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Survival Is Not Enough

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en Limba Engleză Paperback – December 2002
You can't embrace change any faster...can't make time for the synergy training workshop...can't deal with one more change management seminar. So stop changing. Evolve. Evolution can be unleashed in your organization, effortlessly and gradually changing everything in its path. By teaching your company to "zoom" -- embrace change without pain -- you'll have a company that evolves and ultimately attracts people who drive it to evolve even faster.
In up or down markets, for companies in any industry, embrace the organic approach detailed in Survival Is Not Enough and you will always outperform the competition.
Here's practical advice on how to make the chaos we all must deal with an asset, not a threat.
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Specificații

ISBN-13: 9780743233385
ISBN-10: 0743233387
Pagini: 288
Dimensiuni: 132 x 222 x 18 mm
Greutate: 0.37 kg
Ediția: Reprint
Editura: Free Press

Cuprins

Contents Foreword, by Charles Darwin
Introduction: More Than Survival
The Paul Orfalea Story: A Process, Not a Plan Survival Is Not Enough: The Summary
Chapter 1 Change
Guillotine or Rack? Frantic at Work?
Businesses That Don't Change Are in Danger
Change Is the New Normal
What Happens When the Jaguars Die?
The Problem with Factories
What's the Internet Got to Do with the Chaos?
Successful Businesses Hate Change
The Promise of Positive Feedback Loops and Runaway
Runaway Can't Last Forever -- Nothing Does
The Best Form of Runaway Is the Least Obvious
The Evolution Alternative
Chapter 2 What Every CEO Needs to Know About
Evolution Competition Drives Change
The Big Ideas
What's a Meme?
Memes Are Not the Same As Genes
Periodicity in Memes
Genes versus Memes
Denying Evolution Doesn't Make It Go Away
Chapter 3 Fear and Zooming
Four Reasons People Freeze in the Face of Change The First Barrier to Change: Committees
The Second Barrier to Change: Critics
Market Leaders Are Afraid of Failing
Change Equals Death
Why Change Management Doesn't Work
The Way to Build an Organization That Can Embrace Change Is to Redefine Change
Chapter 4 Do You Zoom?
Start Zooming Before the Crisis Comes What About the Creative Corporation?
Zoom First and Ask Questions Later
Comparing Zooming to Re-engineering
Avoid the Dragon, Don't Slay It
Which Sort of Pain Are You Going to Feel?
Chapter 5 Your Company Has mDNA
The Vocabulary of Genes and Memes in Nature and at Work The Power of the Metaphor
Why Evolution Works
Companies Evolve
Evolution from the Ground Up
The Red Queen Goes to Work
One Good Reason That CEOs Reject Evolution as an Alternative -- and Why They're Wrong
CEOs Enjoy Picking Lottery Numbers
Evolution at Wal-Mart
Natural Selection and Artificial Selection
Runaway Times Ten
Is Incremental Change Enough?
Chapter 6 Winning Strategies, Getting Unstuck and Sex
Typing in France The Winning Strategy
The Stuck Winning Strategy
Competent People Embrace the Current Winning Strategy
Piling On to the New Winning Strategy
Extinction as a Way of Life
Sexual Selection at Work
Six Ways Companies Can Use Signaling Strategies
Your Most Important Sex Is with Your Boss
Embracing New mDNA
Sex Is Important
Artificially Selecting the mDNA in Your Company (aka Firing People)
Choose Your Customers, Choose Your Future
Chapter 7 Serfs, Farmers, Hunters and Wizards
The Danger of Role Models Amazon Tweaks and Tests While Wal-Mart Struggles
Wizards, Hunters, Farmers and Serfs
The Life of a Serf
Why Do Companies Hire Serfs?
The End of the Serf Era
Transforming Serfs into Farmers
Let Some of the Serfs Work Somewhere Else
Farmers Know How to Tweak
Amazon Knows How to Farm
QVC Outfarms Amazon
Think Like a Waiter
Hunters Don't Own Land
AOL Knows How to Hunt
Fast Feedback Loops for Hunters
Plenty of Companies Have No Clue How to Hunt
Choose Your Employees, Choose Your Future
Wizards Invent
In Defense of Slack
Chapter 8 The Basic Building Block Is People
It Starts and Ends with the Individual Changing Your Personal mDNA: Bad News from My Sister
Find a Great Boss
If You Want the Soup, Order the Soup
Starting Down the Road to the Zooming Organization
The Best Way to Stop Your Company from Zooming
The Zooming Club
A Quick Lesson in Avoiding the Acquisition Trap
Chapter 9 Why It Works Now: Fast Feedback and Cheap Projects
Fast Feedback Loops The Power of the Obligating Question
Linux Is Cool -- But It's Not What You Think
Technology and Fast Feedback Loops
I'll Know It When I See It -- The Power of Prototypes
A Prototyping Pitfall
Data Is Not Information -- Keeping the Promise of IT
Putting a Man on the Moon
A Broken Feedback Loop
Implementing Hotwash
Plan for Success...and Plan for Failure
Chapter 10 Tactics for Accelerating Evolution
Cherish the Charrette Animals Evolve on a Regular Schedule
Bring Back Model Years
Alternate the Teams that Work on New Models
Better Beats Perfect
Slow Down Is Not the Opposite of Hurry Up
What to Do If Your People Get Stuck
One Thing Worth Stealing from the Supermarket
The Eternal Web Page
Everybody Brainstorms
The Suggestion Box Is Not Dead
Take the Dumpster Test
Living with Broken Windows
Let's Test It!
