Necessity is the Mother of Reinvention

This past week, I had the privilege of spending a few days with the senior leadership team of a large Canadian pharmaceutical company, the first official L’Institut client. As a joint venture of Wunderkind, Scientific Intelligence, and Montreal agency Bleublancrouge, this new “laboratory for Great Ideas” had its maiden voyage with this client. And their stated purpose for the whole project is to have L’Institut  help them “successfully reinvent” themselves.

First, why was this necessary? Reinvention takes courage, commitment, and resources. It’s far easier just to stay exactly what and where you are. Or just make some incremental improvements. Why question your business model, your current products and services, the positioning of your company, what kind of people you hire, or what kind of culture you nurture? The answer that the president of this company gave me was simple:  “We have to reinvent ourselves, or we won’t have a company in 5 to 10 years.” Necessity is the mother of reinvention.

In his sector, the generic pharma industry, the regulatory and competitive pressures are such that without changing their strategic focus and their portfolio of products and services, they will remain the leading company in a dying sector. In other words, what good is it to lead your industry when your very industry, in its current form, is on the way out?

Reinvention—of a product, a brand, a company, or an entire way of doing business—happens either because you have no choice, or because you give yourself no choice. Serial entrepreneurs and inventors reinvent on a regular basis, not because they have to in order to survive, but because their instincts and their drive tell them that this is where the action is and this is how they’ll make a mark. You can make a living, for a time, with status quo. But you can make a killing with reinvention.

Today, the need for reinvention and the rewards that await those who do it successfully are greater than ever before. In the eyes of the president of this pharma company and his key lieutenants, I could sense very little fear or desperation. Nor would I call what I saw grim resolve, as though they were being dragged against their wills into flux and change. Instead, I saw eagerness—and anticipation. To make a game-changing move is both scary and exhilarating. Just ask the folks who started Cirque du Soleil, a company that totally transformed a dying category (circuses) into something entirely new, exciting, and incredibly valuable.

So here’s to those in every industry, and every corner of the business world, who not only embrace change, but become the very change itself.