Motorola is a world class brand, no doubt. The company started as Galvin Manufacturing Corporation in 1928 after two brothers, Paul V. and Joseph E. Galvin, bought over the battery-eliminator plans and manufacturing equipment of the bankrupt Stewart Battery Company at an auction. When its first product, battery-eliminators, became obsolete due to advancement in radio technology, the company began the production of inexpensive car radios, which became a huge success. This success led to the re-branding of the company as Motorola.
The Motorola Company pioneered several technologies such as the first hand-held walkie-talkie in the world in 1940; hand-held AM SCR-536 radio that was vital to Allied communication in World War II; radio equipment for most NASA space-flights for decades beginning in 1958 with Explorer 1(the famous words of Neil Armstrong from the moon “one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind” were said on a Motorola transceiver in 1969); the world’s first large-screen portable transistorized cordless television; the world’s first commercial cellular device; and of course, the world’s first wireless cable modem gateway in 2002, among several other landmark achievements.
With such seemingly unbeatable number of “firsts” recorded by Motorola, the company should top the list of the world’s leading companies, don’t you think? Well, that is where we are wrong. According to Forbes’ list of the “World’s Largest Companies 2015”, which measured the companies based on revenue, profit, assets and market value, Motorola is not in the first 500. What could have caused the fall of such a great company? Here are a few suggestions, which I believe we can also avoid in our lives:
- First doesn’t mean best: it is a feat to pioneer development but it is a greater feat to stay ahead in the process. Each time Motorola came up with a new invention, other companies followed suit. That wasn’t a bad thing. The problem came when those companies started to do it better.
- The stumbling block called success: one of the best ways to deal with success is to quickly put it behind and face the next goal. Success is progressive so it has no end. If you are done innovating then good for you; someone else is taking over! Knowledge doesn’t stop with what you know. Sometimes, the information already acquired stands in the way of the information needed. However, where one person’s expertise ends is where that of another begins. We must be willing to admit that there is something out there that is more than what we currently have. This is the ever learning attitude that can keep us relevant in life. While we are celebrating our achievements, someone else is working on an improvement on our efforts. There is no time to take a break from innovation.
- Disconnect from the end user: it was reported by Network World that Motorola missed the opportunity to migrate to 3G because the US wireless carriers, its biggest customers, weren’t interested in it. Unfortunately, the end users were ready for the migration. We cannot overemphasize the importance of staying in touch with every level of those who use our products or services. The question we need to ask is “who do we need the most?” Middlemen are a means to an end; users must be our priority.
- Failure to adapt to changes: I found this very strange considering Motorola’s commitment to research and development. However, we cannot deny that the company’s technology gradually became obsolete in the face of competition. Finding out new ways of doing things is the way to the future. Steve Jobs had this to say, “I think if you do something and it turns out pretty good, then you should go do something else wonderful, not dwell on it for too long. Just figure out what’s next.” We must not be too enthralled with our achievements to realise that the world has moved on. We must accept that people are too restless and dynamic to celebrate our successes for eternity; before we know it, they are looking for the next best thing.
When a problem lingers, it may be an indication that the current level of information is not adequate. According to Albert Einstein, “You can never solve a problem on the level on which it was created”. If it is true that every solution to an existing problem stirs up other problems of its own, then we must never be satisfied with yesterday’s solutions. What we know now may be good enough to solve today’s problems; but make no mistake, it will never be adequate for tomorrow. We must never become “too much” to realise we have stopped learning for “so long”.