Seth Godin on Survival Is Not Enough, Part 6

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 6, Winning Strategies, Getting Unstuck and Sex

In this chapter, Seth discusses how a company can get stuck with its winning strategy and get unstuck if the strategy is no longer working. He offers the following observations and recommendations for us to think about:

  • Every company, big or small, has a winning strategy. The winning strategy needs not to be perfect or market-dominating, but it does generate results that the people at the company want to execute repeatedly.
  • The organization thrives as long as the winning strategy and the corresponding environment that supports it stay the same. But, at some point, all winning strategies cease to last forever because the surrounding climate eventually changes. Today, because the environment and rules change often, winning systems do not stay for long.
  • When the winning strategy is no longer working, many companies have difficulty making the necessary changes shifting away from the old system. There are usually three reasons for the unwillingness to change.
  • The first reason is that following someone else’s path is often an excellent substitute for the perceived risk of original thinking. The second reason is that sticking with tried-and-true approaches helps justify past decisions. The third reason is that, until recently, feedback loops have been slow and unreliable. As a result, it took a while before the vivid and urgent proof showed that a company’s strategy is not working anymore.
  • Unfortunately for us, the ever-changing world will always allow someone to find a new winning strategy. For someone who has an open mind about the new winning design, the quick-changing, technology-rich environment will offer many angles that make their newly adopted system more robust and potent than our existing strategy.
  • In evolution, sexual selection and natural selection determine how a species evolve and thrive (or becomes extinct). Such a mechanism works similarly for organizations, too. Sending fitness signals efficiently can enable an organization to find better partners and lead to more product and service offerings.
  • To enable an organization’s ability to change and to zoom, the organization needs to send the signal that it is not just safe for people to change but unsafe for those who conduct discourage change.
  • Bullies in an organization make it hard to zoom. A bully-free company is faster, wiser, more profitable, and fun. Firing people is dramatically underrated as a management strategy. By firing people who slow our organization down, we substantially support everyone who remains. Sticking by one or two influential people who refuse to zoom can easily lead to the layoff of hundreds or thousands of people.
  • Our customers also do a lot to determine our company’s mDNA. They affect the work we do, the prices we charge, and the kind of people we hire. As a result, we choose our future when we choose our customers.

In summary:

“Organizations can respond to competition and environmental shifts by organizing to evolve their mDNA, making incremental evolution less painful for the people who work there.”