“It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change” – Charles Darwin
How can you and I possibly use this leadership quote?
This statement by Charles Darwin, in the context of his theory of natural selection and the Origin of Species, can also cause you and me to think also about the survival and development of organisations and businesses.
Will it be different in five years?
As a young salesman working in the automotive industry in the early 1980s, I remember sitting outside the office of the Purchasing Manager of Vauxhall Motors, a branch of General Motors in Luton, England. On the glass wall of his office was the statement “If you are still doing things today in the same way that you were doing them five years ago, then you are doing them the wrong way”. My goodness, five years! Nowadays, I would say one year.
Vauxhall Motors are still making cars in England – although not in Luton. But my goodness, it was close, like it was for a lot of other firms in the last few years. And that’s why this famous leadership quote reminded me of this story.
Consider manufacturing. Have you looked at additive manufacturing? If you make things, how will this affect what you do? Many people will soon have a printer in their homes which can produce solid objects from plastic powder. If you don’t make things, how will additive manufacturing affect what you and your customers do?
Get used to it!
Consider social media. Are you using the social media to interact with your customers and your prospective customers? I am continually amazed by my customers who are not using any of the opportunities to grow. “We’ve tried that and it didn’t work” is a common statement. Well it’s working for many businesses in all sectors. It’s not going away and one thing is for sure – it will all be different in one year from now. Not in five! We need to get used to it.
Like a Swiss watch?
Let’s think about the strongest industries and we will soon bring to mind those which were strong and did not survive. Take a look at what happened to the Swiss watch companies as the quartz movement arrived. Many survived and they are now in a completely different form and place from their original very strong position.
Clever but not here…
An intelligent organisation could also be considered a clever one. Arthur Andersen was one of the “big five” accounting companies. It was certainly intelligent and clever – but it’s not here any more in any form similar to it’s previous strength.
Would they survive?
Which companies are responsive to change? There are many and they are the ones which are still here. It is not fashionable to quote IBM as successful – but take a look at their history. Many and sometimes huge changes in their business model – who would have thought they would even survive in the late 90s as Microsoft had dominated the PC software market? The way IBM re-invented itself is well worth a read. Start by Googling them and reading the Wikipedia article on them.
Survival is not mandatory
You know that I often urge you to take stock in the light of the thoughts of a great leader from the past. It’s worth you and I sitting back and looking at our processes, our ways of working. We must keep a close eye on the way things are now, not the way things were 5 years ago. We need to make sure we are operating in the way which works for our customers in this current whirlpool environment.
As one of my heroes, W Edwards Deming said in one of his most famous leadership quotes, “It is not necessary to change. Survival is not mandatory”.
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