Should There Be a Statute of Limitations on mDNA?
Does Chaos Outside Mean Chaos Inside?
Focus Is No Longer Sufficient
Bringing It All Together: Decision Time at Environmental Defense
The Über Strategy?
The Important Questions
Why? How do you respond to small, irrelevant changes?
How many people have to say "yes" to a significant change?
Do you have multiple projects in development that bet on conflicting sides of a possible outcome?
Are you building the five elements of an evolving organization?
Are you investing in techniques that encourage fast memetic evolution?
What does someone need to do to get fired?
Who are the three most powerful people standing between things that need to change and actual action by your company?
What if you fired those people?
What's your company's winning strategy?
Is each manager required to have her staff spend a portion of their time on creating the future?
Are you (personally) a serf, a farmer, a hunter or a wizard?
What about the people you work with every day?
If you quit your job today, could you get a decent job as a farmer or a hunter?
If you could hire anyone in the world to help your company, who would it be?
What's stopping you from hiring someone that good?
If an omniscient wizard walked into your offices and described the future and told you what to do to prepare for it, would your company be able to change in response to his vision?
How can your company dramatically lower the cost of launching a test?
Are there five areas in your company that would benefit from fast feedback loops?
Are you building all your systems around testing and ignorance?
Are you hiding from the market?
Have you ever tried sushi?
If you could acquire another company's mDNA, whose would you choose?
Why don't you do that?
Are the economies of scale really as big as you think they are?
Is this project going to benefit from the learning it creates?
In what markets could your marketing efforts enter runaway?
How much time does senior management spend with unhappy customers?
What do you do with complaint letters?
What are you measuring?
Are you being selfish with your personal mDNA?
Have you institutionalized the process of sharing what you learn?
Are you focusing too much?
Are you the first choice among job seekers who have the mDNA you seek?
Are you the first choice among employers that have the winning strategy you seek?
What do you need to do to become the first choice?
Do you zoom?
Glossary
Author's Note
More
Acknowledgments
Index

Recenzii

Tom Peters Seth Godin, one of the world's most original thinkers, offers us a manifesto for change and growth. A landmark effort, equally valuable for individuals and enterprises.

Extras

Introduction: More Than Survival It's 3:00 A.M., and it's hot. I can't sleep. My laptop can't reach the Internet through the overburdened phone system here at the Cleveland Holiday Inn. Frustrated, anxious and exhausted, I jump in my car and drive the deserted streets of northern Ohio.
Around the corner, I pass a Kinko's. The lights are on. They're always on. I walk in to find hundreds of thousands of dollars of electronics, all just waiting for me. Color copiers, fax machines and an entire room full of fast computers with a T1 connection to the Internet. Five minutes and twenty dollars later, I've checked my mail and printed out a memo. Time to get some sleep.
But I can't get to sleep. I sit up for hours, wondering about that Kinko's.
How did Kinko's grow from one tiny store in California all the way to an all-night home office in Cleveland? (Turns out there were eight within sixteen miles of my hotel.) It took a couple of decades, but the company grew and changed and expanded -- almost like an organism, spreading across the country until it had filled every niche it could find.
At the same time that Kinko's was growing, dozens of its competitors were silently shrinking, disappearing, becoming extinct.
Look at the development of any business and it's bound to be surprising. Surprising in how unplanned, irregular and random it is. Some businesses grow and ooze and morph and expand, others reach a certain spot and freeze. Why do some companies thrive while other companies, though similar, fade away? I knew that there must be a pattern and a dynamic behind all this apparent chaos, but I was having trouble finding it.
I've been fascinated with the work of Charles Darwin for a long time, and it occurred to me that companies were very much like species. They were changing and evolving right before our eyes. However, unlike animals, companies fret about this change so much it makes them miserable.
Why is there so much pain in our business lives? It's almost as if people were taking Charles Darwin at his word, focusing on "survival of the fittest" instead of something more than that. If all you do at work is hope to survive, your day can't be much fun.
We're all working too hard. Putting in more hours than we'd like, nervous about the future, uncertain about our roles and our goals. We work too hard to hope for mere survival. Our goal must be to thrive and prosper, not just get by.
Darwin writes extensively about extinction. We don't want to grapple with the idea that our company is about to become extinct. No one wants to become extinct, but the alternative -- change -- is hard. Going through all of the uncertainty and hassle to barely survive (or worse, become extinct) doesn't seem fair.
We don't know how to talk about change and evolution. We know it's here and it's real and it's essential and it's painful, but we don't have the words for it. I believe that there's a goal beyond survival, that we can actually thrive and find joy in working with all the chaos that surrounds us. That we can look forward to change and turbulence as an opportunity to increase our success. My hope is that this book will give you the words to describe these phenomena as well as an understanding of how they work.
