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A History of "Stuck"

Getting stuck is not a new phenomenon - leaders have been getting stuck since the beginning of time.  So, what is it that differentiates the companies who get unstuck from those who stay stuck? 

It’s the constant evolution of their core business model, and the eagerness to seek new insights from others. Most start by looking inside their company for insights – like Twitter’s company-wide hackathon. Some may even look to competitors for inspiration – like the Starbucks CEO’s jolt of inspiration from European coffeehouses. Others may look far beyond their core business for a new perspective – like the McVicker brothers learning about new uses for play-doh from their sister-in-law. 

The fact of the matter is, all business leaders get stuck – but it is those who take the time to seek insights from others, and act on those insights, who are able to find success. Check out our "Stuck" history below for a closer look at which companies were able to pivot and evolve and which organizations remained stuck. 

  1. 1982: Starbucks | Sticking Point: Business Model | UNSTUCK
    • Starbucks was founded in 1971 as a coffee producer and distributor for restaurants and espresso bars. After traveling to Italy, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz found inspiration in the European coffeehouse culture – and ultimately decided to transform his company into a coffeehouse. 
    • Starbucks is now an iconic international coffeehouse chain, serving coffee in over 20,000 locations worldwide. 
  2. 1995: Play-Doh | Sticking Point: Sales Strategy | UNSTUCK 
    • In the 1930s, the McVicker brothers created a wallpaper cleaner called Play-Doh. It was used to clean the residue that was left on the wall from coal heaters. However, as coal heaters quickly went out of style, their wallpaper cleaner did too. The McVicker brothers were stuck, until they gained some insight from their sister in law, Kay Zufall
    • A teacher at the time, Zufall shared that Play-Doh was a fantastic art and crafts material for kids. The McVicker brothers soon reinvented Play-Doh as a children’s toy. Now, play-doh is referred to as a “rite of passage” for kids. 
  3. 2001: Polaroid | Sticking Point: Digital Transformation | STUCK  
    • Since 1937, Polaroid has been notorious for its everlasting instant film cameras and high-quality camera equipment. However, as the photography industry shifted towards digital, Polaroid got stuck on transforming its products. Ultimately failing to expand their core and evolve with their industry, Polaroid declared bankruptcy twice – first in 2001, and second in 2008. 
  4. 2004: Tower Records | Sticking Point: Digital Transformation | STUCK
    • Tower Records was a leader in the retail music industry. Founded in 1960, Tower Records had decades of success selling CDs, cassette tapes, and DVDs before launching their online store in 1995. While Tower Records was one of the first in their industry to make the move to online sales, they could not keep up with the new streaming services of companies like iTunes, Spotify, and Pandora. Tower Records filed for bankruptcy in 2004
  5. 2005 : Yelp | Sticking Point: Business Model | UNSTUCK 
    • Yelp was founded by two former PayPal employees, Jeremy Stoppelman and Russel Simmons. Yelp began as an email platform for submitting requests to friends for local business recommendations. However, after receiving feedback from customers, Stoppelman and Simmons revamped Yelp into what it is now – a legendary business review site with over 171 million reviews of essentially every business type. 
  6. 2006: Netflix | Sticking Point: Digital Transformation | UNSTUCK 
    • Netflix originated as a DVD-by-mail service. However, finding inspiration in Youtube’s convenient and fast-paced business model, Netflix began their digital transformation and full-on business pivot to a digital streaming service in 2013.In January of 2019, Netflix reported over 139 million subscribers across the world. 
  7. 2007: Twitter | Sticking Point:  Business Model | UNSTUCK 
    • Twitter was founded in 2006, however it was originally called “Odeo.” Odeo was a platform for podcast sharing. As the platform faded in popularity, the company knew it needed to evolve. Odeo asked their team for help – enlisting all of their employees in a 2-week hackathon to brainstorm new ideas. In 2006, Odeo reinvented itself as Twitter. Twitter is now a wildly popular social media platform – with a net worth of over 4 billion dollars. 
  8. 2010: Blockbuster | Sticking Point: Digital Transformation | STUCK 
    • Blockbuster had instant success as a home and video-game rental service when it was created in 1985. At its peak in 2004, Blockbuster had over 9,000 stores across the globe. However, with the rise of digital streaming services, Blockbuster’s in-store model became more and more inconvenient. Without efforts to execute a digital transformation, Blockbuster ultimately filed for bankruptcy in 2010