Chapter 7. Pushing Water Uphill

The Greek philosophers knew a thing or two about the modern corporation, with Heraclitus penning the famous line, “Nothing endures but change.” With all the talk about organizational change, change management, and process change, the concern and emphasis on change seems both obvious and overdone, yet business history provides plenty of examples at the macro level of different reactions to change.

Companies such as Polaroid created a technology that defined an industry, developing and successfully selling instant cameras that could produce photographs moments after the shutter was clicked. With dominant market share, and a well‐protected proprietary technology, they were a staple from fashion photographers to the aisles of mom‐and‐pop corner stores. Polaroid was a successfully run company, yet it did not react to external changes in the market with the advent of digital photography. This failure to react to change caused Polaroid to abandon its shiny headquarters building on the Charles River near Boston to become little more than a holding company for various patents and trademarks.

At the opposite end of the spectrum are companies that did not just react to changes in the market, but initiated the change, forcing competitors to adapt on their terms. Companies like Apple and Google introduced products and services that were not new, but redefined portable music and Internet searching. Competitors now look to the Apples and Googles of the world for their ...

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