There is no secret spell or closely guarded incantation. The solution is written down everywhere you look, from the park to the zoo to the checkout at your local grocery store. And the idea that evolution can work in business is not news, either. Jack Welch and GE have been doing it for years, and will be happy to teach you about it.
So why doesn't everyone use this successful approach? Because we have a genetic reflex to avoid change. The secret of this book is that your success is not going to be due to your plan. It's the process you use that matters.
I'm proposing a pretty radical way of thinking about business, but one that's nothing new to an evolutionary biologist. As a result, there are a lot of oddball terms and occasional side trips to go on as you read these pages. I hope you'll bear with me, because the end result is a totally different set of glasses you can use to look at your job, your career, your company and even the companies you invest in. (See the author's note at the end of this book for a full and complete disclaimer about scientific accuracy.)
If you try to stuff these ideas through the filter of the way you work today, they won't make sense. This is a very different sort of paradigm for what companies do all day, and it requires a different posture and approach.
My goal in writing this book is to explain the paradigm and sell you on why you ought to run your business with it. The tactics will reveal themselves as you head down the path to a brand-new kind of organization.
The benefits are simple: less stress at work, less chaos in your daily life and occasionally, if you're lucky, a landslide success that pays off big-time.
Once you have the words, I'm confident you'll find ways to let the power of evolution go to work. When it does, you'll discover that you can create explosive group and personal success that can further transform your company.
Most of us view change as a threat, and survival as the goal. Change is not a threat, it's an opportunity. Survival is not the goal, transformative success is. It's thrilling if you give it a chance. This book contains an idea about ideas. An ideavirus about change, one I hope you will find worth spreading.
The Paul Orfalea Story: A Process, Not a Plan
One of my favorite entrepreneurs is a guy named Paul Orfalea. Paul is brilliant and quite successful, but he's unbelievably modest and also very honest about his shortcomings.
Paul is profoundly dyslexic. He didn't learn how to read until he was well into elementary school and did nothing in high school that would be associated with the idea of success. He went to college but didn't care an awful lot about his classes. It was the perfect background for an entrepreneur.
Paul started a little copy shop (so little he had to wheel the machine outside to make room for customers) on his college campus. He sold pens and paper and made copies. That store grew to become Kinko's, a chain with more than one thousand outlets that he was able to sell for more than two hundred million dollars to an investment group.
The secret to Kinko's success is disarmingly straightforward. "My reading was still poor and I had no mechanical ability, so I thought that anybody who worked for me could do the job better," Paul explains. He set up a unique co-ownership structure that let him grow the business with more flexibility than a franchise could offer. The end result is that for years, Kinko's stores were partly owned by someone local.
Paul described his job to me this way, "I just go from store to store, see what they're doing right and then tell all the other stores about it."
By allowing local entrepreneurs to make millions of low-cost experiments every year (just three per day per store gets you to that level) and then communicating the successful ones to the other stores, he was able to set the process in motion that led to
that all-night store I found in Cleveland. The Cleveland store wasn't part of a specific plan, but it was very much the outcome of a specific process.
Very little specialized knowledge is required to open a copy shop. Yet Kinko's dramatically outpaced every other competitor by reinventing what a copy shop was, every single day. Kinko's did
"I just go from store to store, see what they're doing right and then tell all the other stores about it."
not have a patented new technology. Instead, it had a posture about change that treated innovations and chaos as good things, not threats.
The more successful Kinko's got, the more likely it was to get job applications and coventure deals with people who made the company even more successful. The more Kinko's stores there were, the more likely it was that people would seek one out. The better Kinko's did, the more successful it became.
Kinko's became a success. Working there was fun because the company attracted people who could compound its growth. Kinko's stopped worrying about surviving and enjoyed the ride.
It's interesting to see that since the takeover of Kinko's by an investor group, new management has bought out the individual owners and installed a command and control system. Kinkos.com is regrouping and the entire chain is experiencing slower growth, despite external economic and technical conditions that should have allowed it to grow even faster.
Paul was right. All of us are smarter than any one of us.
Survival Is Not Enough: The Summary
1. Change is the new normal. Rather than thinking of work as a series of stable times interrupted by moments of change, companies must now recognize work as constant change, with only occasional moments of stability. 2. If you and your company are not taking advantage of change, change will defeat you.
3. Stability is bad news for this new kind of company. It requires change to succeed.
4. Change presents new opportunities for companies to capture large markets. Change is the enemy of the current leader. Change also represents opportunities for individuals to advance their careers.
5. Companies that introduce products and services that represent significant changes can find that they lead to rapid, runaway successes.
6. Companies that cause change attract employees who want to cause change. Companies that are afraid of change attract employees who are afraid of change.
7. Many employees fear change. Fear of change is rational -- after all, it can lead to bad outcomes. But now, not changing is more likely to lead to a bad outcome than changing!
8. Management can't force employees to overcome their fear of change through short-term motivation.
9. By redefining what change is, companies can change the dynamic of "change equals death" to "change equals opportunity."
