Growing up in England, I remember being 13 years old and using the earnings from my newspaper delivery route to go shopping for the latest top 40 CD at Woolworth’s. At the time, Woolworth’s was one of the UK’s best-known retailers, having opened its first store in 1909. The company’s product categories included entertainment, home goods, children’s toys and clothing, and confectionary. The company had over 800 stores in the UK and a Woolworth’s store could be found in almost every British town. I am no longer living in the UK and unfortunately, I’m not the only one. In January 2009, just short of its 100th birthday Woolworth’s closed its doors in one of the biggest company collapses in British business history.
There were many different reasons cited for Woolworth’s UK collapse, which collectively demonstrate a business that had failed to adapt their business model to the changed 21st century environment. Woolworth’s made a classic mistake that many other organizations make. They were complacent and assumed their past successes would continue into the future.
A Harvard Business Review Article (from July – August 2011) ‘Adaptability: The New Competitive Advantage,’ by Martin Reeves and Mike Deimler addresses how today’s complex changing business world requires organizations to adapt in order to survive and thrive. Reeves and Deimler assert that traditional business approaches assume a relatively stable and predictable world, which is clearly no longer the case. The 21st century business needs to be good at scanning the environment, learning new things and trying out these new ideas not just in terms of product and service innovation, but also in regards to their business model, processes and strategies (Reeves and Deimler).
The purpose for my blog is to explore forward thinking and innovative business approaches, to encourage business leaders to reconsider traditional business practices and to consider incorporating new creative approaches to leadership and the work environment. Business is continually changing and as Woolworth’s, Borders, Circuit City and many others have demonstrated, there is no guarantee that approaches that have been successful in the past will continue to be effective in the future.
Photo Credit: Staffordshire Newsletter