Don't you believe it ... if it ain't broke, don't fix it

This pearl of popular business wisdom is a truly awful principle to work to. Here's why ...

Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

If it's not broken, it probably will be soon, thanks to pressures from new technology, market shifts, customer behaviour, competition. Successful companies make sure that they never forget this. Look at the two firms that have made the most money, for the longest time, in the computer business: Intel and Microsoft. It was Andy Grove who, when head of Intel, observed that 'only the paranoid survive'. And Kevin Turner, chief operating officer of Microsoft, recently described the 'healthy level of insecurity' that drives Microsoft's constant innovation. Microsoft's PC operating system business isn't broken - it's currently shipping vast quantities of Windows 7 - but the firm is nevertheless working hard on developing its presence in the next big thing, cloud computing.

The business lifespan is finite. Look back far enough and you will see that everything you or your predecessor was doing at the time is now defunct. Then look forward: everything you are now engaged in will also die. The question is, do you wait until things start to wither, or do you work on the next idea while your current business is still going strong? Surely it's better to do it while money is still plentiful and corporate confidence is high.

It breeds complacency. Being just 'good enough' is not good enough - as we have very forcibly been reminded recently. Until 2008, we had a long period of growth, and growth hides a lot of mediocrity. But times can quickly change, and when they do only the fittest survive. If you care about longevity in business, you must always strive to be the best.

- Alastair Dryburgh is chief contrarian at Akenhurst Consultants. Read more at

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