480 AD, Dalmatia….
The sky was shimmering in tinges of orange and red, or more like the tip of a candle flame flickering in irregular patches. The Dinaric range or the Dinaric Alps stretching in miles across the Adriatic Sea was looming large like a sentinel through eons. The snowcapped ridges were reflecting the slanting rays of the sun piercing through the coloured tinges back to the sky. It was not far away from where Julius Nepos, the Roman Emperor of the west was strolling at a rapid pace on the parapet of the fortification. He could see the small column comprising not even hundreds of his men below waiting for him to join. The scouts have just informed him about the movement of Odoacer, the head of the Germanic Foederati with thousands of his men few miles away who was on the prowl to oust him. Nepos hurried through the long corridor of the palace, down the few flights of stairs to join his waiting men. Time was running out for him, his men now striding fast immediately to scurry him to safety away from the gripe of merciless Odocer. Nepos slowly glanced back at his palace constructed by his ancestors hundreds of years ago “I would be back, I will reclaim you very soon”, he thought with the teary eyes, emotions engulfing his pained soul…
However, little did he imagine that he would be reckoned as the last Roman Emperor, little did he imagine that his would be the last hands to clasp the scepter of the Roman Empire passed from Caesar to Octavian and through the glorious ages of Pax Romana or the Roman peace.
Sometimes, he never knew, later in the history, this would go down as the end of the Roman Empire of the West and he as the last Roman Emperor1!
December 4, 1991, Miami, Last of the Clippers2….
Captain Mark S Pyle maneuvered his flight 436, a Boeing 727-200 through some fluffy cumulous clouds and the Mimi skyline was just in front of his eyes, a serenity he enjoyed many times before. The flight engineer has just communicated a low pass as requested by the ground staff, “they want us to make us a low pass over the field.” Mark, who would have thought this a joke otherwise, executed it today with an eerie emotion but with utmost care. He descended the plane further and adjusted the cockpit panels for final approach and landing. The center line of the Runway 30 was now visible and Mark could see the formations of the men and women waiting to greet the ‘last of the Clippers’, the last flight of the Pan American World Airways…it slowly dawned on him, this is the end of the 64 year old American airline, a cultural icon credited with many innovations in the airline industry….
From the Roman Empire to the Pan Am World Airways, there are umpteen examples of fall of the high and mighty all throughout the human history, from the biggest of the empires to the mightiest of the corporations. Much has been written on the reasons, many hypotheses will still be formed; however, delving deeper leads to the only one reason – their rate of innovation was not synchronous with what was exacted by the changing environment.
In simpler words – they fell because they failed to innovate.
(Part 2 answers the following – Why do the stalwarts fail to respond to the situation? Why do they fail to innovate? How can a business firm remain Innovative ?)