Friday, April 13, 2007

Seth Godin on Vision and Change

Seth Godin hits on something critical in a post on being "anti-change vs. "pro-business":

The car makers continue to lobby hard, or even sue, over emission rules. Wendy's, as previously discussed, is working hard against a rule in New York requiring they post calorie counts. It's common wisdom that government regulation is bad for business, and especially bad is regulation that requires change.

I don't get it.

I get it, and it's a result of lack of vision.

Too many companies are focused on where the market is now, and where it will be tomorrow, but forgetting what it will look like next week, next year, or in the next decade.

The auto industry is a great example: they've fought every safety improvement that's ever come along. Seat belts? Air bags? They'll ruin us!

But of course they haven't. Forced by government regulation, manufacturers have adapted. (Other issues, of course, may be ruining them, but it's not airbags.)

Consider the current debates going on about plastic bags in grocery stores. The initial reaction is the short-term reaction: don't make us stop giving our customers something they want.

Of course, if you go to a grocery store in France (to pick somewhere that I have gone shopping), you'll find this problem has already been solved: if you want a plastic bag, you pay a small charge for it. So lots of people bring durable, re-usable bags to the store. And if you run in on impulse and don't have a bag - or maybe you just need some at home for scooping the cat litter - you pay a very small amount for it. (I never actually saw paper bags, which aren't exactly environmentally friendly anyway - trees, anybody? Have you seen what happens when we make paper?)

The grocery stores who figure this out first in the U.S. will get green shoppers. If others follow, the issue will go away.

The reactive "don't regulate me!" impulse often comes from having a short-range horizon and short-range understanding of the market. But it goes beyond the issue of regulation; it's more mundane objections to new ideas, too.

Do you know what your customers will want in five years? Wouldn't you like to be the first one there?

1 comment:

Mary Schmidt said...

The Trader Joe's here in Albuquerqque is working on this one. You can already buy sturdy nice (and "cool") bags for a very low fee with their logo (both freezer/cooler bags and canvas) - posted prominently by the cash register. And, to promote people using any reusable bag - if you bring in a bag you can enter a raffle each week to win $25 worth of groceries.

It's another one of those "little" things that can quickly add up to a lot.