The way business is managed today and how much faster things are innovated has changed the type of race you need to run. While marathon thinking has been in place for decades, I think it has been replaced by sprints that allow an organization to rethink and test their strategies quickly.

Consider Chicago in 1981.

I find it amazing how much the business marketplace has changed since I first started my company in 1981. We officed out of One East Wacker Drive in Chicago’s loop at the corner of State Street and Wacker Drive along the Chicago River. The business climate was moody. I was advised by many not to start at that time because interest rates were at an all-time high, 21%, and business failures were quite common. But I was young and you know, thought those dynamics wouldn’t apply to me, so off we went!

During the early ’80s, the largest corporations led the market. IBM was headquartered across the river directly from our offices in their tall building, and whatever they said was reported in all of the Chicago and national papers. Newspapers were the place you got your news. The Chicago Tribune and Chicago Sun-Times were each located one block from our offices in their beautiful buildings. 

These giants, such as IBM, Motorola, Sears, United Airlines, and so many more, led and controlled the market by their sheer size and marketing muscle. There were the big guys and everyone else. 

Now Consider Today’s Market in 2020.

Fast forward to today, customers now lead the market. Being a large corporation guarantees you nothing other than the ability to lose millions or billions of dollars. Of course, there are still enormous corporations such as Apple, Amazon, Google and many others. The difference though, is at any time any of them could be replaced by a company that has something that’s never been in the market before. Here are a few examples:

  • Uber is an excellent example of an upstart that changed the taxi business. 
  • Netflix changed how people watch movies. 
  • Email replaced snail mail.
  • Twitter and Facebook replaced newsprint.
  • Google replaced libraries.
  • YouTube replaced product manuals and so much more.

Organizations that time their strategies based on a marathon will end up short-circuiting themselves because they won’t be able to innovate quickly enough to remain competitive. Some excellent examples are Motorola, Kodak, General Motors, Blockbuster, and so many others who found themselves at the bottom of their market. 

Tomorrow’s winners will be sprinters that continuously rethink their strategies and explore new ideas with the agility and willingness to switch plans quickly.