The following post is by my colleague, Jamie Baker, with whom I’ve had the pleasure working with for the past 6 years. He is the “Digital Dream Manager” for Gray Television and has an astounding passion for the broadcast industry, the digital world and change. A while back, I asked Jamie if he would write some of his thoughts down so I could share them here. Today, I am very excited to post this first article on The New Remarkable. -erin
Myopia–a lack of foresight, a narrow view of something.
In 1960, Harvard Business School professor, Theodore Levitt, stated that “Every major industry was once a growth industry.”
In every era of history, industries that had once been riding a wave of growth were found in the shadow of decline. In his now-famous Harvard Business Review article, Marketing Myopia, Levitt asserted that, in every case, the reason growth slows or stops was not because a specific market was saturated, but because many who were once industry leaders suffered from myopia. In other words, they lacked real discernment and long-range perspective in thinking and planning.(1)
The first example I would like to focus on is the wagon and carriage industry, particularly at the end of the 19th century.
Thomas A. Kinney, assistant professor of history at Bluefield College in Virginia, suggests that there were 13,000 businesses in the wagon and carriage industry in 1890. With the advent of the automobile, the companies that survived were the ones who had the proper vision and understanding about this new and emerging opportunity.(2)
The companies that made the transition from the wagon and carriage industry to the emerging automobile industry, had the foresight to know that they had something relevant to the new and emerging auto industry. “The people who made the most successful transition [to the automobile industry] were not the carriage makers, but the carriage parts makers, some of whom are still in business”.
Carriage makers tried their best to remake themselves into automakers “but they were expert woodworkers without expertise in precision metalworking,” says Kinney. Businesses like axle and carriage lamp makers had the opportunity and transitioned very successfully from the wagon and carriage industry to the automobile industry.
Can you think of some other prominent instances throughout history where important industries shifted from steady growth to swirling decline? Why did the decline take place and what were the contributing factors? Could the drop-off have been averted? And, are there examples of contemporary industries that are currently in the shadow of decline?
In our next entry, we will learn about another prominent industry that shifted from explosive growth to detrimental decline.
1) “Marketing Myopia”, by Theodore Levitt, Harvard Business Review, 1960 (http://bit.ly/17bcdbV)
2) Thomas A. Kinney, quoted in “Failing Like a Buggy Whip Maker? Better Check Your Simile”, nytimes.com, by Randall Stross, January 9, 2010 (http://nyti.ms/U3lcT0)
A little bit about the author, Jamie Baker @DigitalDreamMan:
As Gray Television, Inc’s Digital Dream Manager, Jamie loves leading, teaching and encouraging so that others become more informed, effective and successful. He lives in Harrisonburg, VA with his wife Kim. They have three grown children.
Wagon Wheel photo courtesy of Mike Baird