【英语财经】现有企业与创新天生是冤家? Incumbents, dark arts and the opposite of innovation

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所属分类:双语财经

2016-3-11 23:10

小艾摘要: A colleague recently minted a new word by accident — “incumbation”. It won’t catch on but its fleeting appearance made me wonder what such a term, if it existed, might define: the opposite of inno ...
Incumbents, dark arts and the opposite of innovation
A colleague recently minted a new word by accident — “incumbation”. It won’t catch on but its fleeting appearance made me wonder what such a term, if it existed, might define: the opposite of innovation.

As grimy layers of admin accrete on the original bright ideals of their founders, incumbent companies become prone to inertia and what Gary Hamel, the management thinker, has called “bureausclerosis”. Such complacency is bad. But some of the methods that established companies use to protect themselves are worse.

My list would include: spending as much on lobbying and public relations as on research and development; fighting to prolong patent cover to the detriment of legitimate new entrants, and destroying potential competitors by undercutting them or buying them out, only to kill off their innovative alternative products.

Leaders of incumbents also defend the status quo internally. They suffocate diversity or hold back change at the top, ramp up executive pay and construct hierarchies that blight creativity and encourage barons to build fief-like mini-incumbents inside the bigger company.

At the extreme, a dominant company may shore up its position through anti-competitive acts, such as dumping, predatory pricing or the massage or misstatement of earnings.

Tesco’s mistreatment of suppliers between 2013 and 2015 following an accounting scandal is typical of such behaviour. According to its regulator, the dominant UK supermarket deliberately delayed payment as it sought to meet targets. Tesco, which is still under investigation from the Serious Fraud Office for accounting irregularities, has said it is now “a very different company”. The fine imposed last week on GlaxoSmithKIine for illegally stifling the launch of a cheap rival antidepressant is another example. (The UK pharmaceuticals group may appeal against the ruling.)

No company wants to give up a profitable position in its market. Leadership is often hard-won. But maintaining it without adopting the dark arts of incumbation is difficult.

Google illuminates an alternative route. Larry Page set up Alphabet, its new holding company, to make the “moonshot” subsidiaries that sit alongside the core search business more transparent. Mr Page believes most ventures fail because they keep doing the same thing. They need to cultivate “zero billion dollar companies” — radically innovative enterprises that could eventually command unicorn-sized valuations.

Alphabet aspires to a balanced approach, as outlined by Vijay Govindarajan of Dartmouth’s Tuck business school in a new book, The Three Box Solution. Inspired by the Hindu gods Vishnu, Shiva and Brahma, who stand respectively for preservation, destruction and creation, he says companies must assign core operations to box one, put stuff they need to forget, sell or close in box two, and develop the future in box three.

Google, for instance, still generates 99.4 per cent of Alphabet revenues and the profits from internet search can easily fuel its moonshots. “They’ve created teams around virtual reality, self-driving cars and so on, which are separate from box one, allowing box three [activities] to take root,” Prof Govindarajan says.

A box one obsession, however, can lead to short-termism, barge aside other strategic priorities and tempt companies into time-consuming defensive battles. Technology groups are not immune. Anti-poaching deals between Silicon Valley companies, including Google and Apple, were rife before the US Department of Justice clamped down on them in 2010. Uber and Amazon have armed up in recent years by hiring political lobbyists to deal with regulatory pressure.

Meanwhile, they neglect Shiva’s appetite for destruction at their peril: if Mr Page does not have the self-discipline to ditch underperforming ventures, they will clutter the route to the launch pad for his more promising projects.

Recumbent incumbents are almost always doomed. The good news is that technology and transparency have already cut away at the distribution and information monopolies that used to shelter large, lazy companies. The bad news is that survivors will continue to use foul means as well as fair to protect themselves. Their misguided attempts at self-preservation can hobble the advance of more original, more innovative competitors.

