History tells us that the likelihood of most companies surviving much beyond the founder’s involvement is slim. Many businesses get bought, absorbed into other companies or simply fail. In fact, according to John Elkann at Fiat, only 49 companies per million last beyond 100 years.

If you were able to audit your own probability of remaining innovative would you?

Unicorns, like Amazon, are big news today, but even they could fail to thrive once the founder is no longer involved. While Jeff Bezos runs Amazon. Larry Page and Sergei Brin guide Google, Howard Shultz is at Starbucks, Mark Zuckerberg sits at the top of Facebook and Yvon Chouinard runs Patagonia the new ‘normal’ looks OK. If they move on, then what?

Put into context, what’s your gut feeling about Uber and AirBnB lasting longer than their unicorn status? Recent market reports about saturation and financial results already suggest that Tim Cook needs to change something in The Valley if Apple is to maintain its unique consumer appeal.

As growth starts to get harder established companies need to consider their consumers more actively: i.e. to put innovation at their core. Often, they do the opposite. The tendency, after the visionary entrepreneur leaves and the money-men take control, is to respond to anticipated competitive threat.

Seeing competition developing and moving to defend a market position with a similar proposition is the sales target-driven, fast-follower route to product development.

Here’s a blog about that ‘Product trends trending. Competitor confirmation bias.‘

Established companies can’t bring themselves to put decision-making responsibility into the hands of one person and so creativity suffers. Whereas owner-operators won’t shy away from the big decision. If something needs doing to protect and grow a business, an owner will step up.

This particular skill is really hard to replace. If the culture that sits around Jeff, Larry and Mark has got the company to where it is, who’s going to do that when they’re gone?

An answer is for the founder to help the team to treat innovation as the driver of strategic decisions: make strategy about consumer experience more than ROI. Get this right and ROI is the net result. Make ROI the driver and consumers will fall away.

Tools are available for this process to be successful. Sometime external moderation helps. We offer to start by running an innovation audit.

Auditing the way your company regards innovation and how it pushes initiatives into the market can be a key indicator of business sustainability.

“Creativity is having new ideas. Innovation is doing new things.” – Theodore Levitt.

Book some time here and I’ll personally talk you though it.

Seeing it differently. Future-proofing. It’s what we do.

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