I recently discovered Jim Collins' latest book, How the Mighty Fall, and like all his stuff, it both depresses and encourages me. Collins has made a bunch of money showing companies how to be great, but this book takes a look at why they fail and he wraps it up pretty succinctly in five stages.
- Hubris born of success
- Undisciplined pursuit of more
- Denial of risk and peril
- Grasping for salvation
- Capitulation to irrelevance or death
The depressing part of what he describes is that many sectors of the technology industry is firmly in stage 4 with many entering into stage 5. The encouraging thing is that Collins says you can escape the cycle by simply going back to what made you successful in the first place.
And I'm further encouraged by seeing several companies figure that last part out all by themselves. There is no magic to our recovery. We just have to learn a little humility; learn that engineering, marketing, sales or charismatic leadership in themselves cannot guarantee success, but need to be in proper balance. Everyone has to contribute and everyone has to be taken seriously.
We're not out of the woods yet. At the Design Automation Conference was over, I talked to two dozen companies. Half said they won't make it past DATE "if the economy doesn't turn around." All of those companies are firmly in stage 5 and I don't see them changing direction. But the other 12 seemed to be figuring something out. If that percentage holds. I think we might see the end of this economic nightmare by next year.