Are you prepared to become obsolete?

While watching the local news last night my husband made a comment about the weatherman: “You know – who really needs him anymore? You can just look at the radar yourself any time you want to online.”

True. You can. Wonder if people going to school to be “weather people” have thought about that. Wonder if the schools that teach them have thought about that. And, most pertinent for this blog, wonder if all of us have given any thought to the likelihood that *we* or our products or services could also become obsolete – replaced by something bigger and better, or simply by technology that changes the entire landscape.

We are all at risk of becoming the victims of disruptive technology. Disruptive technology is an innovation that produces incremental, radical or revolutionary changes in products, processes – and entire industries sometimes – in ways thare are often unexpected and unplanned for.

Vinyl records. Audiotapes. Video rental stores. Typewriters. Carbon paper. That white stuff that Mike Nesmith‘s mom invented that you used to correct typing errors. Rotary phones. “Land lines.” The Post Office (well, not yet…) Look back over the past 10, 20, 50 years and you’ll find countless examples of products and services that simply no longer exist or that have “morphed” into something else.

There’s “planned obsolescence” – where manufacturers plan for their products to fail or “wear out” after a time so consumers have to repurchase, and there’s obsolescence that’s driven by change and innovation.

Change and innovation is obviously good. What’s bad is when we (entrepreneurs, marketers, business owners, etc.) don’t monitor the environment well enough to anticipate (and hopefully respond to) change that could be disruptive to our businesses.

Does anybody buy stationery to write letters anymore? Sewing machines? Push lawn mowers? Non-digital cameras?

Natural selection – “adapt – migrate – mutate – or die” – applies to marketing as it does to biology. Could your product or service become the victim of a disruptive technology?  Most importantly, what could – or should – you do to evolve?

(Linda Pophal is CEO/owner of Strategic Communications, LLC, a firm that helps clients use strategy to address their communication challenges.)

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