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A Leap of Faith - The Death of the Walkman came Long After the Death of its Quintessential Innovator and Salesman
Today Sony announced that it would cease Japan-based production of one of the 20th Century’s most defining consumer appliances, the Walkman. via delphiinstitute.com
I was delighted to read this post. It's author is Tom Koulopoulos, founder and CEO of The Delphi Institute and author of The Innovation Zone. The post itself is an excerpt from that book.
Check it out. In the meantime, I have to share some excerpts of this excerpt:
Morita’s personal chemistry of defiance and fearlessness in the absence of hard proof, in fact in the face of utter disbelief and ridicule by colleagues and competitors, is the raw material of innovation in its most basic form.
I asked [Peter] Drucker why he thought radical new products, such as the Walkman, always take the market and large incumbents by surprise. “Markets don’t know how to ask for what they haven’t yet experienced,” Drucker told me. Yet, had Morita not been as willing to fail and retry on the market’s own terms, his approach would surely have doomed Sony from the start.
Because of Morita’s ability to fail fast and abandon his ideas in favor of the market’s ideas, nothing Sony developed ever got stuck as an invention. Instead, Sony flooded the market with one innovation after another.
And (Bam!), what's rarely talked about with innovation:
The risk for Sony ultimately was not the risk of new ideas, but instead the risk of not having new ideas. Innovation is a very unforgiving, constantly accelerating treadmill. Once you jump on, you have little choice but to move faster with each step with no graceful way to get off.
Consider Apple's iPod and how it redefined the music industry and replaced the Walkman. Apple gave market and large incumbents (SONY) they haven’t yet experienced.
Now, Apple continues to flood the market with one innovation after another. Their risk is not the risk of new ideas, but instead the risk of not having new ideas.
Now ask yourself:
If you could grow to the size of SONY, if you could achieve that level of success with all the metrics of revenues and cash-flows and market influence...would you be willing to:
- fail fast and abandon your ideas in favor of the market’s ideas
- face ... utter disbelief and ridicule by colleagues and competitors (even your employees, family, community, Board of Directors...) ?
And for how long?
At some point, that is the only question. Whether the topic is leadership or marketing, customer service or employee engagement, social media or innovation...in order to continue to grow our selves in order to sustain, possibly grow, our businesses, we will have to, in our own right, be like Akio Morita:
- Abandon our old ideas, ways and business models.
- Fail fast in order to connect with the ideas and ways and business models that better match with the market’s ideas.
- Face ... utter disbelief and ridicule by colleagues and competitors (even our employees, family, community, Board of Directors...)
Do you see another option?
Tom Koulopoulos shared an hour of his time as guest on my radio show. You can listen to our conversation here.