Based on several stories last week extolling the benefits of being “lazy” when it comes to innovation strategy, you would think the LAZY days of summer are here a few weeks early (at least in the northern hemisphere).
Lazy is hardly a sentiment you typically associate with innovation strategy, which is why these articles caught my eye.
Execution, a bias for action, and trying lots of things and failing fast are all descriptors you are much more likely to employ when describing a successful innovation strategy.
Yet, consider these stories. In one way or another, each suggests the advantages of laziness when it comes to trying new things, especially acquisitions.
4 Examples Where NOT Acting Might Be a Smarter Innovation Strategy
“Dollar General’s Buck Goes Far” by Steven Russolillo in the Wall Street Journal highlights how Dollar General seems to have come out the stronger player for being on the outside looking in as competitor Dollar Tree acquired Family Dollar Stores in a $9 billion deal. The story recounts typical post-acquisition issues (integration takes longer than planned, cultures and business styles don’t match up, risks are more significant than expected) to explain while Dollar General is stronger for not making a major acquisition.
Another Wall Street Journal article from Dan Gallagher, “Focus Is In, Scale Is Out for Tech Giants” recounts how tech giants Microsoft and HP are both unwinding acquisitions. The individual deals were originally characterized for each company as an important part of its growth and innovation strategy. Microsoft is shuttering most of its $7 billion Nokia acquisition as it lays off more than 1,800 people from its smartphone division. HP is merging its service business with Computer Sciences Corp., as it gets out of the $13.9 billion business it acquired from EDS. Within the fast moving tech sector, these deals once looked critical for scale, but now are seen as inhibiting agility and the flexibility to move with the market.
Finally, in a seemingly far afield example, George Varga interviewed musician, Billy Joel for the San Diego Union Tribune. The thrust of the article was that Joel, who hasn’t released a recording of new pop songs since 1993, has little interest in writing or recording new songs. This extends to the classically-oriented pieces he finds more creatively intriguing. Joel is hardly hurting from his blatant strategy to NOT create new material. Instead, he’s using his catalog of hit songs as a cash cow, grossing $31.7 in concert revenue in 2015 from playing just 30 shows. Twelve of those were in New York at Madison Square Garden.
You generally think of a successful innovation strategy as leading to doing new things and pushing boundaries.
Maybe when developing an innovation strategy, however, it’s worth a quick check to see if doing nothing MIGHT be the best answer after all. – Mike Brown
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