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Are You Dead Yet?

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As I think back to my childhood, some of the most beautiful and prolific actors that had ever hit the big screen (at that time) were alive and famous. Their popularity was off the charts. For me, it was the Marilyn Monroe’s, and the Humphrey Bogart’s of the world that I recall the adult generation being enamored with. Even the ones that are not dead most are no longer in the limelight. What about the music we used to listen to? Have you ever reminisced about the songs you heard and what you were doing back then, and who you were with when the songs were popular? When a song hits the radio now, or some other music venue, your mind often goes into reflection mode. Some of those artists are dead now, some are old or ill, and some just ran out of gas, and others may even be pumping gas, sadly enough. But when they were alive or popular, they were the real deal. They just reached the end of their cycle.


Companies are no different. Think back of some of the products you use to use; possibly, cassette players, or even eight track players (if you are old enough), what about VSH tapes or even typewriters, these products have all gone by the wayside. In fact, as of 2008, information analysis shows only 71 companies that were on the fortune 500 list when it began were still on the list then. The main reason they are not, is lack of innovation, according to business guru Jim Collins. And even more resent companies and products are enjoying shorter and shorter shelf lives, so to speak. “In the 1980s it took just five years for one-third of the Fortune 500 to be replaced. And in the 1970s it took the entire decade to replace the Fortune 500. By contrast, in the 1950s and 1960s it took two decades.” 2012 by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. **

My dad (may he rest in peace) for most of my life was in the typewriter wholesale business. He sold typewriters for as long as I could remember. It was all he knew, and he was good at it. Into the marketplace came word processors, then computers, which upset the whole typewriter industry. My dad never made that transition into the new market innovations. The eventuality was that his industry slowly migrated into extinction. Fortunately for my dad, he was near retirement at that time, and did so. Like my dad many companies don’t position themselves properly in the innovation cycles.

Business schools teach all companies and or products progress sequentially through four stages of existence: introduction, growth, maturity, and decline, that (like the artists) corresponds to birth through death. An example of this is, a new product is envisioned and a company is developed around that product; it expands in recognition and acceptability (in some cases becomes the industry standard); after some time requests for the product levels off; and then demand starts to decline. Understanding the implications of each of these stages creates opportunity for each entrepreneur to become prepared for the innovations needed over a lifetime.


The introduction stage is the birth of a company based upon a formidable idea. Birth of a company often overlaps the late testing and development cycle. During this stage is when design strategies are in play. Companies are still researching the marketplace to refine product or service performance. They are talking to customers, getting feedback so as to make adjustments in product or process as needed.

This is a stag that is very important because public awareness is very low or non-existent, and if people don’t know your product exist, they won’t buy it. Therefore, the product, presentation, marketing and support team must be innovative in order to capture public interest, because without it, products often fail to get off the starting block.


If you are innovative enough to get your product out of the introduction stage, you enter the stage of growth. In this stage large amounts of money will be spent (marketing and advertising) to demonstrate that your products are better than competitors. Statistics show this is where most companies get into trouble and often fail, because it requires the innovative ability to design products, processes, supply systems and performance to match the demand and at the same time be able to maintain customer satisfaction and growth. If there is an imbalance in judgment, in one direction or another, the company gets into trouble.

Innovative solutions are always required to get companies from one stage to the next.


If you have been innovative enough to get your product out of the growth stage, you now enter the maturity stage. At this stage sales grow at a very fast rate and eventually begin to stabilize. Typically, you will spend a great deal of time in this stage. This is the pinnacle of company life cycle. As growth becomes more recognizable in the marketplace, more competitors enter the arena and saturation causes sales to taper off. The key to surviving in this phase is to find creative ways to separate your product and ideas from competitors that have entered your marketplace. The strategy at this point is to creatively refine products, service, and system processes in order to retain customers. Design and development of the next generation of offerings should be well under way. If there is no second generation product or services, the company generally gets into trouble. Therefore, innovative thinking is needed to create the next generation of products that will fit suitably into the marketplace.