10. The way species deal with change is by evolving.
11. Companies can evolve in ways similar to those used by species.
12. Companies will evolve if management allows them to.
13. There are three ways that species evolve: natural selection, sexual selection and mutation.
14. Companies can do the same thing by using farmers, hunters and wizards to initiate changes in their organizations
15. Companies that embrace change for change's sake, companies that view a state of constant flux as a stable equilibrium, zoom. And zooming companies evolve faster and easier because they don't obstruct the forces of change.
16. Once you train the organization to evolve regularly and effortlessly, change is no longer a threat. Instead, it's an asset, because it causes your competitors to become extinct.
17. Many CEOs reject evolution and do whatever they can to stop it.
18. If your company is too reliant on your winning strategy, you won't evolve as quickly.
19. A runaway success occurs when a positive feedback loop reinforces early success.
20. Fast feedback loops teach you what's working and -- more important -- get you to change what's not.
21. Everyone in your company can work to reinvent what you do in parallel, dramatically increasing the speed of innovation within the company.
22. Low-cost, low-risk, real-world tests are the most likely to have high return on investment.
23. Your company's posture regarding the process of change is far more important than the actual changes you implement.
24. If you have employees who don't embrace this posture, they will slow you down and cause you to make bad decisions.
25. A company that zooms will attract zoomers, allowing it to enter runaway, dramatically increasing its advantage over its competitors in a changing environment.
To help you manage the new terms that appear in this book (in boldface the first time they appear), you'll find a glossary with more details at the end.
Copyright © 2002 by Do You Zoom, Inc.
Chapter 1: 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.
Guillotine or Rack?
My first job was cleaning the grease off the hot-dog roaster at the Carousel Snack Bar, near my home in Buffalo. Actually, it wasn't a roaster. It was more a series of nails that rotated under a light bulb. I also had to make the coffee and scrub the place clean every night. It very quickly became obvious to me that I didn't have much of a future in food service.
I didn't have to make many decisions in my job. And the manager of the store didn't exactly look to me to initiate change. In fact, she didn't want anyone to initiate change. (My suggestion that we branch out into frozen yogurt fell on deaf ears, as did my plea that it would be a lot cheaper to boil hot dogs on demand than to keep them on the rack under the light bulb all day.)
Any change, any innovation, any risk at all would lead to some terrible outcome for her, she believed.
After I set a record by breaking three coffee carafes in one shift, my food-service career was over. I was out on the street, unemployed at the tender age of sixteen. But from that first job, I learned a lot -- and those lessons keep getting reinforced.
Just about every day, I go to a meeting where I meet my boss from the snack bar. Okay, it's not really her. But it's someone just like her: a corporate middle-person who's desperately trying to reconcile the status quo with a passionate desire to survive. My boss didn't want to jeopardize her job. She viewed every day and every interaction not as an opportunity but as a threat -- a threat not to the company but to her own well-being. If she had a mantra, it was "Don't blow it."
In her business, she faced two choices: to die by the guillotine, a horrible but quick death, or to perish slowly on the rack -- which is just as painful a way to go, if not more so, and guaranteed to leave you every bit as dead. But in her nightmares, only one of those two options loomed large -- the guillotine.
I have to admit it. I have the same dream.
Have you ever spent a night worrying about what your boss (or your stockbroker or a big customer) is going to say to you at that
"In her business, she faced two choices: to die by the guillotine, a horrible but quick death, or to perish slowly on the rack -- which is just as painful a way to go, if not more so, and guaranteed to leave you every bit as dead."
meeting the next morning? Have you ever worried about some impending moment of doom? That's fear of the guillotine.
But almost no one worries about the rack. We don't quake in our boots about a layoff that's going to happen two years from now if we don't upgrade our computer systems before our competition does. We're not afraid of stagnating and dying slowly. No, we're more afraid of sudden death, even though the guillotine is probably a far better way to die.
For a long time, I was angry with my old boss and the people like her. I was upset that they were living through so much pain. Most of all, I was frustrated that they were slowing the pace of change at their companies. Now I realize that I was wrong. It wasn't her fault. She couldn't help being frantic and stressed. She didn't want to be that way. Management made her do it. They made her do it with their policies. With their inspection systems. With the command and control mindset that prevented her from making changes she knew were right.
Nobody likes change.
Real change, earth-shattering change, stay-up-all-night-worrying change isn't fun. At most companies, it's a huge threat, an opportunity for failure, a chance to see the stock plummet, to watch divisions get axed, to hear customers scream and yell. Our companies are organized as big machines, designed to resist big change at every turn.
The problem is that today we don't have a choice. We can't leave innovation to the small guys, the startups that have nothing to lose. Either we change our businesses, or they die.
Frantic at Work?
Companies aren't organized for change. They've never needed to be. Growing and profiting from stable times was a terrific strategy.
Forced into an era of rapid change, the response of companies organized for a stable environment is to ask managers and employees to act as a buffer between the company and the changing outside world. Alas, it's not working.
Are you working longer hours than you used to? Most people do. And along with the long days, it often feels as if your day is filled with one emergency after another. We spend so much time putting out fires and nervously anticipating the next crisis that there's almost no time left to do our real jobs.
