The product life idea concept hit business in the 1970s with the up-force of an atomic bomb. Bruce Henderson's application of biological reality to competitive commerce -- that businesses, like organisms, proceed from embryos, through growth to maturity then die -- skyrocketed into the stratosphere as “natural law.”
But today we're seeing more frequent exceptions. Businesses that continually leave others roiling in their wakes. And we furrow our brows about The Job At The Top and how to do it that well.
Twenty years ago, I began preaching an alternative to the life cycle -- particularly to its inevitable ending.
In this model growth, frogs aren't predestined to slow down, slip off the lily pad and settle as detritus at the bottom. Here, growth frogs leap across a gray zone into new spots on the lower range of a new cycles, move up, then leap again. That's exactly what the most vibrant businesses now do. But few of us understand how.
What prevents from driving our businesses into continual renewal versus into detritus? It's the pull of current security versus unknown risk.
It takes courage even to consider leaving a still-solid ship, to venture off in a whaleboat to find a better land. For a riveting account of just such an experience, read about Sir Ernest Shackleton's ill-fated sail across the South Pole in the book "The Endurance."
So, what does it take to be a Shackleton versus a deteriorating frog in your Job at the Top? Dissatisfaction.
That's not to be confused with unhappiness. In fact, it's just the opposite: to be consumed with positive energy that comes from seeing the opportunity to do something better. Never getting beguiled into satisfaction with the status quo. Never on cruise control.
Instead, you should be driving your organization at speeds considered reckless by others, and carrying the best of what got you to where you are and amazing people with what you become next. Continuously.
And how do you do this? By going back to the basics. By protecting your position in your Job At The Top as head thinker. And by the pandemic you release with your zeal for what might lie just around the next corner.
Take four minutes of your 20 minute, alone, three times a week just to imagine what you business could be.