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A Conversation with Jason Jennings on Reinvention vs. Innovation
On November 17, Linkage welcomed author Jason Jennings on the Thought Leader Series. In the 30-minute Q&A following his live broadcast, Jason Jennings used vivid examples to illustrate how Innovation wildly differs from Reinvention.
Linkage: Your book is about reinvention, not innovation. In a nutshell, what is the difference? How can an organization use innovation to reinvent itself?
Jason Jennings: Innovation is a key part of reinvention. I will approach the question as simply as I can. Innovation is a good idea. A good idea for a product, a good idea for a service, taking something that was old and making it new, I guess that is innovation. I think that innovation is something that a company has to constantly work on, and the way you work on innovation is by being open to reinvention. Reinvention is not being at point A and then saying, “Oh, we want to get to point B, and go to point B.” That is not reinvention. Reinvention is going from point A to B to C to D to E, and saying, “Wow. This ride feels fantastic. I want to keep going.” Again, to invoke the name of Dan Dimicco the CEO of Nucore, I said, “How far do you go with this? What are the goals and objectives?” He said, “Jason, let me tell you this.” He said, “Everybody in the company, all 25,000 of us were just climbing a mountain.” He said, “There’s only one problem.” He said, “There is no top. I mean, we cannot see the top. We do not know where the top is, but we are just going to keep climbing and enjoy the journey as much as we possibly can.” So innovation is fine, but innovation is better if it plays an integral role in a culture of constant reinvention.
We have a lot of interest in the letting go principle. You talked about it a little bit. Could you cite classic case studies of companies that failed to let go at the right time?
Well, I think that the graveyard of dead corporate entities is probably filled with companies that absolutely could not let go. I am not always the quickest on the draw, but one of the best that comes to mind is Circuit City. It was only a few years ago that Circuit City was being touted and written about as one of the greatest companies on the planet. And they went upside down. They could not let go of anything. They held on. They held on. They held on. I think that would be another good example.
I know you mentioned Kodak.
The engineers at Kodak told the executives, I mean, twenty years before it happened, “Film’s going – Film is going away, dudes. There’s going to be no film at eleven.” 20 years. They had 20 years advance notice, and they could not; they could not let it go. They just could not, would not let it go. You know, they are going to wait until the next person takes over and let them deal with it.
And Blockbuster comes to mind.
Blockbuster comes to mind. They refused to change, and in fact I write about Blockbuster in the book. Blockbuster had so many opportunities. They could have done what Netflix did. They could have done what Redbox did. I mean, could not do it, could not do it. We are going to keep our same model. We are never going to let go. We are going to force you to come into our stores, and then we are going to make the most of our money from late fees. Now, how is that for a business model?
And you talk about the Southwest Airlines example.
I think many of the viewers do not know the Southwest story. 30 years ago, as airlines were being deregulated, there was just a spade of all these new discount airlines that were coming on the scene, and there was this one in Texas that had 3 airplanes. The problem was they did not have enough money and they were going to have to sell one of the airplanes or lay off people. The CEO, Herb, said, “I promise we are not going to have layoffs, and we absolutely cannot sell an airplane. We got to figure something else out.” Finally the team got together and said, “What if we could turn around an airplane in 10 minutes?” They figured out that instead of 300 flights a week that they were making at that time they could actually probably make 330 or 340 flights a week, and it became the Southwest story. Now, why is that such a big story? If they had had all this venture capital, they would not have figured that out.
Mike Long, of Aero Electronics, who I believe is one of the most talented CEOs anyplace in the world today, and is an incredible reinventor once said, “Look: if you’re going to be successful in business, find out what’s hurting people. Find out what the pain is. And then figure it out. You don’t have to spend a lot of money to figure out how to help people. That is how we’ve made an incredible success of this company.” And it truly is an incredible company to watch.
Jason Jennings’s next book The Reinventors-How Extraordinary Companies Pursue Radical Continuous Change, is due out in April. It will reveal the secrets of organizations that have successfully reinvented and transformed themselves. To access a recording of Jenning’s full Thought Leader Series broadcast with Linkage, visit us online or call 781-402-5555.
Women in Leadership Institute™
NOV. 13–16, 2023 | Orlando, Florida, or Virtual
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