The paradox of winning

I have often thought about what happens when a company has industry-shifting success, how the industry responds, and how the company itself changes in response to this success.

The first time this thought occurred was with Whole Foods. They have changed the way we think about food, changed the way the rest of the industry stocked their shelves, and food suppliers marketed their goods. Netflix has changed the way we consume movies and TV shows, giving rise to competitors that had been on cable and regular TV for years.  Two more recent examples are Snapchat and Clubhouse. Snapchat introduced the idea of sharing videos or images that disappear after a certain amount of time only for Facebook and others to copy.   Clubhouse presented the concept of gathering people online to communicate through audio alone, which Twitter has copied.

In each example, the company shifted an industry, the incumbents of the industry took notice and added this new idea to their product.  These companies developed a unique value that set them apart and catapulted them to success. I would argue that when the incumbents copy, it's a signal of disruptive success. After all, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. However, now that they have has some success, how do they continue to grow? The value that the company provided to its customers exists across the incumbent companies as well.

Great Companies keep disrupting.

One way to combat growth slowdown is through mindset.  In a 2016 letter to Amazon investors, Jeff Bezos (CEO of Amazon) champions the concept of "Day 1." In this concept, he recognizes that what propelled his company to success is a continual focus on improving their product based on customer values. Day 2 is industry incumbents matching the value of your product and eventually leaving your company irrelevant.

"Day 2 is stasis. Followed by irrelevance. Followed by excruciating, painful decline. Followed by death. And that is why it is always Day 1."
- Jeff Bezos

Bezos mentions staying customer-obsessed and embracing external trends, both of which translate to continued learning. Stay engaged with the customer, revisit how your product values compare to their needs. Remain vigilant on the weak signals that may have positive or negative effects on your product and company.

There are many other significant points in the letter, but the one that resonated the most was "It's All About the Long Term." Declaring a focus on the long-term provides direction.  Long-term focus is an excellent complement to customer obsession and embracing external trends. With this approach, you can develop insights and products without the pressure of an immediate return.

Defending against sameness

I don't run a wildly disruptive company like the ones mentioned above, but these are the basic ideas that I have captured that resonate with me.  

  • It helps to think about sustained success as playing a game with no end (an infinite game) where outcomes guide us but do not represent an ending.
  • Whether we are creating things, applying for a job, or moving up the corporate ladder, we all need to defend against sameness.
  • This defense requires us to stay engaged and continuously learn more about our customers for an accurate map of their needs.
  • Establish a growth strategy by recognizing external trends and defining a long-term goal that guides past short-term thinking.

Jeff Bezo's 2014 Newsletter to investors

Variants of Day One

Jeff Bezos is not alone in this way of thinking

I know I missed some variants of Day One  please provide in the feedback 👍🏾

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