This is the end of the cycle. Product sales continue to decline and primary market is at risk because everyone who needs your product has bought, or new more innovate products have hit the market which renders your product obsolete. The design focus is to minimize maintenance costs and develop transition strategies to create Segway’s into new products. The only way for products to survive in this stage is to cut prices. Testing next generation should be well underway at this point.

One of the drawbacks of this philosophy is that sometimes products don’t always follow the same cycle. Many products don't even make it through all four stages. Some products even bypass stages. For example, one product may go straight from the Introduction stage to the Maturity stage. This is the problem with the PLC. There is no set way for a product to go. Therefore, every product requires a great deal of research and close supervision throughout its life. Without proper research, supervision and innovation, your product will probably never get through all four stages. Some products even bypass stages. For example, one product may go straight from the Introduction stage to the Maturity stage.

Today’s Market

In today’s market, products are passing faster and faster through life cycles. In fact companies are challenged to get their products entered into the marketplace even before its ready. How many times do we see hardware software companies come out with version after version? The bottom line is that speed to market has become a requirement in some industries in order to survive.

Planned Obsolescence

Planned innovation builds into the company a strategy for making products obsolete. What this means is designing into the DNA of the product a limited shelf life, by virtue of being no longer useful or unfashionable in “X” period of time. Planned innovation builds into a product a replacement time for product and/or parts. What this does is to stimulate demand by encouraging purchasers to buy sooner if they still want a functioning product.

The downside of this strategy is once customers learn of this pre-programing, or understands the cost of replacement, they may opt for a better product (even if it cost more) to secure a longer life cycle, and the headache of product down-time.

Finding Hidden Value

I have heard many people refer to being innovative as finding new inventions and coming up with new ideas for products. They think that finding that one new product will make them the fortune they need to transcend them into a lifetime of never ending wealth. However, we at 90 Degree Office Concepts believe, every company has untapped resources, be it in their, employees, system of process, knowledge, customer list or technology. Looking for unique ways to utilize these resources is a great start to becoming more innovative.

Bridging resources from other companies and/or field of knowledge to another is another great opportunity to amass innovative properties. Finding ways to blend what’s already known with what you do or know is a way to be innovative without inventing the wheel.

This is a strategy 90 Degree Office Concepts has used well to its advantage. We have married office furniture manufacturing with office design strategies, human behavior sciences and system technology. What this does for us is to be able to offer to our clients an office environment that not only functions well, but is perceived in better light, offers a design flare, and marketable at factory direct pricing.

Developing Innovative DNA

Staying in step with life cycles by understanding where you and your products are in that system and planning innovative strategies in the appropriate stages will help to guard against future problems. The needs of how a product is handled changes over the course of life cycle. During the introduction phase, is where we work to refine and tune a product. During the growth stage, focus is on scaling supply and performance. During maturity stage focus on customer satisfaction through performance and improved support. During decline stage, focus on facilitating transition to next generation of products. Note that the next generation begins during the growth stage or sooner as industry demands.

In most cases, based on results, companies fail to find innovative solutions to perennially exist in the innovative arena. Great ideas are generally short-lived because the original idea is what so many companies hang their proverbial hats on well into the decline stage before realizing where they are in the process. At 90 Degree Office Concepts, we feel innovation is not something we do, but rather it’s something we are, something that is built into the entire company’s DNA. Therefore every fiber of existence must give that message.

At 90 Degree Office Concepts, we feel it is important to understand the dynamics of these life cycles in order to focus business and design resources accordingly. History shows the primary resource needed through the life cycle is innovation. Without an innovative mindset a company will pass rapidly through the vicissitudes of the life cycle and wind up where so many have gone before now. In order to maintain an innovative mindset, all the dots must be connected, without inconsistencies as to who you are. To do that all sensory perceptions must give the same message; what the world sees, hears, smells, feels (and in some cases) tastes all must be congruent.

At 90 Degree Office Concepts, we can help you find create innovative solutions in design to improve your company’s innovative perception.

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Great service furniture installed quickly and ahead of time. Bernie our Sales Rep was great. Very happy!

Paul Sewell
Jul 24, 2014