Channeling Buckminster Fuller

“To change things, don’t try to fight the existing reality. Build a new model that makes the old model obsolete.” – Buckminster Fuller

A couple of posts ago, I laid out the four types of business climates one faces when launching a new product:

1. New product for a brand-new market, ala the iPod
2. Emerging market with several players vying for market share
3. Seasoned market with major players (ala the current car industry)
4. Seasoned market with one to three entrenched players who dominate the market

I also recounted a few cases where dominant, entrenched players were displaced by a quantum leap forward in technology.

The industrial revolution happened seemingly overnight, thanks to our history books. The fast pace of industrial development, from horse and buggy to fully enclosed cars, in reality took about forty years, from 1885 to the mid-1920s. The first production automobile, the Model T, was released in 1908. Enclosed cars that protected occupants from the elements and become a truly viable form of transportation occurred less than twenty years later.

In comparison, the personal computer revolution started in 1975 with computer kits, and 1977 saw the breakthrough Apple II and TRS-80. It’s now forty years later and we’ve gone way beyond the viable personal computer level. In reality, we hit the point of viable personal computers in 1992 with the release of Windows 3.1—although some will argue that Apple beat Microsoft by a wide margin.

There’s a point to this comparison. The cost and effort of inventing technology in the launch of the Industrial Revolution meant that it was harder for competitors to leap ahead. Serious hardware had to be built: parts designed, forged and cast, machined, assembled, etc. These are what’s called “long lead” items, meaning there’s a lot of lead time from concept to completion.

In the Information Technology Revolution, all it takes is a few geniuses sitting down at a keyboard and racking their brains and pounding their keyboards to create quantum leaps in technology.

My last couple of posts focused on how to enter a market with entrenched competitors, what had to be done to overcome the market dominance of major players who own the market.

While it will take decades for a Tesla to unseat a Ford or Toyota, the same is not true in the software world.

The flaming ascents and crashes of major software vendors makes a 4th of July fireworks display look pale in comparison. Why the crash? Their entrenched market position was obliterated by another company’s quantum leap forward in technology.

The fast pace of technological advancement means there are always quantum leaps forward, which results in two things:

1. The seasoned market with one to three dominant players is effectively moot. These market types are treated like a brand new market. The exception is when the market segment and players are at the level of a Microsoft, Apple or Google.
2. Never, ever, ever sit on your laurels. If you’re not advancing rapidly with quantum leaps forward in technology yourself, chances are very high you’ll be relegated to the also-rans in a couple of years.

There’s a movie called “Paycheck” starring Ben Affleck and Uma Thurman. In the beginning, Affleck’s character develops a new monitor that doesn’t need the monitor. In effect, he’s created a holographic image generator that displays the monitor display in the air. Talk about a quantum leap forward in technology!

There are a whole bunch of Really Smart Software Guys in the world. On sheer numbers alone, that’s a whole bunch of creativity ready to create and invent really cool new stuff. They’re not constrained by who the competitors are, they’re not limited by rules and restrictions. In many cases they’re not restricted by corporate bureaucracies.

They’re really doing what Buckminster Fuller said, “To change things, don’t try to fight the existing reality. Build a new model that makes the old model obsolete.”

That means that there are a large number of people trying to leapfrog entrenched competitors.They have no fear, no respect, they’re hell-bent on creating and developing cool new stuff that will blow customers away.

This isn’t a business climate for the faint of heart. This isn’t a business climate for the conservative.

It is a business climate where innovation—smart innovation—triumphs. It is a business climate where quantum leaps in technology strike gold.

Innovate wisely and win. Don’t innovate and you’ll be competing for the leftovers.

If you’re the market leader and you do innovate, don’t sit on the innovation to protect your entrenched market position. If you’re not going to market with quantum leaps forward in technology, someone else will.

If you’re considering taking on an entrenched competitor, bring to market the technological quantum leap.

If you’re the entrenched competitor, you’d better be “quantum leaping” yourself before some Really Smart Software Guys beat you to it.


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