一位同事最近意外造出了一个新词“incumbation”。这个词不可能流行,但它的拼法让我一下子想到,如果这个词存在的话,它的意思可能是:创新的反义词。

随着一层层粘腻的行政层级在创始人最初的美好理想上堆积,现有企业很容易产生惰性,管理思想家加里?哈梅尔(Gary Hamel)称之为“官僚硬化症”。这种自满是糟糕的。但现有企业使用的一些保护自己的方法更糟糕。

这些方法包括:花在游说和公共关系上面的钱与花在研发方面的钱一样多;奋力延长专利保护期以对合法新进者不利,通过压价或收购消灭潜在竞争对手,最终扼杀它们的创新替代产品。

现有企业的高管还从内部维护现状。他们会扼杀多样性或阻碍高层变革、上调高管薪资、建立损害创造性的等级制度、鼓励企业内大佬在更大的公司内部组建封地式的微型现有企业。

从极端的意义来看,占主导地位的公司可能会通过反竞争行为支撑其地位,例如倾销、掠夺性定价或者美化或错报盈利。

2013年至2015年,在一桩会计丑闻后,乐购(Tesco)对供应商的不公正对待就是典型的类似行为。据监管机构称,这家占据主导地位的英国超市运营商为了达到业绩目标,故意拖延付款。乐购现在仍在因会计违规行为接受英国严重欺诈办公室(Serious Fraud Office)的调查。该公司表示,它现在已“完全不同”以前。最近,葛兰素史克(GlaxoSmithKline)因非法阻止竞争对手的廉价抗抑郁药品的推出而受到罚款,这是另一个例子。(这家英国制药集团可能会就这项裁决提出上诉。)

企业都不希望放弃其在市场中的有利获利地位。领导地位往往来之不易。但在不采用“incumbation”的黑魔法的情况下维持这种地位很难。

谷歌(Google)阐释了另一种路线。拉里?佩奇(Larry Page)创建了新的控股公司Alphabet,旨在让与核心搜索业务并驾齐驱的“登月计划”(moonshot)子公司更透明。佩奇认为,多数公司破产的原因是他们持续做同一件事。他们需要培育“零十亿美元公司”(zero billion dollar companies)——具有真正的创新性、最终可能会取得“独角兽”企业规模估值的公司。

正如塔克商学院(Tuck School of Business)教授维贾伊?戈文达拉扬(Vijay Govindarajan)在新书《三盒解决方案》(Three Box Solution)中所概述的那样,Alphabet希望采取一种均衡战略。受印度神毗湿奴、湿婆和梵天(分别代表保持、毁灭和创造)的启发,他表示,企业必须把核心业务归入第一个盒子,把他们需要忘记、出售或关闭的业务放入第二个盒子,在第三个盒子里发展未来。

例如,Alphabet收入的99.4%仍由谷歌创造,来自互联网搜索的利润能够轻易促进其“登月计划”。戈文达拉扬教授表示:“他们围绕虚拟现实、无人驾驶汽车等业务建立了团队,这些与第一个盒子相独立,让第三个盒子的(活动)可以开始扎根。”

然而,对第一个盒子的迷恋可能会导致短期主义、搁置其他战略优先任务并诱惑企业打耗时的防御战。科技集团无法幸免。在2010年美国司法部开始打击之前,包括谷歌和苹果( Apple)在内的硅谷公司之间的地盘互不侵犯协议颇为猖獗。最近几年,优步(Uber)和亚马逊(Amazon)加大了防御,聘用政治说客来应对监管压力。

与此同时,它们忽略了湿婆的毁灭欲望,后果很危险:如果佩奇没有放弃业绩不佳业务的自律,那么这些业务将阻碍他推出更有希望的项目。

懒惰的现有企业几乎总是注定会灭亡。好消息是,科技和透明度已减少了曾经庇护大型懒惰企业的分销和信息垄断。坏消息是,幸存者将继续使用合理的和不正当的手段来保护自己。他们那些致力于自我保护的误入歧途的尝试,可能会阻碍更原创、更创新的竞争对手的前进。

译者/梁艳裳

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