Jr Loius V.Gerstner’s book “Who Says Elephants Can’t Dance?” is not an autobiography of Gestner while it is brief of his seven year stint in IBM as its CEO. The book presents Gestner’s work of turning around the sinking ship “IBM”. Gestner has scripted his strategies of patching the hole in the hull to resurrecting the elephant to its position of market leadership. Gestner identifies Marketing Myopia and inward looking approach as the centre problem for IBM & also presents his opinion about Merger & Acquisition, leadership and corporate culture of IBM.
As the name suggests, Gestner has repeatedly mentioned “IBM’s massive size” hence the common noun “Elpehant” figures in the book’s title. Gestner is very vocal about the resistance in IBM culture to change. Every chapter of the book talks about internal resistance in form of internal department ego clashes, process driven culture & excessive decentralization which leads to slow decision making leading to an obsolete strategy of IBM. Gestner also talks about excessive love of IBM team with its Operating OS2 which in the marketing parlance can be termed as marketing myopia.
The decline of the IBM in the early 1990s can understood by “S-Curve Theory” also commonly known as “Innovator’s Dilemma”. In IBM’s case, IBM is the innovator of OS2 operating system and was obsessed with its brain child. This combined with the inward looking approach did not allow IBM to adopt greater return offering technologies springing in the technology environment.
Prior to Gestner’s tenure in IBM, IBM’s management team had laid out strategic vision for IBM’s entry into newer technological arenas. However, the internal resistance combined with a vision without details lead to non-execution of the laid out strategy. Gestner is of the view that “Good Strategy is long on details” and hence his ability to execute the strategy is commendable. He dismisses the common phrase ”Small is Beautiful, Big is Bad” and comments “focus combined with good leadership can enable an elephant to be nimble and flexible.”
The book may be misconceived by many as one filled with technical jargons, in reality the book is simple to read and does not bore one with management terms owing to the non-tech background of the author. Book should not be understood as one meant for offering management magical potions to its readers. Readers who have watched & understood the recent print & television advertisements of consulting giant “Accenture” featuring an elephant performing “Surfing Stunts in Ocean’s High Tides” can easily understand the essence of the book.
A recent debate in the class was on the fact that majority of disruptive technologies are made by smaller companies than the bigger/blue chip companies. Incidentally the debate touched upon areas like Marketing Myopia, S-Curve dilemma OR Innovator’s dilemma and process versus agility. This article will web together all the above mentioned concepts and present my inference that marketing myopia is the underlying cause for process orientation and innovator’s dilemma and hence is the major reason for low innovation in the bigger organizations.
NOTE: Paragraphs in italics hence forth are intended as an explanation of concepts for readers non-acquainted with the concepts dealt in the article.
Marketing Myopia: Short sighted and inward looking approach tomarketing that focuses on the needs of the firm instead of defining the firm and its products in terms of the customers’ needs and wants. Such self-centred firms fail to see and adjust to the rapid changes in their markets and, despite their previous eminence, falter, fall, and disappear.
Process Orientation & Innovation do not go together: Process Orientation is sometimes a resultant of Myopic View of companies. Myopic Companies sometimes are so much in love with their products or services (Marketing Myopic Companies) that they design their process in and around for better performance of their product and loose sight of consumer needs especially latent needs which cannot be satisfied by the product in focus and hence we do not find path breaking innovations from these myopic companies. Their innovations are limited to processes and services around their current product only.
S-Curve Dilemma OR Innovators’ Dilemma: The curve is drawn between Growth Rate (Y Axis) and Time (X Axis) for innovations. Each S-Curve represents Growth Rate versus Time Graph for different innovations. It is observed and indicated in the graph after a period of time it is important for an organizations to move on to the newer innovations in order to reap a better ROI in the coming future. In the curve displayed, organization which has adopted innovation represented by Orange Curve should adopt newer innovation represented by Blue Curve. However larger organizations sometimes do not adopt newer innovations, this is called as S-Curve Dilemma or Innovator’s Dilemma.
Innovative companies also sometimes fall prey to marketing myopia. An innovative company which has put in lot of efforts to innovate a product/service and hence the organization’s image is based on that particular innovation would find it difficult to innovate a product/service which will make the earlier innovation non-useable (a disruptive innovation) i.e. becomes myopic with the earlier innovation. Therefore, these myopic companies sometimes either do not adopt or do not innovate newer disruptive technologies. For Example: Microsoft would not like to innovate a new platform which may put Windows into obsolesce as Microsoft’s image is based on Windows.
At the heart of low-innovation is excess of love with product (Marketing Myopia) which inturn causes Process Orientation and Innovator’s Dilemma and hence is termed as THE cause for low innovation in the article.