Do you still hear all of the canaries in your coal mine?

Canary in the coal mine.jpg

One way to think about Sears is that it originally disrupted retail even more than Amazon is doing right now:

"The Sears catalog had an even bigger impact in 1900 than Amazon has had today," said Robert Gordon, a professor at Northwestern University and author of The Rise and Fall of American Growth. Like today’s e-commerce powerhouse, the Sears catalog provided shoppers more choice than ever before, and at lower prices. Sears freed shoppers from the tyranny of the local general merchant and improved their living standards. "The cost of living went down the minute Sears became available," said Gordon. (From "The Long, Hard, Unprecedented Fall of Sears," by Kim Bhasin and Lance Lambert, on 

Even as late as 1995, the year after Amazon launched, Sears was in the top 15 revenue producing companies in any industry.

Today there is a good chance they will becomes extinct. Not just bankrupt. Gone.

Sooner or later, as Morgan Housel succinctly explains, all competitive advantages die. Which leads to some questions for independent schools:

  • How many successful independent schools = pre-decline Sears?
  • More to the point, what is your school's competitive advantage? What will be your license to operate over the next few decades?
  • Do you have a culture that will enable you to create new advantages before the old ones die?

Someone needs to listen for the canaries in the coal mine...


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