The more successful you are, the harder you fall.
And, according to John Sculley, the former CEO of Apple and Pepsi, success often drives one specific form of failure.
In an interview with Business Insider, he cited Kodak as an example of this phenomenon.
The one-time tech giant ultimately filed for bankruptcy in 2012, a few years after the iPhone was unveiled.
“How did Kodak, which invented digital photography and was the largest photo printer in the world, how did it miss that photography was going to go mobile on smart phones?” Sculley asked.
Sculley has a theory. He said prospering companies — and people — tend to become complacent. They make fewer major gambles. They focus on what they know works. They become “victims of their own success.”
“The consequences of becoming a victim of your own success are worse than making mistakes along the way,” Sculley told Business Insider.
Sculley, who is now the chairman of healthcare startup RXAdvance, said this is also why Intel and Microsoft achieved so much in the realm of personal computing, but “missed mobile.”
“I’ve seen, over a lifetime of working in different industries, that the most successful companies in one era often become victims of their own success in the next era,” he said.
So how can you avoid becoming a victim of your own success?
Sculley said you must “unlearn” what you’ve been taught in school and stop worrying about finding the right answers. Instead, embrace uncertainty and challenges.
“You have to be willing to take big risks,” he said. “Do bold things. And make mistakes. The reality is that we all learn far more from our mistakes than we do from our successes. A don’t be afraid to make a mistake. Just don’t make the same one again.”
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