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  • Writer's pictureSusan & Renée

How Can You Safeguard Your Company from Becoming Irrelevant?

Updated: Sep 6, 2023


Kitty Litter


We are in a summer mood, so we thought we would start you off with some fun inventions (okay, kitty litter isn’t fun, but OH so necessary). What do these three items have in common?

They were either a surprise invention or evolved to something different from and became big successes.

Though startups very often cash in on one idea, to be a great company the ideas have to keep coming. The continual encouragement to come up with alternatives needs to be part of the culture so that as business environments evolve, companies are poised to adapt and remain relevant.

Nokia, the multinational telecommunications and information technology company, puts this into practice on a daily basis. When they found themselves on the wrong side of a battle with Microsoft and had to sell their mobile phone division, its leadership realized they had to make the search for alternative paths.

Risto Siilasmaa who helped reinvent NOKIA puts it this way:

“When your team considers only a single plan with no alternatives, alarm bells should ring. Not preparing for alternative scenarios – even the most unlikely ones – is a guarantee of being blindsided.

Most important, if you don’t consider alternatives, you’re not making decisions – instead, you’re letting them be made for you.

Get accustomed to thinking in alternatives. Seed this approach throughout your organization. Encourage all of your leaders to apply it to their everyday actions – and to encourage their colleagues and managers to follow their example – so that it becomes a habit. Only then can your organization respond anytime, anywhere, with the right strategy for every situation.”

So at your next staff meeting when someone suggests an idea, lead a discussion that vets and appreciates the idea, AND gives equal energy to encouraging alternatives.

We know you are curious, so here are the stories behind the inventions at the top of the article.

Slinky: a mechanical engineer, working to devise a spring for ships, knocked samples from a shelf and watched as one gracefully “walked” down instead of falling.

Kitty Litter: A man sold sand, sawdust and dried clay for absorbing grease spills. When he gave a friend some clay for her cat box, he discovered that it not only absorbed, but it also contained the smell a whole lot better than using sand.

Play-Doh: A company’s future looked bleak when the demand for its soft pliable wallpaper cleaner fell sharply. A relative of one of the company leaders was a preschool teacher and found that her students loved making shapes with the compound.

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