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Change or die, you decide

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Classical motivational book, Who Moved My Cheese by Dr Johnson Spencer.

In the classical motivational book by Dr Spencer Johnson, “Who Moved My Cheese”, Dr Spencer portraits 4 different characters – of which, 2 miniature humans and 2 mice. The book touches on how the mice were able to stay in advantage by being a little forward looking, while the human duo was being contented with what they had.

As the plots develops, Dr Spencer describes how the humans ultimately lost to mice, of which the latter foreseen the stash of cheese they shared with the humans would ultimately dwindle and deplete. Hence, before the original supply of cheese depletes, the mice went exploring the unknown to discover other cheese stashes, while the humans stood by their original supply until it was depleted.

While this fictitious story was entertaining to read, it demonstrated the importance of staying ahead of the changing times by constantly innovating and predicting change to stay ahead of the game.

Borders, a multi-national chain retailer specializing in books, have just announced for bankruptcy.

A case in point would be the recent Borders collapse. Such an iconic name in the book selling industry, filing for bankruptcy protection a few days ago, was big news. But it didn’t come as a surprise for many in the tech industry. The reason was simple – Borders just did not have any proper online presence. They didn’t sell books online, didn’t embrace e-books soon enough, didn’t have any e-book reader early, didn’t have e-book store online that took off. That is what nailed Borders in the coffin.

Turn back the clocks a little; when Amazon started its business of selling books online in 1995, they were the pioneer in the tech world doing e-commerce. For a long while, Amazon was one of the few sites that you can actually buy something online. This relatively lack of competition, can be put towards the high barrier of entry into the e-commerce market in the earlier days of internet.

Slowly, while internet became a common place, barriers of entry were lowered, making technology for doing e-commerce a lot cheaper then before. Many other jumped, but none of them quite as established and known as Amazon. So in a way, the high barriers of entry could be credited for Amazon’s stronghold, because in the technology industry, being first is crucial.

The Amazon Kindle 3 e-book reader

They’ve also pioneered the Kindle e-book reader, which is very well known in Singapore, despite the lack of any brick-and-mortar retailer carrying such a product. Perhaps one of the reasons why the Kindle was such an overnight success was its idea of carrying a single device that could hold many books. This is not to mention the possibility of purchasing a book over the air (OTA) and reading it instantly, anywhere.

With that said, today there’s a myriad of e-books readers around, most notably the Apple iPad. But non of these products around could claim the stronghold of Amazon’s Kindle in the e-book industry, simply because the Kindle is almost synonymous to e-books – the payoff of being first, thus associating your product, to a new, more convenient way of doing something.

Borders’s lack of innovation and foresight is pretty much the human characters as portrayed by Dr Spencer. Amazon did the Kindle in 2007, and later Barns & Nobel, another bookstore came into the game with its Nook e-book reader in 2009. Apple then took the world by storm with the iPad in April 2010, which aims to be a tablet computer with e-book reading capabilities. Borders came in last with its Kobo reader a month later. With already 3 prior choices ahead, there was simply no more market left for Borders’s Kobo.

Moral of story: Be first, be innovative, and predict change. If change is happening, embrace it fully, because if you don’t you’ll be out of the game.

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Written by garygoh

February 20, 2011 at 2:24 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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