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Intel History: 3 Ways to Avoid Complacency

The problem with ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ is that confronting issues when you’ve had success can be difficult. This is something that becomes apparent looking through the Intel history books, as I’ll come onto later.

Clinging onto initial success can feel so important that we tend to look for ways to deny (or otherwise rationalise) insights and information that could potentially damage the image of that success.

The Intel History Books

In 1985, technology company Intel found themselves in a business dilemma. For many years, they’d had success selling memory chips. Memory chips, however, had begun to decline with microprocessors coming to the forefront.

All of their success to this point had been attached to that one product and they struggled to keep up with competitors.

The question that the big-guns at Intel asked themselves was this: “If we got kicked out and the board brought in a new CEO, what do you think he would do?”

CEO of Intel at the time, Gordon Moore answered “He would get us out of memory”. That’s what they did, and it was the most inspired decision in Intel history. They became a household name not long after.

How did they do it? They relinquished attachment to what had been successful and thought about what would be succesful moving forward.

Whether you’ve had success in the past or not, it’s key to constantly re-evaluate as if you were an outsider.

How does this apply to my business?

Having the guts to change something that works to avoid complacency can be paramount to success.

Three ways to help you do this:

1. Remember that you don’t have control

A company’s performance differs based on a never-ending list of contextual variables – and you don’t have control over most of them.  So advantages you may gain are often temporary.  Understand what these advantages are, and how that variable might be changing, in order to repeat your success.

2. Act like you’re a beginner

If a company is struggling, they will seek out ways to improve.  By contrast, successful businesses are often happy going along with their current trajectory.  But staying successful relies on innovation. A business needs to imagine they are a beginner.  This way they can see the potential for improvement easier.

3. Disrupt yourself

It’s a myth that resource is everything.  In some/most industries, it’s a huge help. But it isn’t a deciding factor for success or failure. Nokia is a prime example of how believing this myth is a mistake. Think instead about how you’d go about starting your business from scratch – like Netflix did when they ditched their DVD rentals for an online streaming service.