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I Didn't Think the Other End of the Loose Board Would Hit Me in the Face When I Stepped on It

Mar 20, 2008
Irresistible forces can also have not-so-obvious connections to other causes, including other irresistible forces, that can make their future direction and volatility hard to assess. Not seeing these connections and underestimating the volatility can produce negative consequences with surprising speed, and leave companies totally devastated.

The first practical portable personal computer was built by Osborne. Although these were very large and heavy by today's standards, they met with immediate acceptance, and the company's sales boomed.

The demand for the convenience of portable computing is an irresistible force that continues today. The company, however, made an error it couldn't recover from.

Knowing that demand for an improved portable computer would be even greater, Osborne developed a second-generation product that was to be more powerful, lighter, and easier to use. Investors and customers were extraordinarily excited about this prospect.

However, Osborne had miscalculated. After announcing the new product, it was delayed beyond the company's expectations. Orders all but disappeared for the existing model, and the company didn't have the financial resources to stay in business until the new model was ready.

The company perished because it wasn't really prepared to deal with the demand stimulated by the irresistible force of desire for better and less expensive portable computing.

Here's another example of unexpected connections. Bowmar produced the first hand-held calculator when integrated circuits finally became available to make such products feasible. The company made great efforts to design a reliable, premium product that people would pay a lot of money for.

Sales boomed, and competitors entered in droves . . . focusing on providing lower cost calculators based on new designs and less expensive integrated circuits. The more of the integrated circuits that were produced, the more the costs dropped.

Bowmar stuck to its original premise and disappeared in a sea of red ink as its costs stayed high while its competitors' costs rapidly declined.

Likewise, Wang Laboratories once had a great leadership position in word processing equipment based on the way that integrated circuits were increasing functionality. In those days, computers were specially designed for that purpose.

Wang never seriously thought that word processing would become a standard feature of personal computers. Why? It didn't think about how much cheaper integrated circuit prices would become.

As a result, the company was slow to think about becoming a software company for personal computers. Before long, the hardware business at Wang had evaporated . . . along with its profits.

Always ask yourself what the unintended consequences could be of the actions you take and the positive relationships you have to irresistible forces.
About the Author
Donald Mitchell is an author of seven books including Adventures of an Optimist, The 2,000 Percent Squared Solution, The 2,000 Percent Solution, The 2,000 Percent Solution Workbook, The Irresistible Growth Enterprise, and The Ultimate Competitive Advantage. Read about creating breakthroughs through 2,000 percent solutions and receive tips by e-mail by registering for free at

http://www.2000percentsolution.com .
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