When is a business problem really an identity problem? (Just ask Yahoo)

One of my favorite quotes is from Albert Einstein, who said (something like) “problems can’t be solved at the same level of awareness that created them.” That means that you can’t churn the same data and gain insight into solutions. Cause those data are born of the problem!

Which leads me to my point: Often, a seeming business problem, is something else; it’s an identity problem. You just don’t recognize it.

If you want to know when a business problem may be an identity problem, here are 5 signs to watch out for – any one will do the trick. 1) Frequent re-organizations, 2) a growing portfolio of un-integrated acquisitions, 3) loss of brand relevance, 4) persistent turnover at senior levels, and 5) low employee engagement.

At the moment, the poster child for this alternate reality is Yahoo. The notion that Yahoo has an identity problem is public knowledge; my concern is that Marissa Mayer, Yahoo’s new CEO, and her team aren’t going to ask the right questions. (Deciding whether the concern is a media company or a content company is, at best, a place to start.)

If any of the signs I note above apply to your company, change the conversation, now. You’ll be surprised at what emerges.




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