Staying Relevant — The Danger of Complacency

Published on
November 3, 2022
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As history has shown us time and again, winning too many times breeds hubris, and with it comes complacency — the silent business killer.

Much like weeds left to their own devices in a garden, complacency can ultimately take over your workplace culture. What makes it even more sinister is that business leaders can be slow to recognise it or do absolutely nothing to stop it — hiding behind excuses, such as “that’s just the way things are done here” or “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” — until it is too late.

Complacency Spares No One

It is quite disconcerting how 88% of Fortune 500 firms have now fallen off the list or have struggled to keep their place in the modern world — as is the case for once-victorious giants like Polaroid, Nokia, and Hewlett-Packard.

These companies have monopolised their markets for decades, leaving them feeling invincible — a mistake which cost them more than they bargained for. These industry behemoths’ complacency gave way to organisation-wide “inertia”, which unknowingly prevented them from innovating existing products, services, or processes and adapting to fast-paced market changes.

It is almost as though their complacency quenched the fiery drive that catapulted them into greatness in the first place. When complacency starts establishing its roots, it can be the single most dangerous threat to any organisation. Here are two reasons why.

1. Complacency Blunts Your Competitive Edge

Every business faces some level of competition. Unless you live in a vacuum, there is a high chance that daily market forces will trump even your most well laid-out business strategies.

Thanks to the internet, you are no longer competing against businesses within a hundred-mile radius. With a few simple clicks, consumers can easily find, compare, and purchase better or cheaper alternatives. Spending valuable time twiddling your thumbs instead of doing better will make your competitors gain valuable headway.

Understandably, digging in your heels may seem like the noble thing to do. After all, existing systems and products have served your organisation well in the past. However, blindly defending yesterday’s merits erodes your business’s competitive edge and shelves your value proposition under the “dime a dozen” category.

Recognise that there is an ever-growing need to get things done better, easier, faster. And if businesses can make the most mundane things fun, liquid markets will see its value and most likely spend their money there.

The key to staying relevant in the face of competition is honesty. As a business, you need to ask who your real competitors are, what you can learn from their strengths and weaknesses, and how you can act on the existing threats and opportunities they present.

Figuring out where your organisation stands in the midst of it all allows you to establish what makes your brand unique, as well as where and what you need to work on in order to tower over the competition.

2. Complacency Breeds Mediocrity

Most businesses have a “magic number” and a set of goals. These metrics lay out the foundation on which workplace routines are built. For some companies, the magic number is 15% annual growth. For others, the ultimate goal is to dominate niche markets. Regardless of what their goals and numbers might be, complacency will lead organisations to think this is enough for long-term success.

What they fail to recognise is that they could do so much better. Why settle for 15% if you can go for 50%? Why settle for one market if you can go for several? No doubt, any kind of growth is worth celebrating. However, is this enough to stay relevant in a cut-throat, ever-changing socio-economic market?

This kind of complacency can give any company — regardless of achievements or potential — to adopt a false sense of security, which will eventually lead to its obsolescence. A good example is Blackberry.

Once touted as the king of smartphones, Blackberry went from controlling 20% of the global smartphone market to a disheartening 0% today. What ultimately sealed their fate was their complacency, which led to the unwillingness to innovate — even going as far as not recognising the iPhone as a real threat. But their hubris did not stop there.

Blackberry’s company ethos was built around a slow and steady innovation process. They have done quite well in the business world long enough to think that their market will always wait for them. To their surprise, it did not. By the time Blackberry caught on, it was too late. All markets have been enamoured by shockingly new and delightful Android and Apple smartphones, leaving Blackberry in the dust.

Despite Blackberry’s stellar privacy and security features, it is its painstakingly slow and inconsistent market reactions, poor execution, and loyalty to its archaic ways that ultimately cemented its own demise.

Success can be a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it delivers on the bottom line and paves the way toward tremendous growth and profits. On the other, it breeds complacency — leading to an eroded competitive edge and a subconscious spiral toward mediocrity.

Clearly, businesses — regardless of size and success — cannot simply bank on past achievements alone. They must have the willingness to continually strive for better than what is expected of them to ensure they stay relevant for years to come.

We at BeingIconic are a seasoned team of brand marketing specialists who have worked with big business in creating opportunities to become more adaptable and dynamic in the face of change through successful venture-development strategies. Partner with us today to find out how we can do the same for you.