While it's easy to find the reserves to deal with a temporary crisis (in fact, you might even enjoy the adrenaline rush that comes with a deadline) we can't keep this up forever. Accountants can deal with April 15 because they know it only comes around once a year. It's a temporary emergency. Unfortunately, being frantic at work is no longer a temporary phenomenon. Change is
"We can't work more hours. We can't absorb more stress or endure more anxiety at work. We can, on the other hand, radically redefine what we do at work and create organizations that are designed to succeed regardless of what our ever-changing future produces."
now constant, and the fundamental ideas we have built our companies and our careers upon are going out of style fast. They're disappearing so fast that for the first time, you have to deal with the implications of change instead of waiting for a retirement, a promotion or a new job. The world is changing on your watch, and it's not fun.
Somewhere along the way, it was decided that it was our job to absorb the stresses that come with change. Our job to work longer hours, take more personal risks, absorb more stress. Your frustration and stress aren't atypical. They are, however, unnecessary.
We can't work more hours. We can't absorb more stress or endure more anxiety at work. We can, on the other hand, radically redefine what we do at work and create organizations that are designed to succeed regardless of what our ever-changing future produces.
Your job shouldn't be to stand between your company's old rules and the new rules of the outside world. Instead, your company needs to change from the inside out. Your company needs to learn to zoom.
A company that zooms embraces change as a competitive opportunity, not a threat. A company that zooms is responsive to new opportunities and doesn't freeze in the face of an uncertain future.
Every company zoomed when it was young. But success has spoiled most organizations, and they're now too fat, too stuck and too afraid to zoom again. If your company is under stress, it only has two choices. Either it changes or it requires people like you to absorb the stress. The first is productive, energizing and profitable. The second leads to an unhappy frenzy.
Because the chaos we're facing came to us gradually, it's easy to believe that we can gradually adapt in the way we deal with it. It's not true. The way we used to do business -- dependent on highly profitable physical goods and manageable cycles of change -- is over.
In Permission Marketing, I wrote about a major shift in the power between consumers and marketers. In the old days, marketers were in charge. They controlled how and when they communicated with consumers. We built our entire consumer culture around the idea that repeated television and print advertisements could profitably entice consumers to spend money. Businesses that invested in interrupting people became incredibly profitable. Marketers were in charge. They controlled the marketplace and consumers were sheep. Those days are over. Businesses can no longer manage consumer attention, consumer attention manages them.
In this book, I'm making a much broader argument. In the old days, companies were in charge. Good managers managed change. They controlled how and when a company would respond to the outside world. Those days are over. You can't manage change. Change manages you.
If you're unhappy, stressed, tapped out and/or losing money in our chaotic world, perhaps it's time to consider a radically different approach. It's possible to build a company that embraces change instead of fighting it. A company that attracts people who want to move fast, not slow. A company that changes faster than its environment, creating one landslide hit after another.
Businesses That Don't Change Are in Danger
Winners change; losers don't. Digital, Wang, Western Union, Compaq, Penn Central, PointCast, Infoseek -- all are on my list of losers, because all of them hesitated and lost huge opportunities. Every one of them was king of the hill until they toppled off, all the while struggling in vain to make the world stay the way it was.
Federal Express is different. Talk to David Shoenfeld, former vice-president of worldwide marketing and customer service for FedEx, and sooner or later, ZapMail comes up. About fifteen years ago, someone at FedEx got the bright idea of putting very expensive fax machines at key FedEx offices and having those offices act as middle-persons for same-day fax delivery. They put David in charge of it. A big promotion for him at the time. Alas, ZapMail was a giant failure. By the time FedEx pulled the plug on it, ZapMail had reportedly cost the company as much as $300 million.
You'd think that would have cured FedEx's management of the urge to embrace change -- that forevermore, whenever someone came up with a business-busting idea, someone else would mention ZapMail, and people would roll their eyes and walk away. You know what? The people at FedEx do exactly the opposite. They're damn proud of ZapMail, of their willingness to take risks, of the mistake that proved their willingness to change.
At the Carousel Snack Bar, I learned three lessons that are just as valid now, twenty four years later, as they were then. The first is that you should never take a job that requires you to bring your own grease rag to work. Second, jobs in which you don't initiate change are never as challenging, fun or well paid as those in which you do. And third, companies that don't change, vanish (my snack bar is now a shoe store).
It's easy to see those lessons at work on the Net, but change isn't just about the Internet. When the Internet is old news, companies will still be turning over. Remember DeSoto and Pierce-Arrow and Dusenberg and Packard and American Motors? How about Borland and Spinnaker Software and Ashton-Tate and (almost) Apple? Or A&M Records? Or Orion Pictures?
Is it possible to change too often? We all know someone like crazy Uncle Kenny, who has had forty different schemes over the last forty years. Juice bars, day trading, vitamins, carpet cleaning-Kenny is always changing. I don't think we're in any danger of becoming Uncle Kenny. There's a difference between flitting and changing, and most of us know the difference. Anyone who's been through the death of an industry knew what to do. They just weren't able to do it.
