Published on: December 18, 2014
Responding to Michael Sansolo's column earlier this week about innovation, MNB reader Doug Harris wrote:It was a bit ironic that two of three companies Michael cited as insufficiently innovative were Kodak and A&P -- since the former got its start in the 'black & white" era and A&P, in a giant innovative leap, some years ago came up with a store concept where everything BUT the products was black & white. The so-called 'Future Store' was a rather odd idea, and didn't roll out into many markets. But not only did A&P take the innovate idea a bit far with that concept, they were, almost at the same time, experimenting with several other radical (read non-traditional) formats.Had they reined in the 'let's innovate' urge, and focused on one major change rather than several, their future might have been different.
I guess that if you live long enough, you'll see everything … in this case, a suggestion that A&P's problem was that it innovated too much.
I'm not sure I agree. I think one of the lessons of the past decade or so is that businesses have to continue to innovate on a variety of levels, and in different ways at the same time. They're not all going to work, timing is everything, and companies have to have a real, intimate knowledge of the customer so that the innovations are relevant.
Reacting to my piece about the decision by the French government to create a law that will protect taxi drivers from disruptive influences such as Uber, one MNB reader from France wrote: I agree with you when you say that delaying the inevitable is a big mistake.
But I also think that this story has another eye opener: US companies often forget when they go abroad that each and every country has its own culture and vision of how the world should be. You need to deal with it if you want to start doing business there. In France, we consider that cultural content (books, music, movies etc…) must not be considered as a product but has a “non-profit food for your brain”, highly sponsored by the government. We call it the “French cultural exception”. So we try to protect independent bookstores. It’s not bad, it’s not good, it’s a different point of view and this is the #1 rule when you start doing business in a foreign country: You won’t convince a whole country telling them they are wrong, even if they are.
And regarding taxi services, we might have the worst service in the world but our strike addiction can crush anything… Uber might have underestimated this French cultural aspect. Try to disrupt to fast and you will be kicked out.
You're right … but I guess the question that French consumers will have to answer at some point is whether the French cultural exception can survive in a flat world environment where technology makes disruption possible, and disruption threatens traditional business's ability to survive.
On another subject, an MNB user wrote:I don’t think you have looked at the ramifications of forcing folks to put GMO labeling on their product. I personally happen to be all for transparency in labeling and letting the public know if you have anything genetically modified. However, I live in Colorado where this bill was defeated. The reason for the defeat in my eyes was the fact the surrounding states would not be forced to label their product and therefore hurt Colorado sales in neighboring states. The advertising pointed this out dramatically therefore swaying the vote against it.
I will usually arch my back at more legislation from the Federal Government but in this case I think maybe a Federal Law would be the best way to go. This would make every State liable for their correct labeling and not just a few states.
We had a story the other day about a Harvard professor who went to war - ill-advisedly, as it turns out - against a local Chinese take-out restaurant over what he viewed as fraud. (He got charged $3 more than he should have according to the site's prices, but it ended up the site was out of date, had a caveat to that effect, and the owner offered to refund the money. But the professor made it a social media issue, ended up looking foolish, and eventually had to back down.)
One MNB user wrote: We’ve all had irrational reactions to silly situations—myself included. What makes the Edelman situation fascinating, as demonstrated in the email exchanges, is his need to be ‘right.’ Stuff happens in operating any business. Mr. Edelman, given what he does for a living, should know that small businesses often don’t do what they should for many valid reasons, including just not having the time when you’re trying to produce a great product.
And, from another reader:Some people just feel entitled and most come from academia!
I actually think that I have a pretty good read on this. I spend a fair amount of time with academics, and even more time with business people. And it would be my experience that there is no greater percentage of academics that feels entitled than folks in the business world …