Does anyone wonder why mergers & acquisitions get so much attention? The media enjoys a love story and I believe M&As are often perceived as engagements that lead to happy marriages. Just look at the recent news about Southwest Airlines and Airtran. The bad news is that the facts do not support a happy marriage. Research indicates that anywhere from 50 percent to 80 percent of all mergers and acquisitions fail to provide any positive shareholder value.
Examples of failure abound in the post 1990s world – Sprint and Nextel; AOL and TimeWarner; Ford, Jaguar, and Land Rover; and AT&T and everyone else (NCR, Cingular, SBC).The goals of most M&As include increasing company reach, stability, and shareholder value. All worthy goals, but is there a better way that potentially has less risk and more upside?
Data suggests that there is. Innovation. Innovation in the form of new product development of both goods and services. New product development, done well, has a much higher success rate than M&As. M&A is often about corporate downsizing while innovation is about creation. Changing an organization’s focus to (or back to) home grown innovation or the application of a technology in a new way verses mergers & acquisition requires careful planning, cultural shift, change management, and a desire to win.
As we all know good things start with strategy. Paired with a culture of innovation and a talented pool of resources and the possibilities abound. Other countries are surging via their culture of innovation and their desire to succeed. But we in the USA seem to have lost our way.
I would like to put part of the blame on the long held educational concept of “every child a winner.” Let me explain. Every child should strive to be good at something and have a very positive self-esteem. But every child should also be familiar with the realities of the world by the time they exit high school and move on to other professional and educational endeavors. We cannot all be winners. To be winners we must innovate; we must challenge the status quo; we must make new mistakes; and we must imagine the impossible. Who do you blame for us loosing are way? Any other ideas out there?
As a country we are 23rd in Math and 17th in Science. Obviously we are not winning any prizes on that front. We do not lead the world in providing healthcare for the masses or in longevity. We do not have the lowest infant mortality rate and we are not the center of the universe in the development of new medications to fit disease or new procedures to relieve pain.
We have lost our way. And our once shining culture of innovation and hard work that lifted us to the moon and minimized childhood diseases is tarnished.
How do we begin to once more live and prosper within a culture of innovation, supported by a strategy that values the impossible? What can you do as an individual? Really, I am asking – what can you do? What should we do?