Senior writer Miguel Helft of Fortune Magazine interviewed Google CEO Larry Page and published part of the discussion Dec 11, 2012. Here is one of her questions and his answer:
“Because you don't think about competition?
Obviously we think about competition to some extent. But I feel my job is mostly getting people not to think about our competition. In general I think there's a tendency for people to think about the things that exist. Our job is to think of the thing you haven't thought of yet that you really need. And by definition, if our competitors knew that thing, they wouldn't tell it to us or anybody else. I think just our strengths, our weaknesses, our opportunities are different than any other company.”
Unfortunately, I’ve heard this viewpoint before—at Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC). DEC’s founder Ken Olsen invented the minicomputer and made it an essential part of virtually all organizations’ information technology strategy. Now DEC is being written up as one of the worst managed companies of all time because it ignored the massive changes in its market places. Four editors at the 24/7 Wall St. website (Douglas A. McIntyre, Ashley C. Allen, Samuel Weighley, and Michael B. Sauter) searched the Fortune 500 records to find the five “Worst Business Decisions Ever?” and published the list in November 2012. DEC made the list because it attempted to enter the PC and workstation markets with its proprietary operating systems instead of industry standard ones., thereby limiting the number of applications available on its products.
Ken Olsen and DEC management in general focused internally because they believed that the company had no competition.
So how do organizations that create new products, services, and markets keep up with competition?
- They have to fight the tendency to ignore the outside world—it will change even it takes a major technological innovation to do so.
- They have to really understand what “job” they are doing. Remember the saying, “No one buys a drill because they want a drill; they want a hole.” A totally different solution could arise to satisfy the need for a “hole.”
- They have to keep investing in their core offering instead of branching out into unrelated markets; simultaneously, they need to develop new solutions for their buyers before some one else does.
What else should Larry Page do?