We Need To Turn This Thing Up To 11. A Sad Saab Story

For all the petrolheads out there, you may have shed a tear at the sad demise of the Saab brand a few years ago. Esoteric and uncompromising, Saab pursued their own furrow. And they won hardcore fans, mainly architects.

I was watching an old episode of Top Gear a few nights ago, about the sad death of the Scandinavian brand.

“Saab were always pathological about safety…but…”

There is always a but.

Safety first, right? I concur. But at any and all cost? Such that it puts the future of the company at peril? Maybe not. We all need to evolve our thinking and approaches, to deal with new, emergent realities. Saab was not so prepared.

The Top Gear piece is an excellent learning piece about an (over)commitment to a self-belief system: that our way is the (only) right way.

When Saab and Lancia tried to collaborate, there was an exacting difference between Lancia and Saab engineers’ approach to safety. When GM took over the failing brand and tried (and failed) to get Saab to re-engineer their processes, the end was nigh.

“I really like the way they did things. It is a sad day.”

Indeed. The result? Brand death.

Uncompromising is a great trait when you are winning. It can set us apart from the competition. It speaks to values, to eternal truths. However, in a fast changing marketplace of ideas and products and methodologies, it can also place us on the wrong side of history.

I am taken by the story because so much of a knowledge worker’s worldview is constantly under attack, pressured by emergent practices and products. A continued commitment to what we knew to be right is often our own death knell.

Instead, we need to embrace new and emergent realities, we need to be lifelong learners, willing in some case to go backwards, against the grain, to re-evaluate and re-format. Learn, unlearn, relearn.

It is often a sad process, unravelling what we built, redefining what it means to be good and right. It is also the only work at hand.

←This Much We Know.→

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