A&P, the Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company, did not keep up with the times.  The Wall Street Journal reported that A&P’s recent bankruptcy filing may indicate its demise.  With roots back to 1859, it was the first real supermarket. Its 1,700 stores dwindled to 400, and now stores will be sold off or closed.

Some attribute the fall to expanding too slowly from the city to the suburbs. Others, to a lack of leadership after its founders passed on and their heirs’ lack of interest and investment caused a stagnation from which the business couldn’t recover. And certainly there was the steep competition with companies like Whole Foods and Target.  Growing up in Philadelphia, A&P was my family’s local store and it is sad to witness its collapse.  But whatever the reason, A&P’s story is a clear warning: innovate or, at least, keep up.

Now compare that with Zappos, where change and innovation are a way of life.  In its effort to maintain a small firm culture, Zappos has announced Holacracy – it’s a flat management system in which, as I understand it, there are no managers and no titles.   Team members set their own agendas, make their own decisions about returns or sending flowers, and circle groups vet problems.  Days start with Zappo Stage in which morning news is shared.

Today, there seems to be no such thing as a sustainable competitive advantage (unless maybe if the business is highly regulated). Innovation and creativity (think Airbib and Uber helping create the sharing economy), strategy, process, a portfolio of projects, and empathy are the watchwords of our times.

Looking at companies, it is so easy to see the difference between those that innovate, those that keep up, and those that haven’t moved fast enough.  But I think it is so much harder to detect stagnation on an individual level.  My friend and colleague, Marc Bassin  (I interviewed him for Top Sales Magazine for leadership and change management), when we worked together, often ended workshops asking managers to commit to three changes, one of which had to be bold.  What Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos (does he keep his title?), has done qualifies in my book as the boldest.  It is a change we all will be watching. It did get me thinking about what bold change I can make?  What about you?