Greetings. The front page of today's Washington Post included a fascinating story about the disappearance of an island in the Chesapeake Bay and one man's struggle to save it from the forces of nature. The place is Holland Island, once a three-mile-long piece of land that was in 1910 home to 360 people most of whom were farmers and waterman dredging oysters in the Bay. But as a result of the last thunderstorm and continuing erosion from the rising ocean, the one remaining house on Holland Island has come crashing to the ground (or sea depending on the tide). And with it the end of over 300 years of settlement in this remarkable corner of America.
To many the island's disappearing act comes with little fanfare. After all, most of Holland's inhabitants left in the 1920's for the mainland of Maryland's Eastern Shore…taking their homes with them on ships, board by board. But a picture of this place and its last Victorian-era house told a different story and gave reason to think about the world of companies and organizations and how things that once mattered disappear.
In the business world it's all about remaining relevant and continually delivering compelling value to those we serve. This is an especially difficult task when change occurs very quickly as new technologies, new business models, and new offerings dramatically alter the landscape. We see it all the time in cases like Blockbuster, a leading company that was overtaken by Netflix, a host of cable TV providers, and the internet. Or when we read about Sony's decision to finally stop selling the Walkman–the world's first portable and personal music player. "They're still selling those?" you ask, struggling to imagine why anyone in their right mind would choose this now-primitive product from a shelf that contains iPods and other top MP3 players. And the list goes on in industries as diverse as media, professional services, IT, healthcare, hospitality, automobiles, business services, and professional sports.
But it's also a very difficult task to stay relevant when change occurs gradually. When the world lulls us into a sense of complacency and we fail to notice and respond to the gradual erosion occurring on our shores. When we fail to innovate consistently in the areas that matter most to customers. Or fail to reinvent our customer experience in order to drive greater knowledge and value. Or when we stick with a product, service, or solution for too long without ever acknowledging the need to make essential changes. Until one day a big wind brings our business crashing down.
Much like the final house on Holland Island…