Even though the last post in this series explored how important reekhange is to growth and success, change also has a negative side. How can change be bad? As Heraclitus said around 500 BCE, “The only thing that is constant is change” or maybe you prefer JFK’s quote, “Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.” However, the modern pace of change can be overwhelming. We finally get comfortable with our “new” touchscreen smartphone and wham, a new version comes along and changes everything. What was wrong with the old version? I regularly see clients with that little red dot on their App Store app: “37 updates” it declares. It also declares that change interferes with their productivity. Some companies force users to upgrade major engineering software packages year after year, even charging them a large, mandatory “maintenance and support” fee for the privilege. Should change be put on some sort of schedule? There is even a field called “Change Management,” which sounds like an oxymoron. Some major companies do not share the “change for the sake of change” philosophy and many times they get punished for it in the marketplace.
For example, the gaming world has declared that Nintendo refuses to change and has lost its ability to innovate. Even their most recent console is almost three years old and features basic hardware with cartoonish games while Sony’s Playstation and Microsoft’s Xbox systems support state of art, super realistic titles like Assassin’s Creed and Call of Duty. From the outside, it seems that Nintendo thinks that change is bad, but when I think about Nintendo, that’s the last thing that comes to mind. Nintendo is not mentioned in my post from several months ago, “WhatsApp with Innovation at Facebook?” because to me the company is synonymous with innovation. The first time my wife and I played the original Wii Tennis, it was a revelation! A wireless controller that sensed motion?! We played together and with our neighbors for hours. It was a whole new way of experiencing fun in video games that entire families and friends could share rather than separating generations. Nintendo’s internal game design group is even called “Entertainment Analysis and Development” which means they are constantly researching and developing the basic concept of “fun.”
So why won’t Nintendo upgrade their hardware and software? Why won’t they create titles for IOS and Android devices? It would be an instant success. The answer seems to be because their focus is not change for change’s sake, it is change for the sake of improving the world through games. We avoided upgrading to the new Wii U for years, but finally Nintendo began to make fun games for the new console like Mario Kart 8. You have to play it to see why it really is a breakthrough from the “fun” department.
Nintendo has finally been back in the news lately because they realize that they will have to change to improve quality of life through games. Mobile gaming is here to stay so they are beginning to take the steps necessary to compete in these new markets. Articles and videos like “Deconstructing the method to Nintendo’s madness,” “Game Maker’s Toolkit – Super Mario 3D World’s 4 Step Level Design,” and “This is why ‘Mario’ levels are brilliant” are finally communicating Nintendo’s vision to the world. Any company that can come up with names like Charvaarghs, Conkdors, Flopters, Fuzzlers, Grumblumps, Hop-Chops, and Horned Ant Troopers has innovation to spare. Nintendo is even trying to redefine the “first person shooter” with a game called “Splatoon.” Despite my love of video games, I still cringe at the lifelike killing in modern video games, so to swap killing with bullets to shooting ink at opponents might be a great way to appeal to a more humane part of the video gaming world. You can read all about this creative, non-violent shooter in this post from Gamespot, “The Ink is Stronger than the Bullet.”
So why is this post applicable to niche technology companies? Because change for the sake of change can create unnecessary stress and confusion, putting valuable resources into improving something that might not need improving at the moment. Shifting the focus to evaluating effect of change on the key contribution of a product or service is a better way to drive change, but it is still a fine line. Technology advances quickly – wait too long and you might miss a market disrupting trend. The next post in this series will provide some tips on how to walk “the razor’s edge” of change.