Infinite and invincible … building a “growth portfolio” that drives transformational change … exploiting today while also exploring tomorrow

February 21, 2023

Shigetaka Komori, CEO of Fujifilm has a mantra, “never stop transforming.”

As a result, the Japanese business has created innovative solutions in a wide variety of fields, leveraged its imaging and information technology to become a global presence known for innovation in healthcare, graphic systems, optical devices, specialist materials and other high-tech areas.

In the 1960s, Fujifilm was a distant second place to Kodak in the photographic film market. But today, digitalisation has transformed how we take photos, Kodak is gone (bankrupt in 2012), and Fujifilm has shifted focus and resources into new areas.

In 2000 the film-related business accounted for 60% of Fujifilm’s sales and 70% of its operating profit but fell to less than 1% within a decade. The traditional photographic imaging business, the core of the business, was largely replaced by other types of imaging, such as for healthcare.

“Whilst Kodak tried to survive in a declining market, Fujifilm looked to new futures” says Komori, when contrasting how the two companies responded to market change.

Imaging rapidly evolved into digital information, and a vast range of new businesses emerged in areas from medical system to pharmaceuticals, regenerative medicine to cosmetics, flat panel displays to graphic systems.

As an example, Fujifilm’s cosmetics business started in 2006 with the launch of its Astalift skin-care products, which then extended into make-up, and from them into other types of medical and wellbeing solutions. Whilst camera film and cosmetics might seem unrelated, camera film happened to be the same thickness (around 0.2 mm) as human hair. Collagen was used in its film to retain the material qualities, such as moisture and elasticity, over time. This expertise in manufacturing collagen is also fundamental to making skincare products.

Fujifilm introduced medical diagnostic imaging systems using its digital camera technology, which then gave it a platform for doing fundamental research into new medicines. Drug development is increasingly built on informatics, such as genetic analysis, fields in which Fujifilm could combine its expertise, giving it an advantage over traditional pharma companies.

You can see the transformations of Fujifilm here:

Infinite and invincible

In his book “The Infinite Game”, Simon Sinek explore how businesses can achieve long-lasting success, a relentless approach to transformation and growth, and sustained long-term value.
“In finite games, like football or chess, the players are known, the rules are fixed, and the endpoint is clear. The winners and losers are easily identified” he says. “In infinite games, like business or politics or life itself, the players come and go, the rules are changeable, and there is no defined endpoint. There are no winners or losers in an infinite game; there is only ahead and behind.”

Many businesses struggle because their business has a finite, or fixed, mindset. They set themselves an internal goal to be the best at something, or to launch a specific product, and they end up being a slave to it. Such narrowly-defined, sales-targeted, product-centric businesses find it difficult to break out of their current approach. They only know how to do more of the same with diminishing returns. Sales stagnate, momentum is lost, innovation slows, energy dips, and they lag behind.

Leaders with an infinite, or growth, mindset – not just in terms of experimenting to find new ways forwards, but in terms of their whole approach to strategy and innovation – do much better. They are purpose-driven, growth targeted, customer-centric. This builds direction and alignment, momentum and energy. These factors drive them naturally to keep evolving, to adapt and innovate, to move with a changing world. They even create a rhythm of change ahead of the market, and so can shape the world to their advantage.

Creating a growth portfolio

Alex Osterwalder and Yves Pigneur famously created the business model canvas, a one-page diagram in which to capture the essential components of any business model, and crucially to explore the connections and trade-offs which exist between different choices. However, they increasingly found that the best companies develop a series, or portfolio of business models, which can serve them over time.

Their new book is “The Invincible Company” because companies who build a growth portfolio are sustained over time, not just in mindset, but also by a whole series of great ideas, innovations and business models that ensure its success today, and into the future.

Invincible companies manage a dynamic portfolio of established and emerging businesses – to protect established business models from disruption as long as possible, while simultaneously cultivating the business models of tomorrow. They need to “exploit” the present, and “explore” the future

  • Exploit the present requires leaders to manage and improve the existing businesses, focusing on their profitability, and their risk of disruption by new competitors, new technology, new markets, or regulatory changes.
  • Explore the future requires leaders to also search for new areas of growth, evaluating the potential profitability of new ideas which is drive by size and scalability, and also the risk associated with innovation, and how to make new ideas more certain.

To remain relevant and prosperous companies need to develop truly “ambidextrous” organisational structures which can create the future, whilst also delivering today. Innovation becomes just as important as delivery, but requires a distinctive culture, distinctive skills and metrics in order to be explorers of the future.

Leading for relentless growth

Leaders, themselves, need to be ambidextrous – to be the delivers of today, and also the creators of tomorrow.

Komori’s success has not come through creating one business, but a sequence of business concepts which keep building off each other. This sequence might take the form of leveraging distinctive capabilities with various applications into different sectors like Alphabet has done, or it might be about taking more businesses to the same audience as Apple, or it might be a series of ways of working within the same sector as Microsoft.

Amazon is a good example of a company that intentionally manages a diverse portfolio of existing and promising new business models. The company continues to produce growth with its existing businesses (online retail, AWS, logistics), whilst also developing a portfolio of potential future growth engines that may become big profit generators one day (Alexa, Echo, Dash Button, Prime Air, Amazon Fresh, etc).

Long-term sustained growth is built on a portfolio of short and long-term innovative business models. Such “invincible” companies can better allocate capital and resources at each stage of development. A culture and process that drives a continuous flow of new ideas and innovation is much more likely to sustain your business in turbulent times and uncertain futures.

© Peter Fisk. Excerpt from his book “Business Recoded: Have the courage to create a better future” published by Wiley.

More for business leaders from Peter Fisk:

  • Next Agenda of best ideas and priorities for business
  • Megatrends 2030 in a world accelerated by pandemic
  • 49 Codes to help you develop a better business future
  • 250 companies innovators shaking up the world
  • 100 leaders with the courage to shape a better future
  • Education that is innovative, issue-driven, action-driving
  • Consulting that is collaborative, strategic and innovative
  • Speaking that is inspiring, topical, engaging and actionable

More from the blog