Sunday, September 20, 2009

The Strategic Interception

The interception is one of the most painful events in the game of football. It often represents a change of momentum and instantaneously ends a potentially fruitful string of offensive plays. The interception can be the most important event of a game.

Interceptions usually occur when the quarterback reaches a little too far, attempts a little too much, or takes an unnecessary gamble. The quarterback throws the ball away to the opposing team and gives his opponents a potentially deadly opening.

The concept of the interception translates pretty well into the world of business. The strategic interception occurs when a company takes an extra step and unintentionally weakens its core capabilities - particularly when a successfully growing company over-reaches and stumbles by purchasing another firm. Two recent, technology-oriented examples come to mind:
  • eBay's purchase of Skype. eBay purchased Skype, the company which enables Internet-based phone calls, in 2005. Because Skype's offering had very little to do with eBay's core auction service, the acquisition was a major reach for eBay. After sinking Billions into the purchase, development, integration, and promotion, eBay has failed to successfully incorporate Skype - recently selling off 65% of the company at a significant loss.
  • Google's purchase of YouTube. By purchasing YouTube, Google entered a new market within the Internet universe. This move has been an intellectual and financial drain to Google and has weakened both Google's search dominance and YouTube's online video dominance - giving Bing the opportunity to slowly gain momentum and Vimeo to gain a foothold with its video offerings.

Although both Ebay and Google are large enough to fully recover from their missteps, their stumbles have given their opponents an opportunity to gain traction and score a few points. It's clear that the strategic interception can be equally as painful in the world of business as it is in football and that even the slightest loss of focus can lead to change of momentum.

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