No One Can Forbid Us the Future

If we want things to stay as they are, things will have to change.

—Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, The Leopard, 1958

Evolutionary biologists have proven that the more adapted (i.e., comfortable) you are in your existing environment, the less able you are to adapt to environmental changes. Struggle is good for us. Rigidity is what organizations manifest when they are faced with either superior competition or outdated business models. They blindly cling to “that is the way we have always done it” in defiance of the evidence that this way is no longer relevant to success. Charles F. Kettering, the automotive inventor and pioneer said it best: “If you have always done it that way it is probably wrong.”

This is the history of business. New ideas, inventions, and business models from the tinkerer in the garage change the world, while rendering obsolete the existing modes of production, infrastructure, and business models. The automobile replaced the horse and buggy, the calculator replaced the slide rule, the personal computer replaced the typewriter, iTunes replaced CDs, and so on in a never-ending “perennial gale of creative destruction,” as described by economist Joseph Schumpeter. Clayton Christensen writes, “Generally, the leading practitioners of the old order become the victims of disruption, not the initiators of it.”

Change and creativity always take us by surprise. If it didn’t, we wouldn’t need it, because we could simply plan on it ...

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