In 1991, LL Cool J rocked MTV Unplugged, rapping to the audience, “Don’t call it a comeback.” He bloombergbizweek_341x199didn’t wish to dwell on the flops of the past or to jinx the future.

Today, three companies – Best Buy, Delta Airlines, and General Motors – could say the same thing. Only a few years ago, each was dismissed and left for dead. But each has since come back and now stand as the turnaround story of 2013.

How did they do it?

Turnarounds of the magnitude that are occurring at Best Buy, Delta, and GM are no simple, quick, or easy thing. But these comebacks have three things in common, and each element is required for success:

Accepting that disruption in their industries has created a new normal.
Repositioning the core business, even if it means getting smaller.
Investing in new business models based on consumer insights.

Cost cutting is only one part of the story. Yes, GM shut down plants, Best Buy closed stores, and Delta eliminated routes. But all three companies also embarked on a strategic plan of retooling the old while inventing new growth opportunities based on fresh insights about customer needs. Let’s take a look at all three elements:

Accepting Disruption as the New Normal

In 2011, Best Buy’s CEO Brian Dunn was blaming the company’s lackluster performance on “industry headwinds,” a phrase many people considered a euphemism for Amazon. Consumers had quickly adopted the habit of “showrooming” – visiting Best Buy stores to do research and try products, then making their purchases online. Critics predicted that the electronics retailer would go the way of Circuit City.

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