To Stay on Top, You Have to Reinvent Yourself

Something I’ve noticed is that people and organizations that are successful over a long period of time periodically reinvent themselves. That is, they start out doing one thing, become good at it and get known for it, but eventually transform themselves and pursue something different.

Amazon of course is making headlines for their purchase of Whole Foods for $13 billion. Are they an e-commerce company? A technology company? A logistics company? A services provider? With the mission of being the most customer-centric company on earth, they can be all that and more.

A couple other examples I can think of:

Intel is the subject of many business case studies because of it’s decision to get out of the memory chip business. They had been making a ton of money off the predecessor to RAM, until Japanese companies saw the opportunity to compete, bringing the price down significantly. With their back against the wall, they focused their efforts on a small project invented a few years earlier, called the microprocessor, which lead to the Pentium processor, securing the company’s future as a tech powerhouse. Today, they are trying to reinvent themselves again as an artificial intelligence company.

Madonna is a great example of an artist who has evolved new sounds and new styles for the past 30 years. I mean she literally had a world tour called Re-Invention, the highest grossing tour of 2004 ($125M) and Wikipedia lists eight distinct “eras” following her childhood and career beginnings.

Foursquare was once the darling of New York tech and its CEO Dennis Crowley appeared on the cover of WIRED UK with the title “The New King of Social Media“. Then growth started slowing, they did that weird Swarm / Foursquare split, they raised a new round of funding that lowered their valuation and booted Crowley out of the CEO role. But they’re reinventing themselves as a location intelligence company, providing brands and retail outlets with key metrics around foot traffic and visits that had been previously unavailable.

Michael Strayhan was an amazing American football player who had a 15 year career with the New York Giants, setting a record for most sacks in a season in 2001 and winning a Super Bowl in 2007. After retiring from football, he went on to become a successful media personality, as an analyst on Fox NFL Sunday, co-hosting Live! with Kelly and Michale, and now a host on Good Morning America.

Disney/ABC Domestic

Changing up who you are isn’t easy, and the older we get, the easier it is to say “it’s too late to start over”. But don’t let that be the story you tell yourself. The truth is, it’s never too late.

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Jason Shen

Jason is a tech entrepreneur and advocate for Asian American men. He's written extensively and spoken all over the world about how individuals and organizations develop their competitive advantage. Follow him at @jasonshen.

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