leadership, Startup Advice

Former Apple chief executive John Sculley on the pitfalls of success

Martin Kovacs /

The view at the top can be heady but former Apple and Pepsi chief executive John Sculley says success can have a sting in its tail.

In an interview with Business Insider, Sculley pointed to the struggles of Kodak as an example of what can happen when complacency sets in.

In 2012, photography industry pioneer Kodak filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection as smartphones decked out with camera technology transformed the photography market.

“How did Kodak, which invented digital photography and was the largest photo printer in the world, how did it miss that photography was going to go mobile on smartphones?” Sculley asks.

He believes successful companies and leaders can become “victims of their own success”.

“I’ve seen, over a lifetime of working in different industries, that the most successful companies in one era often become victims of their own success in the next era,” Sculley told Business Insider.

There are, however, ways to avoid the pitfalls of success, with risk-taking a key attitude that the successful need to cultivate.

“You have to be willing to take big risks,” Sculley advises.

“Do bold things. And make mistakes. The reality is that we all learn far more from our mistakes than we do from our successes … don’t be afraid to make a mistake. Just don’t make the same one again.”

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Martin Kovacs

Martin Kovacs is a journalist with experience covering the IT, consumer electronics, retail, finance and energy sectors.

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