Change Is the New Normal
"Excellent firms don't believe in excellence -- only in constant improvement and constant change." That is, excellent firms of tomorrow will cherish impermanence -- and thrive on chaos. Tom Peters, Thriving on Chaos, 1987
In the first chapter of Thriving on Chaos, Tom Peters rolled out a litany of turbulence that was hitting the world fifteen years ago. He wrote about Chrysler buying AMC, GE buying United Technologies, Hyundai's entry into the U.S.A., the influx of IPOs, the wild ride of People Express Airline, the craziness in the packaged-goods industry and the marvel of Minit-lube.
Peter Drucker and other long-term thinkers would have us believe that every generation believes that it, and only it, is undergoing massive change. After all, we survived the Industrial Revolution, two world wars, the atomic bomb and Gilligan's Island. Surely today's change is no more radical than the changes we've already worked our way through.
Computers and the networks that connect them are the reason that today's change is fundamentally different from the changes business has survived before. Change in a connected world always has more repercussions. Now, change leads to more change. Turbulence spreads. Bob Metcalfe, the inventor of Ethernet, coined a law that still stands: The power of a network increases with the square of the number of computers (or people) hooked up to it. Two people with a fax machine is interesting. Two hundred million people with e-mail changes the world.
Fifty years ago, a recession in Tangiers wasn't felt in Tampa for years (if ever). Today, it takes minutes. When Tom Peters wrote about constant change fifteen years ago, he was feeling the beginning of a computerized marketplace. But there were no networks then. No Internet. No wireless. No computerized stock trading.
Today, entropy rules. It's as much a law of the new economy as it is a law of science: Things rarely become orderly on their own. As Stephen Hawking has pointed out, while it's possible for a cup to fall off a table and break into a million pieces, it's pretty unlikely that those million pieces will ever leap back onto the table and reassemble themselves into a cup.
Systems, of course, can fight entropy. People know how to take a bunch of random springs and turn them into a watch. The sun "knows" how to take a series of random solar flares and tame them into a coherent source of heat and light. While the world we're talking about is an organic system, that doesn't keep random acts from occurring. And they're occurring as often as they used to.
Now, though, it's worse. Far worse. Because when a cup falls off that table, it affects every cup in the world. Which means that, like snow and rocks joining an avalanche, changes are happening far more often than they used to. Now we have to deal with their changes, not just our changes.
There have been four significant structural changes in business over the last twenty years. These changes mean that we're not in the same boat we were then. They mean, instead, that we're facing permanent adjustments to the status quo:
1. The speed at which we make decisions is now the factor that limits the speed of business. It's our decisions that are on the critical path for getting things done. The lead time for many of the things we need to do (from starting a company to getting a shipment of leather) has shrunk. Everything in the company waits -- not for a shipment or a process, but for a decision. 2. The Net has made information close to free and close to ubiquitous, further fueling the need for speed. And we can deliver that information digitally, which means it doesn't degrade with distance or handling.
3. A provincial worldview created islands of stability. Those islands are disappearing. There's only one market, and it's the whole world.
4. Metcalfe's law (networks get more powerful when they connect more people) has reached infinity. The invasive network of phones, faxes, e-mails and the web now connects virtually all of us.
In 1987, Tom Peters sensed an unraveling that continues to this day. Except it's getting more pronounced and there is no turning back. Change is the new normal, and organizations will either embrace this or fade away.
What Happens When the Jaguars Die?
I was reading The New York Times a few months ago and I came across an op-ed advertisement from Greenpeace. The headline read, "What happens when the jaguars die?"
Not being particularly concerned with jaguars, I turned the page and continued reading. But after a few minutes, my curiosity wouldn't let go of the question. What did happen? So I turned back and read the ad.
Jaguars, it turns out, live in Mexico. Their favorite food is rabbits. And when jaguars die (due to encroachment on their habitat by people), the rabbits multiply like, well, rabbits. And when the number of rabbits dramatically increases, the grassland turns to desert. In other words, a small change in the status of one animal (the jaguar) can lead to millions of acres becoming a desert.
The ecosystem is very responsive. Kill off one crop and entire species that depend on it become extinct -- just like the ecosystem your business operates in. A small change -- say the availability of competitive pricing data to your customer base -- can have implications for the way your company must run all of its operations in order to succeed. For example, the commercial printing business is no longer driven by local printing shops and friendly salesmen. Because a client can discover what a job ought to cost, every printer (whether online or off) must respond to a dramatically different landscape.
Unstable ecosystems are the enemy of traditional businesses, especially market leaders. Market leaders have optimized a plan for extracting the maximum value out of the ecosystem as it is today. When the ecosystem changes, not only does the company lose its ability to extract that value, but the size of the company actually begins to work against it.
So, if you are going to make bets about the future of the ecosystem in which your company finds itself, do you feel comfortable betting that the system will stay stable? In 1963, the Bucyrus-Erie Company built the largest electric stripping shovel ever built, designed to extract coal from its mine in Kansas. This device was so large (it was 160 feet tall and weighed more than 9 million pounds) that it had to be built on site and from the beginning was designed to live and die on that one patch of land.
The ecosystem for cheap coal mining in Kansas in 1963 was stable enough that Bucyrus-Erie felt it was a safe bet to invest the millions of dollars the device cost. This is the same reason it's so easy to buy an airplane from Boeing -- just about any commercial bank on earth will give you a loan, taking just the plane as collateral. The banks are confident that no one is going to invent something that makes that plane obsolete any time soon.
