Be satisfied with status quo (no. 28 in our list of IP mistakes)

Perhaps for the first time in history, humankind has the capacity to create far more information than anyone can absorb, to foster far greater interdependency than anyone can manage, and to accelerate change far faster than anyone’s ability to keep pace (Peter Senge – author of “The fifth discipline: the art and practice of learning organizations”).

In business reality being satisfied with status quo is like trying to swim against the current – you can maintain your position and even advance a bit but eventually you will start losing and fall behind. Examples of companies that did just this are many: from the 1970’s decision of Xerox to forgo development of desktop computers and focus on core business areas, to IBM’s decision focus on mainframes sales in the era of personal computing, and the relatively recent decision of the entertainment industry to deny acting ahead of the long growing trend of online streaming of copyright material.

So why the tendency to accept the status quo…?

Developing a business strategy (or IP strategy) requires investment in time and resources. Breaking the status quo and accepting change as intrinsic in corporate mentality and basic principle for strategic planning means being open to accept extra sunk costs coming from forgoing past strategies and creating new ones that follow market trends. In some cases this can require renouncing what you know are good, tested business practices and taking on the risk that your new decision will be one that brings long term benefits.

To add to the layers of complexity of abandoning the status quo is the natural tendency of humans to be resistant to change, the responsibility of decision makers to put the welfare of their stakeholders first (which can increase risk adversity) and the sometimes lengthy decision making cycles (especially in big organizations with hierarchical structures).

In most cases however, the mistake of accepting status quo is not so extreme but rather has to do with being satisfied with the success brought by your current position. Taking the IBM example again, the decision to expand the business area did not require IBM to forgo the past but rather to shift to the new while harvesting the best of the past.

Change is important and companies that want to stay ahead competitively have to pay close attention to market trends, learn to distinguish between long lasting trends and fads and adapt their strategy accordingly. In the end, the ability of companies to see these trends and speedily renounce the status quo get ahead of them and adopt a culture of continuous improvement will determine the next dominant actors within industries.

(This is number 28 in our list of IP mistakes and how to fix them.)

Image credit: Tim Caynes

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