Despite Apple’s brand as an original innovator, they could be better described as a “trend spotter.” Steve Jobs famously said that they looked to jump into the next best thing instead of creating it. The iPod, iPhone, and iPad are all examples of products that weren’t the first in their category. However, Apple tackled them better than their competitors.
Success provides the raw materials for jumping into the next thing. For example, it was easier for Apple to jump in the iPhone while riding the success of the iPod. Eventually, the iPod was killed in favor of the iPhone. Success gave Apple multiple jumping points into AirPods, the Apple Watch, and other products.
The best companies intuitively know this. You can’t wait until you’re being pushed into a new direction. You need to jump first before everyone else. So what’s the best way to get comfortable with jumping?
Seeds of Growth
The fall of Troy has been burned into our cultural memory through the Illiad and Odyssey. But, behind the great battles, the beautiful Helen and the charismatic Achilles, there’s a footnote that lays the seed of a future empire. The story mentions how Aeneas escapes Troy at the last minute and eventually makes it West to be part of the founding of the Rome Empire.
Whether this is true or not, we might never know. Civilizations tend to glamorize their past and founding history until the truth is blurred. What we do know is that all civilizations were born from the seeds of previous empires. The Roman Empire gave us many things, including a legal system that shapes our world today.
Companies need to nurture the seeds that success is providing them. Attacking new industries from a position of strength is a better proposition than starting from a weak position. The seeds that success provides include money, profits, cash flow (stability), employee motivation, optimism, and shareholder support.
The Roman Empire wasn’t able to jump into success. Eventually, the entire civilization decayed, but the civilizations that followed were shaped by this empire even after it was gone. Their seeds still spread. Don’t let decay kill your company. Make the jump first.
It’s Better to Jump than to Be Pushed
When I went skydiving a few years ago, I had a fear that I wouldn’t be able to jump when the time came. Lucky for me, I was sky diving in tandem with an instructor. In the final moments, I lifted my feet and allowed the instructor to carry all my weight. He decided when we jumped and removed my decision.
Companies can’t simply wait until they are pushed out of the plane. Every day, we can see examples of companies jumping out of their accord and those being pushed. For example, Samsung is jumping while Intel is being pushed. Both companies are successful at what they do, and both are looking to revamp how their business is run. The difference is that Intel is coming from a position of weakness while Samsung is jumping from success.
If we look at Intel, we can see a company that TSMC and others have surpassed. Their core business — making chips— isn’t as strong as their competitors. They have lost significant partners like Apple — who now makes their chips. After an executive shakeup, Intel is looking to catch up with the competition.
Samsung, on the other hand, is a dominant player in chip-making and smartphones. They can see that chips will be a fast-growing and lucrative industry, and they want a slice of it. So while Samsung isn’t as strong as TSMC in chip-making, it has a better chance of competing with them than Intel.
When a company is pushed in a new direction, they are forced to stumble through large changes. However, if a company chooses to jump, it can take control of the direction of change and build momentum towards the new goal. Time will tell how Intel and Samsung fare in the chip-making industry.
Executives have the tough job of deciding when to jump and when to stay. They have to learn to face the void and confidently say: let’s go in this direction. The best companies are constantly looking for ways to jump. What are you waiting for?