It is well accepted in the business world that if you aren’t growing, you’re dying. Meaning, you cannot rest on your laurels for any significant length of time. So what about the future? Will you wait to be disrupted? Will you disrupt yourself? Will you be the disruptor to competitors?
Garry Ridge, CEO of WD40, understands this well. He also discovered that it is exceedingly difficult to think about the future and creative products and services while simultaneously trying to run the day-to-day business. It is natural to think about the sunk costs in our existing products, organizational structure and research directions. There are a myriad of “critical” operational details demanding our attention every day.
So to break out of this mold, Ridge created the “Tomorrow Team.” This team of people is relieved of any operational tasks. Their sole function is to be innovative and disrupt the existing product lines and create new products. It is better, in Ridge’s view, to disrupt your own products than to have a competitor do that for you.
Although Kodak developed a digital camera in 1975, the first of its kind, the product was dropped for fear it would threaten Kodak’s photographic film business. – Wikipedia
You know the many stories about those who failed to follow the path Ridge followed at WD40. One example, Eastman Kodak, comes to mind since I enjoy photography. In fact, I recently gave my grandson a small Kodak DX6490 digital camera (introduced 2003). It was one of the first digital cameras and at the time was very advanced. The sensor is small (4 megapixels). The optics were also advanced with a 10X optical zoom lens. The camera functions allowed for fully automatic use or just about fully manual use (I am not sure but I think focusing was automatic no matter what). Kodak didn’t follow through with marketing and further design initiatives. Why? Because they didn’t want to “cannibalize” their existing film and chemical business. That business was (is?) very lucrative. Kodak is a mere shadow of its former self, with about 8,000 employees today from a high of about 145,000 at its peak.
Will you create a “Tomorrow Team?” Will you and your team have the fortitude to disrupt your own business? I believe Ridge and Lincoln are correct — The best way to predict your future is to create it. And one of the best ways to create the future is with a “Tomorrow Team.”