But how many ecosystems are as stable as coal mining or aircraft? Ten years ago, no one would have bet against NBC or Merck or Sunbeam or Mary Kay Cosmetics or Knight Ridder. Yet today, the future of all of these companies is up for grabs.
The Problem with Factories
Ever since we got serious about farming and factories, businesspeople have embraced the idea that investments in physical plant will pay off. Go to a meeting at Universal Pictures and they'll happily show you the back lot. Visit my dad's hospital crib factory and you'll see punch presses and paint lines. Harvard University has stately ivy-covered buildings. Random House is erecting a huge skyscraper in midtown Manhattan.
At the very heart of capitalism is the idea that an entrepreneur can take money from investors and spend it on infrastructure that will pay dividends for years to come. Having a bigger, better factory was always the best way to get rich.
There are two big problems with factories, though. The first is that in times of rapid change, infrastructure ceases to be an advantage and begins to be a drag. Keeping those factories busy and paying dividends often forces a company to hold back on innovation.
The second problem is that the really profitable companies no longer rely on factories. Since 1970, the average weight of a dollar's worth (inflation adjusted) of exports from the United States has dropped by 50 percent. In other words, we're shipping ideas, not stuff.
If a factory doesn't need to be near the end user (because of cheap shipping) and doesn't need to be near the client (because of
"Being factory-centric doesn't increase your profits, it decreases them."
the ease of long-distance communication), then location is not really a competitive advantage. A factory owner often finds himself in the commodity business.
As I write this, I'm enjoying music from a group called Timbuk 3, based in Atlanta. The CD was manufactured by a Japanese company, in Indiana, and is being played on a Korean CD player through an amplifier made in Washington state. Finally, the music comes out of 150-pound solid-marble stereo speakers made in Thailand (which have tweeters that were made in Denmark). My guess is that at every step along the way, the "manufacturer" had a choice of factories he could use to make each component. And he probably didn't own them.
Do we still need factories? Of course we do. How else are we going to make all this stuff? My point is that while the world still needs factories, that doesn't mean you have to own them. Owning a factory will probably become a profitable niche business, a way to make a nice living. But fast-moving, high-growth, zooming companies don't need to own them.
Because factories are no longer local, because the ultimate provider is no longer the manufacturer, the model that was factory-centric is dead. Being factory-centric doesn't increase your profits, it decreases them. Being factory-centric doesn't decrease your time to market, it increases it.
What's the Internet Got to Do with the Chaos?
This is not a dot-com book. A year ago, the Internet was going to undo all that was done and change everything that needed to be changed. Old ideas like profit and loss and revenue were obsolete and we had better get used to a very different economy. Controltop.com (yes, it was a real company, and yes, they sold control top pantyhose) and others of its ilk were somehow going to rewrite the rules of economics.
Now that we've all lived through the much-heralded correction, there is a new chorus of voices. That chorus reminds us that it was all hype, that things are now back to normal and that the voices of change were wrong, wrong, wrong.
As with most dialectics, the future is somewhere in the middle. The Internet is changing everything, but the changes are going to be less visible than we expected. Consider this postcrash (March 2001) statement from The New York Times: "The Internet, with its myriad online connections, speeds the transmission of ideas, good and bad, and simplifies their reach. It has allowed business managers to peek into every link of the supply chain that feeds their manufacturing processes, and to change direction with a nimbleness that would have been unimaginable just a few years ago." The article is about eight thousand people at Solectron losing their jobs (in one day).
In the old days, Solectron could have taken a year or more to adapt and adjust to a slowdown in the economy and the market for circuit boards. Now, with every company connected to every other, it takes minutes, not months or years, for the bad news to trickle in. In many ways, the supply chain is now as turbulent as the stock market. And companies that are at the end of that chain can get whipsawed all day long.
There used to be slack in the systems that connect companies to one another. It took a long time to tally up the orders, a long time to deplete inventory, a long time for the purchasing department to figure out what the sales department was doing. All that slack is now being sucked out of the system. The networking of every department means that the guys in purchasing can find out about a sales slowdown within minutes, not months.
The Internet is the reason that change is piling up exponentially. The Internet is the reason that this chaos is not like all the chaos that came before. Not because of one-click shopping at Amazon.com or searching for Turkish cab drivers on Yahoo! No, because the Internet connects every company and every consumer in an instantaneous web, where response times approach zero.
Successful Businesses Hate Change
In stable times, businesses succeed when they get very good at something. Maximizing their ability to act like factories -- factories that take in raw materials and money at one end and spew out products and services at the other -- is the secret to success.
Since the start of the Industrial Revolution, the goal of most companies has been to grow in size and to become more efficient as they do. These companies work to stamp out variability in the products they make, to avoid risk, to be reliable, predictable and scalable. They invest in infrastructure and policy manuals to reduce variability and increase efficiency.
In changing times, however, the rules appear to be quite different. What worked in stable times is precisely what will lead to a company's demise when things are changing. Rather than being big and efficient and risk-avoiding, it appears that the companies that do best (in the long run) in times of change and volatility are small in size and risk-taking in profile. Efficiency takes a back seat to guts (and luck). The policy manuals have actually become a hindrance.
