Apple and Microsoft Changing Places? Depend on That

There’s a company that is investing in disruptive innovation, looking for the spark of new ideas in new markets.

There’s a company that is looking to consolidate its gains, under great pressure to maintain what it has accomplished. Its future may be dull, dogged by small design iterations.

I’m describing Microsoft in the first paragraph, and Apple in the second, but not long ago, I could have said the exact opposite. Apple and Microsoft have changed places. Life is weird.

Time is corrosive. Brands are like people. History draws its map upon your face. Brands get old, some die. What caught on, fired up, jumped the track today might not work in the future. You can depend on that.

It’s crazy, but when running a startup, you’re going to do your best to express what you are all about in your culture.  You will deploy that culture to the world, but you don’t know how the world will choose to receive it. Will people rise like a river and float your fiscal boat? Or will they never arrive and you’ll be beached?

Even the best companies, like Patagonia, must adjust to how people and times change. Patagonia’s core mission has never changed, but the founders did rewrite their mission statement when an early iteration of the company was going to run aground. So to stay lively, you might forget the mission statement altogether. Ask mission questions instead. Who are we? Why do we do this? Be prepared to change those questions often, even if your answers might not change so much.