28 November 2009

Changing Identities ~ Firms Embrace New Future

Great to see MIT alumna and current HBS Professor Mary Tripsas' latest piece in the NYTimes When Names Change to Protect the Future. She writes about companies which respond to market shifts and redefine their identities -- or don't and die. While Polaroid was all about "instant photography" it failed to go digital, got mired instead in its photochemical legacy, and is now bankrupt. Apple on the other hand has dropped "Computer" from its name and is generalizing its wares. She gives another interesting emerging comparable...
"Ideally, a strong identity provides continuity and consistency, allowing a business to prioritize opportunities efficiently. For instance, when laser vision-correction surgery emerged as a possible substitute for eyeglasses, the Luxxotica Group, the maker of luxury and sports eyewear brands like Chanel, Prada and Ray-Ban, chose not to participate. “We are an eyewear company and, simply put, our best opportunities for growth going forward continue to be in our core business,” says Kerry M. Bradley, president of Luxxotica Retail North America. “From this perspective, we passed on laser vision correction.” In contrast, laser techniques fit well with the identity of Bausch & Lomb, a contact lens maker that defines itself as an eye health company. It developed its own laser eye treatment, called Zyoptix. So each company responded to the opportunities of laser surgery in a way that was consistent with its identity."
Better this than getting stuck in the "identity trap"! Other interesting ongoing cases include Philips, Sony, Xerox, Kodak and many more.

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