How to Become Irrelevant

Cover image for  article: How to Become Irrelevant

Why would a company or organization plan to become irrelevant? There are no “how to guides” on becoming irrelevant. Why does it happen and how can you prevent it from happening to your company?

A recent example of a brand that lost its way and then its marketplace lead is Nokia. Nokia’s handset division ignored the launch of the iPhone. In 2007, Nokia had 49% of the global smartphone market and in 2013 it was sold to Microsoft for a fraction of its value. It is difficult to imagine that any company or individual would strive to go out of business, so why does it happen?

Let’s start with the definition of irrelevant which is “not connected with or relevant to something.”  All you need to do to become irrelevant is to lose connection with your audience (in the case of a media company) or become less relevant to your customers (in the case of a brand or retailer). How did the CEOs of Circuit City, Borders and Blockbuster ensure their companies stayed relevant?  How did the publishers of Life or Look magazine respond to changing readership habits and new platforms?

Company extinctions are preventable. The opportunity to create new models in today’s white space has never been brighter. New technology platforms and changes in consumer behavior are accelerating change while creating new market opportunities. The world in 2015 is very different from 2010. Software tools and cloud computing are producing new products, drastically reducing the time and cost to create them.

In today’s world, change happens in months rather than years. Why? In 2015 the world is a 24/7 global economy where millions of engineers, scientists, corporations, universities and entrepreneurs are racing to find new ways to navigate and improve everyday life and business. Charles Darwin said, “Intelligence is based on how efficient a species became at doing the things they need to survive.” Successful leaders and their teams focus on using their intelligence to stay connected and relevant to their consumers/users.

In today’s marketplace, the cost of staying connected and relevant to a company’s customers should be part of the business planning process and a key metric reviewed quarterly by Wall Street analysts. Political candidates are measuring their brand appeal and adjusting their messages and media mix daily. Companies should apply this practice to their businesses.

PepsiCo understands the urgency to act. Indra Nooyi, CEO of Pepsi says ”every morning you’ve got to wake up with a healthy fear that the world is changing and a conviction that, to win, you have to change faster and be more agile than anyone else.”

When a company’s vision is out of sync with its consumer’s need and its organization is out of internal alignment with their view of the customer, it is in the danger zone. To be successful, companies need to have their vision in alignment with the marketplace and to have their team solidly behind the vision. A vision-sync process is an essential part of the annual planning process. It facilitates internal alignment for marketplace opportunities and transformation. It is the way successful companies guard against becoming irrelevant.

The opinions and points of view expressed in this commentary are exclusively the views of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of MediaVillage/MyersBizNet management or associated bloggers.

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