The Story of Ice

The Story of Ice

Evolve or Perish—A Tale of Warning Told by Guy Kawasaki

If you’ve seen Guy Kawasaki, the Silicon Valley venture capitalist, author, and Apple Fellow, give a presentation you’ve likely heard his version of the story of the ice industry.

Yes, there was once such a thing.

This real-life parable is applicable to companies of all sizes, all industries, and all levels of maturity, and the lesson is clear: evolve or perish.


Here’s the abbreviated version of Guy’s Jumping the Curve parable.

Once upon a time in the days before the freezer and fridge, there was the need for ice in people’s homes to keep food cold and fresh.

The first ice companies in the 1900s cut ice from frozen lakes and delivered it to homes for a fee. Of course, you had to live in a cold climate or winter needed to do its magic for this to happen. This was Ice 1.0.

Then Ice 2.0 came in the form of ice factories that then could make ice year-round, in any climate and they would also deliver it in blocks to people’s homes. This put the Ice 1.0 companies out of business.

And, then came the appliance companies who created a box that ran on electricity in people’s homes and kept things cool or frozen, and kept food fresh. This put the ice factories out of business. Refrigerators were Ice 3.0.

As the parable goes, the same companies who cut the ice from lakes did not make the leap into factories. Also true, the warehouse companies who made and delivered factory ice did not make the innovative leap into making refrigerators. This is business Darwinism but the difference is businesses often have a choice in the seeing and making of their own future.

In hindsight, the lessons are seemingly clear and obvious. Companies need to evolve or perish at the hands of innovation from other companies and the ever-evolving needs of customers. They need to jump the curve in their offering and their brand to stay relevant and stay in business.

It keeps happening.

Think of other industries that within the past decade have been forever altered. Once there was a travel agency on nearly every city street. Now we have Travelocity, Expedia, Airbnb and many others, and very few travel agencies. Look at what Uber and Lyft have done to taxi and limo companies. What Netflix did to Blockbuster. What Apple iTunes did to Virgin Megastores. What Amazon has done to bookstores and is doing to retailers.

Expert in evolution.

The extinction stories go on and on, but we don’t want to see this happen to you.

You see, most companies focus on the industry they’re in, the work at hand, and the money they’re currently making. They get marginally better at what they do.

Most, however, don’t make important innovative leaps; what Kawasaki calls curve jumping 10x leaps. Also true is that most companies wait too long to evolve their brand to be more connected, relevant, purpose-driven, and valuable to customers. Competitors out-position them and gain mind-share, heart-share, and market share in the process.

When old mindsets, approaches, methodologies, products, services, stories, or technologies are on the verge of extinction, too many companies stay the same. Companies get too comfortable making a profit or making ice, to see the big leaps in innovation coming right at them. Then extinction occurs.

Extinction doesn’t have to happen.

Look forward and think about your company and your brand.

  • What is your company doing to evolve your business and your brand?
  • Is your brand consistently delivering more innovation to serve your customers?
  • How is your brand offering staying present to what customers need?
  • What are the economic signals that are eating at you and urging you to innovate? Are you paying attention to the warning signs? What are you doing about this?
  • What are the footsteps you’re hearing from the competition that you haven’t addressed?
  • Where is the disconnection in your brand story that needs a deepened evolution?

Part of my work as an advisor to business leaders is to guide them through innovation…and leaps…and evolution. Caring for your evolution is part of my business. I’m here to ensure your relevance to the world continues. Learn more, here.

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