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Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The Road to Reinvention

The Road to Reinvention: How to Drive Disruption and Accelerate TransformationThe Road to Reinvention: How to Drive Disruption and Accelerate Transformation by Josh Linkner
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I received a free copy of this book from 12 Books in exchange for this review.

Reinvention. It sounds like one of those business buzzwords, like reengineering, downsizing, rightsizing, and so many others. What is reinvention? According to the author, it's the process of re-doing everything, in some cases starting over, and building something new. It's either this or die.

A lot of what he says has been said elsewhere. The 8 principles he lists are these:

1. Let go of the past.
2. Encourage courage.
3. Embrace failure.
4. Do the opposite.
5. Imagine the possibilities.
6. Put yourself out of business.
7. Reject limits.
8. Aim beyond.

He uses the standard technique of showing companies that have done this, and have gone on to great success. He focuses on small companies, since they don't have a lot of the issues that larger companies do. He also focuses on Detroit, where he's based. Detroit has had a lot of problems over the last several decades, from white flight, to the 1967 riots, to the decline of the auto industry, to ex-mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, who treated the city treasury like his own personal piggy bank, to eventually filing for bankruptcy in 2013. He believes Detroit is coming back. We shall see.

One flaw in the book is that he doesn't address some negative issues on reinvention. He mentions the controversy with Lululemon and the see-through yoga pants. He uses this as an example of how a crisis can be uniquely averted. What he doesn't address is that the fallout from this caused their Chief Product Officer, Sherree Watson, and their CEO, Christine Day, to leave the company. He also doesn't mention a TV interview in which Chip Wilson, the founder of the company, blamed the customers for the problem. He later apologized for these remarks, but left the company less than a month later.

He also praises Wayne Huizenga, founder of Blockbuster, as an innovator, but fails to mention that Blockbuster no longer exists, mainly because of lack of reinvention. At one time, Blockbuster was the #1 video retailer in the US. They bought most of their movies for $80-90 per tape, and had a 3-6 month exclusive before the price dropped to $20 for sale. Then they got blindsided. First, it was the introduction of DVDs in the mid-1990s, which upset the price structure. DVDs came out priced to sell at $20 right away, which ended Blockbuster's exclusive window. In an interview in a video magazine, Wayne Huizenga said that he wanted the old pricing structure back. Then, Blockbuster got blindsided by Netflix. Netflix offered videos by mail, with no late fees (which made for very unhappy customers). Blockbuster tried its own mail service, but felt like a "me-too" approach, instead of innovation. They also revised their late-fee policy, but had to revise their advertising after complaints from the New Jersey Attorney General's office. Finally, Dish Network bought Blockbuster, but couldn't turn it around, so it folded. I believe streaming video from Netflix drove the last nail into the coffin. I bring Lululemon and Blockbuster up because this information should have been in the book. Reinvention needs to be an ongoing process, not "one-and-done". It also helps if you don't blame your customers for your problems.

Aside from this, the author does lay out a compelling case for reinvention. It's something companies can follow to be successful, but it won't be perfect. For every company mentioned in the book that became successful, there are many others who took these steps and didn't make it. With those cautions, it's a good book.

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