Why Great Organizations Fail and How to Innovate Before It's Too Late

A personal message from the author:

Is your organization slowly succumbing to Victory Disease due to previous successes that prevent you from changing for the future? Characterized by arrogance, bureaucracy and complacency, many organizations are suffering from one or more of its symptoms. First diagnosed by the Japanese military after their World War II loss, Victory Disease is a very real malaise that now affects many modern organizations.

–Mick Simonelli 

More than seventy years ago, Japanese historians used the term “Victory Disease” to refer to their self-defeating behavior during World War II that included beliefs of invincibility and a divine right to victory. After a series of decisive early wins, the Japanese felt and acted as if they were unbeatable. Yet, the tremendous Japanese victories created a false sense of security that eventually led to their crushing defeat and their nation’s humiliation. After the war, U.S. military analysts adopted the term “Victory Disease”, pointing to many other battles where they saw it playing a significant role.

Victory Disease describes a cultural malady that Japan could have avoided if it had recognized the symptoms and acted in time. Characterized by arrogance, bureaucracy, and complacency, Victory Disease brought about the unanticipated defeat of a formidable military that saw great initial success. While military operations and strategists have since recognized the disease as a known phenomenon, this book shows how the behavior of many modern organizations mimics the symptoms of the World War II Japanese and their reluctance to change.

Victory Disease: Why Great Organizations Fail and How to Innovate before It's Too Late examines how successful organizations are in the midst of either succumbing to or overcoming this dreaded malady. With Victory Disease, the by-product of previous successes creates cancerous environments, a breeding ground for thriving organizations to begin developing malignant behaviors. The organizational culture becomes geared toward the status quo, which perpetuates groupthink and the belief of invincibility. Successful organizations easily fall into the trap of rewarding risk-averse behavior, where new ideas are minimized or killed to avoid disrupting previous winning ways.

But in today’s hyper-innovation environment, new products, services, and solutions become the difference-makers. Modern organizations must continuously produce new value to stay on top. Yet, many established companies remain stuck in the circumstances of their current success, displaying the same predictable symptoms as did the Japanese during World War II—all the while denying their infection’s severity. Barely able to look toward the future, they remain enamored with past successes—achievements that become outdated and irrelevant over time. Unlike previous eras, the current pace of change demands new business models and practices.

Successful organizations must continue to change and adapt . . . or die. Victory Disease examines the malaise direly affecting successful businesses and prescribes an antidote: a practical remedy for renewed organizational health and longevity.

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