Adaptability

By Robert Cantrell

One of the hallmarks of longevity for enterprises is adaptability.  Every enterprise is undergoing a race, whether its leadership understands that or not.  That race involves changing to meet changing conditions.  If an enterprise cannot or will not adapt fast enough to changing conditions, it will eventually fail.  For example, the success of Apple at focusing IP on the customer experience through vertical integration has forced Microsoft to consider adopting a similar model with its soon to be released tablet computer.  Hardware production has traditionally been the domain of other companies in the Microsoft ecosystem, such as HP and Dell.  All entities involved will need to adopt as, they have in the past, as the market shift from vertical – cirque IBM, to horizontal – cirque Microsoft, now possibly back to vertical – cirque Apple, or so we will see.

From an IP stance this is interesting, because to follow the strategy of orienting IP on the customer experience, you do need to have ample control over the whole product solution.  For example, it does not necessarily do a lot of good to customer perceptions if your superior software solution ends up on a cheap and clunky machine, because the cheap element will stick in the minds of customers, not the good stuff.  In Apple’s case, this is not a worry.  In Microsoft’s case, it is.  Microsoft thrived in an IP environment where the power rested with those who had a superior horizontal position.  That, however, left the company out of control over the devices on which its products were used, and therefore not fully vested in the customer experience of the entire product solution where consumer interests have shifted.

While failure to adapt fast enough can all but guarantee failure, keeping pace with change does not guarantee success.  Success will depend upon adapting in a way that is sufficiently competitive not to be displaced.  Better than that, leading the change can help to shape markets in your favor, and give you a better opportunity to secure IP.  But even that is not a guarantee for success, because you need to lead the change in the right direction, and that can be difficult to determine.  The key, though, is to compete with open eyes so that you do not get caught flat footed and understand the changes that are occurring.  The sooner you understand and act on those changes, the better you will likely be.

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