CEO Coaching: Opposing Innovation

When automobiles were first developed, some cities banned them. Thoroughbreds and quarter horses went on strike nationwide, looking for protective legislation.

Many people nowadays will feel like a thoroughbred soon. Writers in the broadcast industry already do. I drove past a picket line at Fox Studio in L.A. last week. The thing is, complaining won’t help. If there’s a way to cheaply and quickly satisfy a marketplace need, “it” will win.

Opposing innovation won’t increase your win-loss ratio. Although I understand how it feels to become somewhat or completely replaceable, that anger won’t overcome an overwhelming business opportunity. It hasn’t stopped offshoring (nor should it), it won’t bring back 8-track players, it didn’t prevent automobiles, it doesn’t sell typewriters, and it won’t stop AI. Spend your energy figuring out how to use it.

Joseph Schumpeter termed the Darwinian process of business as “creative destruction.” It’s a requirement for innovation and capitalism. And capitalism, as we know (unless you ignore the evidence), is the most successful economic system, but it has costs. Socialism and communism cannot stop innovation either, though they’re good at slowing things down!

I have significant questions and anxiety about how AI will affect our lives. But I also know it won’t be stopped. The key question is: How will we imbue it with the values that we want?

Many have written recently about AI. My bigger point is that opposing innovation and progress (especially when it has significant benefit to many people) is silly. If you are in a leadership role and thinking about how to stop progress to maintain your business model, sell the business. Standing in the way of a steamroller isn’t a good strategy. Better to go home and listen to your 8-track player. Maybe some Bee Gees.

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