When a “Goliath” (Microsoft) is called an underdog

What a coincidence! When I posted last week on how being innovative can help businesses be more competitive – whether they were a “David” or “Goliath” -type business – I never thought that I would be able to write a followup to the post so quickly till I read this story on The Huffington Post.

The Scandal!

Apparently on Wednesday, Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg did a press release with Microsoft to announce the Bing and Facebook partnership.  where he was quoted saying:

“The thing that makes Microsoft a great partner for us is that they really are the underdog…”

and he followed up that statement with:

“Because of that, they’re in a structural position where they’re incentivized to just go all out and innovate… rapidly trying to gain share by doing stuff no one has done before.”

Is Microsoft really an “underdog”?

While it created a nice little morning scandal, I think that Zuckerberg’s reference was referring to Microsoft’s forays and efforts in the social networking scene.

But to Microsoft’s credit, Zuckerberg also recognised that the tech “Goliath” had the structural position to engage in a process of re-invention and innovation. And by structural position, I’m sure it also included resources.

In my earlier post, I had defined what it took to be a “David” and a “Goliath” type organisation. And since Microsoft had the “structural position”[in other words, leadership (some would say is debatable)the billion dollar war chest, distribution channels,  partnerships, etc], this was no “David”.

So Microsoft is a “Goliath” (albeit an “underdog” in the social networking space.)

I had mentioned that in order to for a “Goliath” to be innovative, it needed to have a spirit of entrepreneurship as its engine to spur change in that direction. So, here we see Microsoft’s Bing team, breaking away from Microsoft’s usual practice of giving us what they think we need – in the way they think we need it – to understanding what we want in terms of a search – relevance, intuition, organisation and the social experience. Now, I’m not really a tech analyst or watcher, so I’ll just turn this conversation back to the business concepts behind Microsoft’s new “underdog” competitive position.

In fact, I think if Microsoft continues reinventing itself and manages to translate its success across its product range, the idea of being an “underdog” should be a badge of honor because it just means there is still the possibility that you would be the one with the breakthrough. Even better, when coupled with an abundance of resources.

After innovating, then what?

I think Microsoft should take a leaf from Apple’s “Business Sustainability” manual (if one exists). A great example of its superior sustainability capabilities is its ability to replicate the success of one platform and translate it  across multiple platforms. For example, the App Store for iPhone apps, being replicated for its iPad, and now the latest update that there would be an App Store for Macs too! It’s a simple but innovative idea. And many organisations, not just Microsoft, could learn from it.

Parting Words

Finally, whether your organisation is a David, Goliath, underdog or champion – it is a matter of whether your organisation has the right “structural position” to sustain growth by constantly reinventing and innovating at every critical point.


About Michelle Ling

Michelle is the founder of Adonai Group Pte Ltd - a boutique business consultancy that advises organisations on organizational sustainability.
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