Keeping the DNA (or not forgetting who you are)
Horace Dediu and Ben Thompson discuss the challenge for organisations like Apple and Nokia to remember the reasons of their original success, the challenges they faced and to keep that history in the organisation.
The experience of Apple in the 1990s drives a lot of what it did in the 2000s. The challenge of closing down, losing marketshare, losing employees, forgetting that they have to win in the PC space and then continuing to look for the next big thing. This kind of thinking created the iPod, iPhone and iPad. The challenge is to continue to keep employees who have only seen success remember that.
The experience of Nokia to enable the GMS standard and using design to create usable cell phones was critical to its success of moving away from a lumber company to a world wide leader in mobile phones. Horace (who worked in Nokia) suggests that only 10 years later in 2000, most employees do not remember that. This ability to remember the corporate history is quite key.
One of the best tools I have seen for that is the idea of the Theory of the Business by Drucker. He suggests that every organisation has a theory about the environment, the challenges and the opportunities in them, the specific mission about how they want to create change in that environment and the core competencies required to achieve this. If we can document this, the assumptions behind these then they become the story that can be told, retold and guide strategic decision making.
Will this work? Is this the way to do this? What happens when the theory does not work and the assumptions break down? How do we go back to a previous theory?
Hard questions. History through people is still important.