market of e-readers. What Amazon did versus Sony is they knew it wouldn’t be the hardware that drove success of the e-reader, it would be the availability of the most books, as well as a very easy-to-use interface enabled by very elegant software.

Recently you have seen a lot of press on the problems of the traditional Japanese hardware powerhouses of Sharp, Panasonic, and Sony (they collectively lost $20 billion in the past fiscal year).  In general they have been beaten out in the marketplace by competitors that provided not just great hardware but also many elegant features enabled by elegant software. Also, they provided online services, and had smarter marketing.  Most industry analysts believe Japan’s current weakness is due to its clinging to its traditional strength; hardware and manufacturing.  In essence, clinging exclusively to that strength has been their downfall.

What do you do to avoid being seduced by your strength?  Here are a few ideas:

Be Paranoid:  Andy Grove of Intel was right; only the paranoid survive.  Focus on what can go wrong, or is wrong.

Beware of Experience:  The longer a person is involved in one area, and gains deep experience in that area, the less chance that person has of being adequately paranoid or of being highly creative about new approaches

Protect Your Change Agents/Innovators:  Most people are threatened by change and can think of endless reasons why efforts should be watered-down or put aside in favor of the status quo.

The Customer Is the Judge:  Remember, you work is only as good as the receiver of the work (the customer) thinks good things.

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