A Learning Organization

Learning organizations create a sustainable competitive advantage.

A Sustainable Competitive Advantage

An organization that has developed the capability to learn at a quicker pace than its competitors has created a sustainable competitive advantage.

The business world is littered with organizations that reached a dominant position in their industries and now no longer exist. They don’t exist because they did not, or could not adapt to their environment.

Companies that didn't make it:


At its largest in 2004, BlockBuster had 84,300 employees and 9,094 stores. Netflix actually approached BlockBuster in the early 2000’s in an attempt to sell Netflix to BlockBuster for $50 million. BlockBuster did not see the value, or the trend in industry, and passed on the deal. When BlockBuster filed for bankruptcy in 2010, Netflix was worth around $13 billion.


New England Motor Freight

NEMF, an 100-year-old company that had 2017 revenue of $402 million and specialized in LTL declared bankruptcy in February 2019. The company indicated that pressures with labour costs and downward pressures on contracts applied by Amazon made it unable to remain competitive. This bankruptcy occurred even though the LTL industry is still growing.


Hanjin Shipping

South Korea’s largest logistics and container transport company filed for bankruptcy in February 2017. The reasons provided were a downturn in the container shipping industry and changing spending patterns causing shifting trade lane demands.

Companies that did make it:


IBM used to be at the top of the Personal Computer world -until increased competition in the form of cheaper PC alternatives entered industry. IBM was a very large organization that had an incredibly difficult time transforming their operations. IBM innovated by abandoning what had made it so successful, left the PC industry and moved to IT services and enterprise server solutions. IBM survived and thrived.


Apple started in the computer business with the MacIntosh brand. In the 1990’s Apple was on the verge of bankruptcy. Microsoft actually bailed Apple out with a loan which kept them afloat. By the 2000’s Apple introduced the iPod and iTunes and then in 2007 the iPhone was released and Apple had successfully adapted to their changing environment.

So What?

In all of these scenarios, organizations were faced with constantly changing industries (as an aside – all industries change – even yours.) Those that managed to chart an innovative path, that changed along with their industries,thrived. Those that did not, either saw their share of market shrink, or disappeared altogether.

In future blogs, insight into how organizations can position themselves to adapt to their industry will be explored.

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