You are kind of cutting into your own points.
Seeing the writing on the wall means (context and all) means acting on something that you see happening or foresaw. Which isn’t what Blockbuster did. They watched and then tried to play catchup to Netflix at the online DVD rental in 2007 (when Total Access was launched) at the exact same time Netflix went streaming. First of all, that doesn’t compare. Blockbuster did ignore the Netflix threat in that they were late at the online service party and instead of doing something differently they just copied the opponent and tried to outdo them at price level (in a sort of opposite move of what Apple did with smartphones … late to the party but went all premium) … and still ignored the streaming threat (and ignored the writing on the wall … in 2007).
On, you’re right saying that it’s a simplistic view. It’s simple and plain. But it has nothing to do with seeing CEOs as morons.
I’m sure that there were people at Blockbuster who saw what was coming and tried to do something about it. But when saying Blockbuster ignore the Netflix threat (streaming in particular), I’m not saying their CEO did. Or their CTO. Or any executive. It’s the company.
A company is more than just a CEO. There’s a board, there are executives, there are investors. It’s a loosely coupled machinery held together by business interests and trust. The engine of that trust is the ability of each cog in the machine to see ahead at the potential behind decisions when they are in a position to act.
Some companies work better than other because o the ability to either trust a smaller number of people or by simply being able to understand.
Amazon’s board tends to trust Bezos (both chairman and CEO) because they’ve seen the decisions and successfully implemented changes. Bezos drove both change and expansion in Amazon, proving his worth.
Blockbuster was a different animal. It simply followed the same model and same market in a linear fashion, with the occasional horizontal expansion. Do that constantly over 30 years without anything else and you’re stuck in the brick and mortar mindset repeating the mantra “why change what brings us money?”.
So yeah, the ability to wrangle a board, manage change (be it subtle or radical), adding markets and business models, is part of what was lacking in all those examples.