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Similarities between the introduction of the iPad and the Corona crisis

The current Corona crisis leaves many businesses in a lot of uncertainty about the future. Many companies face a significant decrease in turnover. Interestingly, this shows similarities with the introduction of the iPad in 2010. Do you want to know these similarities?

Read about why your organisation has to anticipate today, and about our three most important learnings.

When the iPad was introduced in 2010, a publishing company predicted that the introduction of the iPad would cause a 70% sales decrease in hard copy magazines and subscriptions by 2020. The online world was hardly existing back then and nobody knew how this would pan out. The magazine publisher had a decade to find a solution but was not sure about which direction to take. In the current Corona crisis, many companies don’t know either: many of the short-term emergency measures will become the new normal, but which ones?

Studies and empirical research describe the situation of these companies as complex. It is important to understand that complexity makes it impossible to predict patterns of the future. The normal way of strategy forming is therefore not effective and organisations should seek alternative ways. 

The answer lies in conducting many safe fail experiments within a shared set of rules (boundaries). Safe fail literally means that it is “safe to fail”: there are little resources invested and that it is easy to kill the experiment when not successful. When successful, the organisation should of course be able to scale up quickly. What we see in many organisations is that experiments are the opposite, they are just the first step of a giant roll out. The publisher in this case started a series of experiments in several countries on web fora, digital magazines, interaction with readers, and more things that we find common nowadays. It is an example of successfully adapting to new opportunities. 

So, start today with our three important learnings from this case:

1) Accept uncertainty: When you accept the complexity, you accept that there is no cause and effect relationship visible upfront. Therefore, regular strategy forming processes do not work.

2) Set a clear purpose of your organisation and define rules for experimenting: Be clear on the company’s purpose. For example, the purpose of the publishing company was to remain customer relevant in off- and online content. We advise you to define specific rules (called boundaries in complexity theory) within which your company can start to experiment. Examples of these rules are: 

  1. Experiments should always create customer value

  2. Experiments should start small and develop quickly to a larger scale

  3. Experiments should be bold with ambitious goals that innovate the sector 

3) Start bottom up experiments: Start experimenting within your organisation. Involve employees that are in day to day contact with customers, trust them with coming up with the right ideas. Create multidisciplinary teams to boost creativity and enable quick roll outs. Managers should delegate maximum authority to experiment teams in order to maximise productivity and ownership. Additionally, this enables managers to focus on staying connected, communication, and providing perspective. Read more about this in our recent blog on leadership.

The theory of these learnings is the easy part, putting them into practice is hard. Keep in mind that you should never waste a good crisis, maybe your experiment teams will discover the next breakthrough innovation in your sector!

Are you triggered about the impact of complexity on your organisation and do you want to create momentum to get a head start? We are more than ready to help you explore new opportunities! On our website we will share more blogs, hand-outs and other materials related to the current Corona situation.

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