Monday, January 24, 2011

Constant change, not creative destruction

We all know the Chinese saying, “death by a thousand cuts,” which in the business world has come to refer to negative changes that happen, seemingly unnoticed, over time.

When businesses change for the worse over a long time, the degradation is often obvious only in retrospect – particularly by the people who are most closely involved in the process. The concern of many in the business of journalism today is that it is evolving in this way.

There are two other ways for change to happen. The first is “creative destruction,” in which a business pre-empts what might happen to it over time by making radical, rapid changes before they become invevitable. Ironically, this idea originated in the early works on communism by Karl Marx, in which it was referred to as “enforced destruction.” Beginning in the middle of the 20th century, economists began using the “creative destruction” term to talk about business change.

The second is to change slowly over time, holding onto older profit models while engaging in new ones.

Creative destruction – some call it “disruptive innovation” – is all the rage lately, the focus of books and seminars and cover stories in every business journal on the planet. It sounds bold and innovative – destroy your own business model before someone destroys it for you.

What if, for example, Polaroid had seen the digital photography revolution coming and had killed its Instamatic business model, leaping headlong into the digital world? Would it have avoided its own demise if it had disrupted its own existing technology through innovation?

Many are asking the same question today of businesses whose main products are journalism and advertising, like newspapers, magazines and television networks and affiliates. At some point, shouldn’t a newspaper shutter its press and embrace the new digital technology, at once hastening its demise in the old world of print while creating a new business based on ones and zeroes?

Probably not. There are various ways to change an organization, and one calls for evolutionary change through constant, not catastrophic change. (Look up author John. B Miner for more.)

At the Post Register, that’s our tack – constant change as we evolve from the traditional but still important and profitable print business model to a more complex model that involves what is popularly referred to these days as “multiple platforms” – various versions of using print and the Internet. This is probably as disconcerting to our readers as it is to us – there’s a lot of trial and error involved because there is no experience to go on.

What we propose to you is to take the ride with us and hang in there. It’ll be worth it.

No comments:

Post a Comment