The Cost of Complacency

By: Karl R. LaPan, President & CEO, Northeast Indiana Innovation Center

In business (and life), we often experience times that test our patience and resilience. But out of these times of trial often come great success. Take, automobile giant General Motors, for example. During the Great Depression, GM was tasked with finding a way to protect its investment in the Buick brand. Rather than discontinuing production, executives were determined to encourage people to buy used Buicks instead of cheaper new cars. The idea was novel in this era, but now the concept of buying a used high-end car instead of a new cheap one is widely accepted.

Sitting out might seem like the safe bet, but the cost of complacency is much higher than the risk of engaging. There is reason people say adapt or risk becoming obsolete. Survival mode is complacency — and if your business model hinges on complacency you’re likely “breeding failure” as Andy Grove calls it. The answer is to be intentional and chart a course. Do you see white space opportunities? Do you have a destination you are trying to reach? Can you map the road to get there?

If you want to see a classic example of the cost of missed opportunities, recall the downfall of Blockbuster. Instead of seeing the writing on the wall and evolving with technology, they stagnated. By the time they had come to terms with their failure, the market opportunity had shifted to favor a new business model and approach to solve the “pains, gains and jobs to be done” that consumers complained about. Think about it, in the year 2000, Blockbuster had the opportunity to buy Netflix for $50 million and passed up the opportunity. Imagine what if…?

An intentional approach, on the other hand, calls for bold moves in the face of adversity and uncertainty. It’s an “act now, think later” mentality. I don’t mean to discount real externalities like a weak economic outlook, financing issues, or budgeting concerns. Instead, I challenge business owners to remain plugged into market conditions and maintain a clear vision coupled with nimbleness and agility. Remaining stagnant during an economic downturn can be the kiss of death, while making a bold move could mean resounding success. Jack Welch always said the best time to grow is when others are contracting or on the side lines because of the economic climate and uncertainties.

The good news is you don’t have to go it alone. The Innovation Center is here to help you succeed through our comprehensive entrepreneurial resources. Give us a call today at (260) 407-6442. It could mean the difference between capitalizing on an opportunity or not. As Virgil once said, “Fortune (and I might add history) favors the bold.”


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