The recent announcement of Atari filing for bankruptcy brings back misty memories of watching my brother’s epic Ms. Pac-Man-record-breaking afternoons when we were kids.  It was the stuff legends were made of.  I share these stories with my children in a magical way so that when they see the rare Ms. Pac-Man arcade machine, they are sure to say, “Uncle Richard would be really awesome at that.”

These emotional associations make a little sister’s reaction to a bankruptcy announcement somewhat unreasonable: “WHY?!  How can my childhood hero be financially troubled?!?!”

The obvious answer: Childhood memories do not keep companies relevant.

When I read Smart Thinking by Art Markman, I realized that making sure you and your business stay relevant is similar to breaking a bad habit.  When business is going well, it’s easy to fall into comfortable habits – especially when they initially had beneficial outcomes.  Repeating these habits without evaluation prevents progress.  Here are 3 ways that Markman recommends to change habits and maintain business relevance:   

1. Change the environment

If the current environment does not promote progress, change it.  Campbell’s CIO, Joseph Spagnoletti, worked with the marketing team to build a digital environment to boost sales.  He pushed out over 100 applications that reside in the cloud.  Changing to a cloud environment minimized the risk of investment allowing for effective testing of multiple possibilities before full roll out.

2. Disrupt the environment

Confuse the current habits to bring attention to what needs to change.  Remember the famous website crash of 2011?  These types of disruptions kept Centre College mindful as they planned to host the 2012 VP debate.  The small college prepared its website by hosting it on the cloud for the scalability needed for the kinds of crowds it did not typically host.  Experiencing a disruption brings attention to details that may be underestimated.

3. Replace old with new

Things can always be better than what they are.  Identify a few ways processes could be better, and find relevant tools to put in place of the old ones.  A small, family-run business had to carry storage drives while traveling.  Forgetting these storage drives would be worse than going on a three-day business trip and forgetting the power supply to your laptop – at least you can run to the store to get a universal power supply.  They identified this opportunity for improvement and moved their backup and recovery issues to the cloud, removing worry of loss and availability. They replaced the old system with a new one.

Evaluating a business’ habits to keep them appropriate to the current environment is critical to maintaining relevance.  I will always love the intermission where the stork brings Ms. Pac-Man and Pac-Man a baby, but, I haven’t seen it in years.  The new era of memories is hearing John Madden talking to my husband on his PSP.  The next, maybe 3D characters in my living room. The one certainty as things evolve, is that long-term success depends on staying relevant and responsive—things made easier by the cloud.

What habits have you changed in the New Year?  Has cloud changed any of your business habits?