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Most people argue that the rate of change has accelerated. However, University of Calgary strategy professor Jim Dewald makes the case that change actually has slowed markedly compared with the pace of change a century ago, when the motorcar, the telephone and the electric lightbulb shook up the global economy. Since the early 1900s, businesses have concentrated on commoditizing these technologies. If they are rigid, that focus could put them at risk as fundamental changes now further transform technology and the economy. Companies can increase their “longevity” by abandoning rigid forms of strategic planning and encouraging thinking and behavior that boosts innovation. getAbstract recommends Dewald’s provocative thesis to entrepreneurs, business owners and leaders.


Seeking “Longevity”

Many businesses no longer try to create new ventures. Instead, they copy others. Emulating other firms can reduce a company’s risks and give its leaders the sense that they are competing in a stable market with the prospect of healthy returns. Unfortunately, senior executives often don’t prepare for the impact a dramatic change in market conditions could have on their company.

Corporate leaders often hope that their companies will survive long after they are gone, but few firms last over the long haul. Instead of prioritizing longevity, businesses tend to look for ways to cut cost or to increase cost-effectiveness. However, an organization can extend its life span if it encourages “entrepreneurial thinking and capability development that rewards innovation.” Experts who see today’s business environment as being in the grips of an accelerated rate of change suggest that companies must seek “sustained competitive advantage” if they wish to endure.

“General Purpose Technologies”

As fast as change is happening in today’s corporate world, it unfolded even more quickly in the 20th century. The advent of three general purpose technologies...

About the Author

Jim Dewald is dean of the University of Calgary’s Haskayne School of Business where he is also an associate professor of strategy and entrepreneurship.

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