The Icarus Paradox: Why getting back to the roots of your success is a strategy of extinction

March 24, 2009 at 12:37 am Leave a comment

As corporate giants like General Motors–a company that 20 years ago we all thought would last until Jesus comes–teeter on the brink of bankruptcy, it’s worth taking a look at a Harvard Business Review article by Freek [sic] Vermeulen on the Icarus Paradox. Just as Icarus came to tragedy by flying too close to the sun, companies “become successful doing something but this makes them overconfident and blind to the dangers that other developments pose to them. This behavior often leads to their downfall.”

Want proof? Take a look at the Fortune 100 list of companies from 1966. 66 of them no longer exist. I find that absolutely stunning. 15 still exist but are no longer big enough to make the list. Only 19 still make the cut in 2009. There is no such thing as the status quo. Companies (like people) are always either getting better or getting worse. It is among the most pompous of all Bob Dylan lyrics, but in this case, I’m afraid it’s appropriate: “He who is not busy being born is busy dying.”

Agencies need to be pushing themselves and their clients to continue to be born every day, though  that’s a difficult proposition in today’s economic climate as there will be no easy labors. Depend upon it: Every birth will be like passing the Kaiser’s helmet, yet onward we must go.

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The Brand Companions Hypothesis: All media will be free for high-value consumers. “No sex, no gasoline. Just give me some technology and leave me alone.”

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