Over at Genuine Curiosity, Dwayne Melancon shared his experience in visiting the first Starbucks in Seattle, Washington.
"The first Starbucks is located in Pike's Place Market along the Seattle waterfront, and the store was opened in 1971. When we walked in, I was struck by the fact that it really doesn't "feel" like the Starbucks I know and love. Sure, there are similarities, but this "version 1.0" of Starbucks has a different ambiance. "
Dwayne goes on to examine the difference between the more modern Starbucks and the original, which has been around for 35 years. He then explores the reasons why Starbucks has survived and thrived for this long. Mentioning Focus, Re-invention, Innovation, Evolution, and Involvement, Starbucks has adapted as the years wore on.
After looking at that list, I noted that these five ingredients cross boundaries and are essential for all enterprises that wish to remain current and vibrant. Various companies are consistently re-inventing their image (i.e., updating logos, creating new slogans to reflect popular culture, re-targeting new audiences), creating new products (e.g., Coca-Cola Blak, via the Starbucks influence), and making sure they are connecting with other products, popular culture, and community, by connecting with and sponsoring movies and worthwhile causes, such as Starbucks promoting Akeelah and the Bee and the Earthwatch Expedition (see above). Coca-Cola and Ford have their fingers on the pulse of American pop culture and have leveraged themselves in the cultural phenomenon of American Idol. Who can forget those ubiquitous red Coca-Cola glasses that sit in front of the American Idol judges every time the camera focuses on them?
This is also true when looking at entertainment legends that have lasted throughout the years. Madonna, Elton John, George Clooney (especially in his recent humanitarian efforts), and John Travolta have fine tuned their images, evolved, and re-invented themselves. Although there are exceptions to the rule (e.g., The Rolling Stones, who still get satisfaction out of playing, “Satisfaction”), those who refuse to evolve are soon regarded as fads and fade rather quickly.
Small businesses and departments within companies often do not taken the time to look at themselves at these 30,000 and 40,000 foot levels that David Allen advocates and risk withering as the culture in which they exist evolves without them. Considering long-term goals and planning how to adapt to corporate, community, and cultural changes takes place at these levels.
My wife’s grandfather owned a thriving business in Kermit, West Virginia (USA) back in the 1950’s and 1960’s. His business, however, never evolved from that time. It never tried to target new customers, never changed it’s advertising strategies, and never changed itself in any way. Customer loyalty in a small town was depended upon to provide it’s steady income. The customers from the 50’s and 60’s grew old and began dying off. Since it never tried to target younger customers, The Fountain slowly died with its clientele. It finally closed in the 1990’s, upon the death of its owner after years of losing money. In fact, the entire community suffered from the same type of commercial atrophy and other communities eventually surpassed them in commerce, culture, and as thriving communities. Kermit is practically a ghost town now.
As you consider your company, department, and your place within them, remember the importance of I-FIRE — Innovation, Focus, Involvement, Re-invention, and Evolution — and Starbucks’ use of them to not only survive, but thrive.