The opposite is what’s risky

In a recent interview with the Harvard Business Review new JC Penney CEO Ron Johnson was asked whether it wasn’t a pretty risky proposition to completely re-invent a department store?

His answer was clear, concise and spot on: “The opposite is what’s risky.”

Years ago, when I was at Sears, we had many debates about how risky it was to take our dominant tools and appliance franchises “off the mall.” Mainly we were concerned about how such a bold strategy would cannibalize our core mall-based department store business. Now, more than a decade later, virtually all the value that’s been created in the retail tool and appliance industry has been captured by Home Depot, Lowe’s and others that responded better to shifting customer desires. And the core business we tried to protect now seems headed inexorably toward extinction.

Whether you study Blockbuster or Borders–or myriad other brands that fell hard from lofty perches–you don’t have to be much of a business historian to see how industry incumbents consistently get the risk equation wrong. And by the time their platform is fully on fire, it’s far too late to recover.

Defend the status quo and you’re likely to be the proverbial frog slowly boiling to death.

Challenge the status quo, walk through your fear and at least you give yourself a chance to survive and thrive.



5 thoughts on “The opposite is what’s risky

  1. Excellent commentary. I think the real danger is from Amazon and to a lesser extent Google and eBay (for the moment) who have hired the finest minds in the industry and have given them literally Billions of Dollars in R&D money to come up with strategies to redefine retail. Amazon showed some of their cards last Saturday with their “get $5 off if you buy something from Amazon from a brick and mortar store – but only if you have your GPS on” that they are up to something that could be a real game changer.

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