Innovation and Disruption, What’s Holding You Back?

I have stated before that, while I don’t know the guy and have never met him, Marc Andreessen is probably the entrepreneur of my generation that I most admire.

Today I came across a post on TechCrunch where Marc is quoted as saying that Old Media needs to burn the boats. I love this type of bold strategies. When Cortes came to Mexico he burnt the boats so they had no choice but to conquer, Marc says media companies need to do the same thing. The post is short and well worth your read but here’s my favorite quotes.

We got to talking about how media companies are handling the digital disruption of the Internet when he brought up the Cortes analogy. “You gotta burn the boats,” he told me, “you gotta commit.” His point is that if traditional media companies don’t burn their own boats, somebody else will.

Everyone knows this true (even if they don’t admit it). At some point physical media will be too cost prohibitive to create at the mass market level. Print will be the new vinyl.

Andreessen asked me if TechCrunch is working on an iPad app or planning on putting up a paywall. I gave him a blank stare. He laughed and noted that none of the newer Web publications (he’s an investor in the Business Insider) are either. “”All the new companies are not spending a nanosecond on the iPad or thinking of ways to charge for content. The older companies, that is all they are thinking about.”

And finally the part that will end any business discussion with any old media CEO:

Print newspapers and magazines will never get there, he argues, until they burn the boats and shut down their print operations. Yes, there are still a lot of people and money in those boats—billions of dollars in revenue in some cases. “At risk is 80% of revenues and headcount,” Andreessen acknowledges, “but shift happens.” You’d have to be crazy to burn the boats. Crazy like Cortes.

Radical strategies like this either get you excited or terrify you (or both).  Could you imagine the NYT or WSJ stopping all print publications and going digital only? Wow, that would be amazing. Lay off everyone connected to print and forge ahead. It won’t happen for years, maybe decades. Maybe they’ll always keep some niche print production, but eventually most printed papers will go away.

But it’s easy for us to criticize the media for not being willing to let go, but what about your business?  Every business has boats they’re holding on to. And it’s usually the part of their business that’s stopping them from being truly innovative. That’s the part of the business the startups love to attack.

In my world, agencies continue to submit to hourly billing even though it’s a pain, unproductive and not conducive to providing the best work. Marketers refuse to give up on the CPM advertising metric (cost per thousand rate advertisers charge). It’s broken and doesn’t prove any type of business ROI. These are two boats I would volunteer to ignite myself.

What are your business boats? What would be the hardest thing to give up?

Photo credit via very little dave

About Tac Anderson

Social media anthropologist. Communications strategist. Business model junkie. Chief blogger here at New Comm Biz.
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  • http://local-marketplace.com/ Steve Koss

    Pizzazz describes this post.

    In my world the yellow pages mentality http://bit.ly/aIzZWG and thinking business/brand 1st (shift: product/services 1st, biz/brand 2nd) http://bit.ly/c4lo3P are two boats we are burning a product at a time, a merchant at a time, and a city at a time.

    Touché on the marvelous post Tac!

  • http://www.newcommbiz.com tacanderson

    Brilliant. Anything that gets a visceral reaction is a good place to start burning.

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  • http://www.linkedin.com/in/sharelomer SharelOmer

    “Burn the boats.” sometime you need to take hard decisions in order to create a new reality.
    A great post that make you think about barrier in you way towards success.

    Thanks for talking about Marc Andreessen, he is also a leader in the right way to build a company and raise funding. his template of “introduction mail” via venture hacks is a true master-peace.

    Any additional heroes you have, we can learn from, maybe from the social world?

  • http://www.newcommbiz.com tacanderson

    I have lots of heroes. Maybe that's an entire post unto itself.

  • http://www.linkedin.com/in/sharelomer SharelOmer

    I will love to read a post about it :)

  • jessestevens

    I liked your approach. “Burn the boats” sends a clear message to all of those preventing themselves from starting their own path and take action. I usually go about this site here http://bit.ly/9qpwP and read some advices and tips (also I post my owns). I have noticed that the hardest thing to give up is your passion. You have to give up to it in the way that you have to start sharing it with others to let them know what it feels to be there, and that takes hard work, effort and probably less time to be you the one who is there enjoying it at all, with no worries at all. So, if you are prepared to share your passion by “giving up to it” you are ready to start!