Seth Godin on Survival Is Not Enough, Part 1

In his book, Survival Is Not Enough: Why Smart Companies Abandon Worry and Embrace Change, Seth Godin discusses how innovative organizations and individuals can apply prudent strategies in adapting and positioning themselves for the constant changes.

These are some of my favorite concepts and takeaways from reading the book.

Chapter 1, Change

In this chapter, Seth discusses why change is no longer something we can control with absolute certainty and the better strategies to deal with changes. He offers the following observations and recommendations for us to think about:

  • Many companies are not organized for change because they have never needed to be. Growing and profiting from stable times was a terrific strategy.
  • Unfortunately, change is now constant. The fundamental ideas we have used to build our companies and careers are quickly going out of style. The world is changing on our watch, and it is not fun.
  • Seth outlines the four structural changes in the business that have taken place in the last several decades:
    • “The speed at which we make decisions is now the factor that limits the speed of business.” Our decisions are on the critical path of getting things done, and the lead time for many things we do has shrunk dramatically.
    • “The Net has made information close to free and close to ubiquitous, further fueling the need for speed.”
    • Our worldview of having islands of stability is disappearing. “There’s only one market, and it’s the whole world.”
    • “Metcalfe’s law (networks get more powerful when they connect more people) has reached infinity.” As a result, we are all virtually connected.
  • For a long time, owning physical plants and factories has been the best way to get rich. However, with rich connectivity and cheap shipping, the factory-centric model is dying. Being factory-centric does not increase our profits but decreases them. The Factory-centric model also does not lessen our time to market; it now likely increases it.
  • Surviving change is a noble goal, but we need to find ways to embrace changes and get better results. We need to turn working with changes into a positive feedback loop.
  • When people start interacting in a positive feedback loop, the loop can get amplified and enter a stage called runaway. Even though runaway cannot last forever, it is fun while it lasts. So our job should be to figure out how to trigger a runaway, do it again later, and create a never-ending series of positive feedback loops and runaway successes.
  • Our fear of changing a used-to-be successful winning strategy combined with our reliance on command-and-control tactics makes it hard for us to embrace change. Evolution (inheritable modifications over many generations) is the most potent tactic for dealing with change. We should apply this proven, organic technique to embrace change, not fight it.

In summary, Seth suggests that we take an active role in embracing change. “Change is out of our control, and the way we deal with change is outmoded and ineffective. Our organizations assume that we live with a different, slower time cycle.”