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For Humans – Death is inevitable; there is no hiding from this truth. For Companies – Only the paranoids survive!

Well, it was a coincident that my previous blog was on death and the season of Ganesha festival (an Indian festival) arrived.  This Ganesh festival I had seriously thought about the Indian culture, festivities and the small – often overlooked – lessons. In India every good work starts with invoking Lord Ganesh, even prayers, pooja etc starts with first invoking lord Ganesh and then the other “main” pooja’s.

The festival of Ganesha is a period from Ganesh chaturthi to Ganesh Chaturdashi a ten day period often in September month. During this festival, families and societies bring idol of lord Ganesh, worship the idol and within a couple of days immerse the idol in water. Similar to what happens to us – we are born one day and would be cremated one day.

(source - http://www.thehindubusinessline.in/2004/09/28/stories/2004092802271700.htm)

Visarjan procession in Mumbai

Every year we follow this cycle of birth and death with our God. A God revered so sincerely that every things starts with his name – Shri Ganeshay Namah. Hats-off to this culture which has this concept of death embedded in its roots so truthfully. I think we should understand that death is inevitable and learn some lessons. (The Buddha saw this once and started his quest.)

I started looking beyond my grieving moments and towards businesses. What I realized is that ‘the reality‘ of death applies to even companies too! As innovation consultants we used to share statistics on survival of companies. Out of Fortunes list of 1920’s and 30’s many companies do not exist now. Take an example of Kodak – a very innovative company –  filed for chapter 11 recently. If we just take Kodak as an example – Xerox was born out of Kodak’s lab. Xerox created such brand image that Photocopy became synonyms to Xerox. HP with its printing challenged Xerox. So the cat and mouse run of companies is on. The conclusion I made was if companies do not reinvent themselves, those are likely to die over a period of time.

Last weekend I was attending a course meant for board members or to make people capable to contribute to boards. In the course (Retd) Maj Gen Mhaisale shared some HBS and McKinsey reports about shrinking life time of companies. Earlier average life of companies used to be about 40 years now it has shrunk to 16 years (in some countries 6-10 years too). Take the same example life span of Kodak was about 100 years, Xerox about 40 or so (please don’t take these life span as sanctity numbers)!

Interesting part is a contradiction that human life expectancy is increasing and average life span of a company is decreasing. There is a lesson to learn – either be paranoid (as Andrew S Grove said in his book – Only the paranoids survive) and keep on reinventing your company or – death is inevitable!

Related blogs – Death

Source – BMG India training material on innovation (created and referred as a trainer) and IoD training sessions

Image source – Business Standard