Innovate or Die 

09 Nov, 2023 Harvey Warren


Disruptors. The promise of tomorrow for some, the end of the line for others.  Innovation has been the topic du jour at several recent workers’ compensation conventions.  As an innovator in a different way to shepherd injured workers back to work, I can’t help but be concerned at how slowly innovation is being implemented.  There are number of cautionary tales about massive enterprises with worldwide brands that disappeared almost overnight because they failed to innovate. 

Large businesses often reach a certain level of success through their established practices, business models, and market dominance. This can lead to a sense of complacency and resistance to change. When innovations emerge, such businesses may dismiss them as passing trends or feel threatened by the disruption they bring. This resistance to change is a common precursor to failure. 

Kodak’s decision to dismiss digital photography rather than embrace and own it is a glaring example of resistance to change.  Despite pioneering digital camera technology in the 1970s, the company clung to its film-based business model, even when the digital   was evident. By the time Kodak decided to embrace digital photography, it was too late, and they filed for bankruptcy in 2012. 

Another monumental error belongs to Blockbuster for missing the streaming tsunami. Blockbuster Video was once synonymous with movie rentals. However, the company failed to adapt to the digital streaming revolution. While Netflix seized the opportunity, Blockbuster remained tethered to its brick-and-mortar stores, ultimately leading to its demise. 

Large businesses are not always blind to innovation; sometimes, they focus solely on their core products or services and failing to foresee shifts in consumer preferences and technology.  Although missed opportunities may not bring about the end of a brand, here are two examples of colossal, missed opportunities.  

Nokia, a leader in the mobile phone industry, ignored the smartphone revolution, believing that their feature phones would remain dominant. This shortsightedness cost them dearly, and they lost their market share to companies like Apple and Samsung. 

Xerox made a similar, legendary  error by staying laser focused on copying and neglecting the emergence of personal computers. Xerox, an early pioneer in computing technology, missed the opportunity to capitalize on personal computing. Their failure to commercialize inventions like the mouse and graphical user interfaces allowed competitors like Microsoft and Apple to dominate the industry. 

Large businesses often suffer from bureaucratic structures and complex decision-making processes that hinder the adoption of innovative ideas. This stifles creativity and limits agility, leaving them susceptible to disruption.  In my humble opinion, this may be where lies the biggest challenge for the workers’ compensation industry.  

It’s hard to imagine anything could stop Sears.  It was “where America shops” for decades. This historic retail giant failed to adapt to the e-commerce era. Their bureaucratic decision-making and lack of agility allowed companies like Amazon to flourish while they struggled to keep up. 

Some businesses simply lose touch with their customer’s needs.  Staying in touch with customer needs and preferences allows businesses to develop products or services that resonate with the market. Failure to do so has brought down some legendary brands. 

MySpace, once the dominant social networking platform, lost its connection with its users as they flocked to Facebook. The failure to adapt to changing social trends led to MySpace's downfall. With a peak of 76 million users, at last report only 7 million users remain.  Facebook has over 2 billion users. 

In much the same way Yahoo, an internet pioneer, failed to evolve with the rapidly changing digital landscape. Their inability to meet the evolving needs of users, especially in search and mobile technology, led to their decline. 

Innovation is an indispensable force in the business world, and large businesses that miss or resist it often pay a heavy price. Whether due to a reluctance to change, innovation myopia, bureaucratic hurdles, or disconnection from customer needs, these failures should be considered as the workers’ compensation industry starts to re-examine and re-invent how to best help injured workers get better faster and stay better longer.   

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    About The Author

    • Harvey Warren

      Harvey Warren has enjoyed many careers, from screenwriter to film producer to financial services professional. With a bachelor’s de­gree in communications from Ithaca College and a master’s degree from Syracuse Univer­sity, writing has always been his passion. As the Optimized Patient he fulfills his dream to write about healing. Joining the Experts Analysis enables Mr. Warren to directly contribute the “patient’s view” to the industry. Mr. Warren lives in Los Angeles with his wife, Wileen.

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