By Jennifer Tuohy
Traditionally, incumbent industries are the last to catch on to truly game-changing innovations. Reasons for this are varied, but broadly, a reluctance to risk changing a tried-and-true business model comes into play. Witness the crumbling of the newspaper industry under the onslaught of the internet, how film manufacturers lost sight of the big picture in the digital photography revolution, and the decimation hotel and taxi services are facing with the advent of crowd-sourcing services.
Arguably the biggest mistake each of these industries made was to view the oncoming disruptive force as a battle and not as opportunity. Whether any of these incumbents could have been saved by a more rapid pivot is a discussion for the history books (or history e-books, as the case may be). But the biggest takeaway from the floundering of the aforementioned industries is that incumbents can no longer rely on consumer loyalty — the consumer will get what he or she needs, regardless of the delivery method.
This fate could well have befallen the home appliance industry with the advent of global warming. The push for energy efficiency, which began in the 70s and blossomed in the 90s with the introduction of the Energy Star program, was truly a pivot point for that industry. Left to their own devices, many of the industry’s incumbents may well have collapsed by ignoring consumer desires for reduced energy costs and enhanced efforts to protect the planet (and their wallets). However, thanks to a sizable financial push from government, courtesy of the Energy Star program, appliance manufacturers not only survived the seismic shift, they have thrived from it.Click to continue reading »