When It Comes To Reinvention

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When it comes to reinvention, who is best to lead to the change? Is it the old guard, the new guard or does it come from a corner or pocket of the world that no one sees coming?

This is an important thought to ponder (at least it is on the weekend, when the day-to-day grind has semi-halted). It’s something that every person in every company should be having a white-board discussion about with their team, and it’s something that is very real. Change is never permanent. Change is always constant. Have you ever really thought about that? Let’s break it down a little further: if you are at the cutting-edge of your industry, can you always be there, or is there someone new already looking at developing a newer-than-yours mousetrap?

Can the music industry save it self? Can Journalism? Newspaper publishers? Radio? Marketing? Advertising agencies? Book publishers? Car manufacturers?

That’s not even a complete list of the many industries that are struggling right now. They’re not struggling to define their future, as scary as this sounds, they’re struggling to define their present. It’s also not due (entirely) to the economy or the digitization of their industry. It’s not due to technology and it’s not due to customer interest in the products. It seems like there is something much more profound taking place. It’s probably some kind of weird hybrid of the many reasons listed above, and at the same time there is a lot of hope in the world right now for the future of business.

Think about it: do you really think there will be no more music, journalism, news, radio, advertising, books or cars in the near future?

Of course, there will be. They may not look like the current models we use, but they’ll still be there. They may have more bells and whistles or have a baseline new technology or distribution system behind it, but we’re not killing off any of this stuff any time soon. Upon reflection, it just feels like the music industry never saw Apple coming, that the newspaper publishers never saw The Huffington Post or Craigslist coming, that radio producers never saw the Internet or Satellite radio coming, that the major book publishers never saw Amazon coming, and so the dance continues.

It also doesn’t happen overnight.

There’s that old saying that most overnight successes were fifteen years in the making (if you don’t believe me, check out the book, Outliers, by Malcolm Gladwell). Saying that any industry is going through a "reinvention" feels like an excuse from those top-tier industry-leading corporations who kept on keeping on without really pushing any form (both mild and/or aggressive) of evolution (for more on this, please read: Evolutionize Your Marketing).

Which begs the question:

If every major corporation prides itself on innovation, why would any industry really have a so-called moment of reinvention? 


  1. There is a big difference between innovation and reinvention, and minor innovation versus disruptive innovation. Most business pride themselves on innovation as a statement while embracing minor innovation, like minor process innovation, small redesigns, minor restructuring, but nothing that throws out the mold. Disruptive innovation changes the face of the business. In the face of major disruption, reinvention is needed. Companies that engineer their own disruptive innovation are inherently reinventing. But when major disruption occurs to a company or their market, reinvention is forced on them.
    What’s remarkable is how often brands claim to “reinvent” while claiming a heritage of “innovation”. These are positioning statements and slick copy at best. They are nonsensical ridiculous jargon at their worst.

  2. Having worked at a large B2B brand in Redwood Shores, I was amazed at how powerful revenue producing divisions could overpower threatening ideas from inside the fringe of the company. Quarterly earnings pressure, arrogance of being the “market leader” and incentives completely tied to revenue are to blame for a lack of internal disruptive innovation. If an organization does not value and reward bold, orthogonal ideas and come up with a way to bring them to the table, it is destine to acquire everything in its path, or suffer sustained erosion in market capitalization. Oracle bought the enterprise applications market. Sony stuck its head in the sand on industry convergence and Microsoft missed the cloud computing boat by a century (in Internet time).
    Makes me wonder, was the iPod vision born in Cupertino? Or was it borrowed and rocketed up to the management team faster than a CRAY computer could deliver? Anyone recall this not to distant history?

  3. Dear Mitch,
    Watching your blog and reading it,found it very intersting, thanks for the wonderful work.
    Regarding Change as you rightly said it’s constand.
    In the early 90’s Late Micheal Hammer wrote the BPR, he described about the 3″C” is any business and if you can take care of these 3″C” you are absolutely safe.
    1st C =Customers.
    2ndC =Competetions.
    3rdC = Change.
    Most important thing that’s happening the 3rd”C” is also applicable in the first and the second “C”.
    Customes taste changes continiously and the competetions do changes continiously.
    Warm Regards,
    Debashish Brahma.

  4. Innovation versus Reinvention
    Mitch Joel asks an interesting question about internal innovation versus industry reinvention. From my experience and perspective, the answer is a function of how well an organization values its people, their innovations or ideas borrowed from other ea…

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