thumbnailMany of us work in organizations that have been around for many decades. For example, IBM—a popular employer—is over 100 years old.

Older organizations are great, but they often have a corporate culture that has not changed much over the years. In addition, their traditional products and services continue to sell well, but the margins are much lower and there is much more competition. Some people blame stagnation and lower profits on age—that only new and hip things sell these days.

But the age of your product, service, culture, and even your people is not the problem.  Let’s face it, I know old people who are young in their thinking, and I know young people who are rigid and old in their thinking. With that said, a corporate culture that has been in existence for a long time can work for you, or against you, depending on the key values of that culture. If innovation, creativity, and change are important and those related behaviors are rewarded in some way, then an old culture can do well.

Often it takes a crisis to make us step back and rethink our products, services, and even our culture. For example, in 1993 IBM almost crumbled due to their failure to anticipate the changing needs of their customers. Even though they had a division that made something new—PCs—that division was held back so that the mainframe business would not feel threatened within their own organization.

Of course, there is a lot more to the IBM story, but if you look at what happened to them, they failed to anticipate the shift in computing that was there for all to see. They fell into the classic mindset of “protect and defend.” However, protecting and defending the status quo will always get you into trouble when technology is shifting how we live, work, and play, as it is doing today.

Fortunately, IBM reacted quickly, and in 1993 they brought in new leadership to upgrade both their products and culture to fit the new world they were living in.

As someone who has been a recent advisor to IBM’s leadership, I can tell you that today they are more focused on using Hard Trends to anticipate change versus simply reacting to changes. That focus has helped IBM lead instead of bleed, even though they are over 100 years old.

I used IBM’s long history as an example, but there are many more. Let’s look at something far removed from technology: classical music.

Quartets playing classical music have been around for hundreds of years. In today’s fragmented world of music, large concerts, and social media noise, not to mention the entertaining distractions that technologies such as smart phones and YouTube bring us, quartets playing classical music often have trouble filling their relatively small theaters and selling their music.

Whether you’re selling computers or music, if you want to attract a new audience (customers) to an old product or service, or increase the relevancy of an organization with a long history, try giving it a rebirth by adding something humans do best: creativity. The following three-minute video is worth viewing to see how a classical music quartet used their creativity to add a new dimension to the overall audience experience and to attract new listeners to an old form of music. By expanding their traditional audience, they are now in high demand and can dramatically increase their income. This wonderful performance is by the German quartet Salut Salon. Enjoy.


So, what are you doing to give your products, services, and business a rebirth to attract new audiences, expand your market, and increase sales?

Please share your stories.