Change is nothing new. Even stable companies lived with change. But it was like gravity -- it was always there, it was predictable and we could deal with it. Even the change was stable!
We now live in turbulent times. Everything in our world -- from marketing to technology to distribution to the capital markets -- is changing faster than ever (and not always in the same direction). Yet most companies are clueless about what's causing the change, how the change might affect them, and more important, what to do about it.
The company stock is falling, but we do nothing until it's too low. Then the board fires the CEO, the new CEO conducts massive layoffs and the company limps along until someone buys it. Or we see a new technology revolutionizing one industry after another, but ignore it and hope it will go away before it gets to us. One day, it does get to us, and our competitor uses it to trounce us with a breakthrough new product.
Successful businesses hate change. People with great jobs hate change. They abhor confusion and chaos and shifts in the competitive environments. Market leaders seek out and cherish dependable systems.
But upstarts and entrepreneurs love change. Turbulence scrambles up the pieces on the game board and gives them a chance to gain market share and profits. And since there are always more competitors than market leaders, there's a huge demand for change. More innovation. More competition. More change. It's not going to go away. It's going to get worse.
Stable times force us to think of our companies as machines. They are finely tuned, easy to copy and scale and own. We build machines on an assembly line, following specific rules and focusing on how to make them cheaper and with ever-better reliability.
If your company is a machine, you can control it. You can build another one, a bigger one. You can staff the machine with
"Our organizations are not independent machines, standing in the middle of a stable field. Instead we work for companies that are living organisms. Living, breathing, changing organisms that are interacting with millions of other living, breathing, changing organisms."
machine operators, and train them to run the machine faster and faster.
In times of change, this model is wrong. Our organizations are not independent machines, standing in the middle of a stable field. Instead, we work for companies that are organisms. Living, breathing, changing organisms that are interacting with millions of other living, breathing, changing organisms.
Managers and employees are looking for a way to make sense of this turbulence. We need a metaphor to help us not merely deal with external change, but embrace it in order to succeed.
This is not business as usual. It's a new principle that is going to feel unnatural at first. We will need a new vocabulary to even discuss it. Borrowing from the field of evolutionary biology, I am going to try to outline a new definition of a successful business. We need to reinvent what it means to lead (or work in) an organization.
The Promise of Positive Feedback Loops and Runaway
Surviving change is a noble goal, but what if embracing change didn't just help us survive but actually gave us better results?
Before working your way through the rest of the book, where I describe a different way of dealing with change, consider the upside. Instead of forcing you to put out fires and deal with emergencies, it's possible for change to present you and your organization with mammoth new opportunities.
Scientists talk about positive feedback loops. These are systems in which the inputs are amplified and become the outputs -- and then go right back in and become the inputs again. That screeching sound that comes from a poorly designed microphone is called feedback because amplified sound from the microphone comes out of the speakers and goes right back into the microphone. Positive feedback loops can have beneficial outcomes, however.
Money in the bank encounters a positive feedback loop like the one in this graph because you earn interest on your money, and then interest on your interest and then ever more interest on that interest.
An avalanche starts on the top of a mountain, with just a few rocks falling off a precipice. But each rock starts a few more rocks rolling, and the avalanche increases in force until it is powerful enough to wipe out an entire village. This is a positive feedback loop.
A company succeeds in large part because it's successful. An early lead becomes an insurmountable lead, because the early advantage is itself a factor in the company's success.
As markets become more chaotic, they create opportunities for new players to grab an early advantage. With planning and luck, that advantage can turn into a huge lead, especially if a positive feedback loop reinforces that lead.
When people start interacting with each other in a positive feedback loop, the loop gets amplified, entering a stage called runaway. The evolutionary science pioneer Sir Ronald Fisher coined this term for an evolutionary system that races ahead, faster and faster, reinforced by sexual selection.
We're all familiar with the runaway phenomenon. A book starts selling, and suddenly, people start to buy it just because other people are buying it. People sell items on eBay because that's where all the buyers are. But all the buyers are there because sellers know that's where to find them!
Of course, runaway can work in the other direction as well. A stock on the NASDAQ starts to fall, which leads to news and gossip about the fall, which leads to even more investors panicking and selling their shares. The stock's price will decrease faster and faster, with investors fleeing and bargain hunters buying until it finally reaches equilibrium again -- sometimes at just 10 percent of what the stock was originally worth. This feedback loop sucked all the money out of the stock.
During the Great Depression, many banks closed because of a run on the bank. Consumers have confidence in a bank as long as there's plenty of money on deposit and they believe that other consumers also have confidence. But once lines started to form outside the bank, previously unpanicked investors started to have second thoughts. After all, they thought, if everyone on this line gets their money back, there might not be enough left in the vault for me. Of course, if no one had felt this way, then there wouldn't be a line in the first place. As soon as some people start to have second thoughts, though, it reinforces the fear across the population, making the problem worse and amplifying it through a positive feedback loop of negative thinking.
The marketing department would like your company to be fast enough to launch products that can take advantage of these positive feedback loops. Your CFO wants a company nimble enough to pile onto these successes, because it can transform your stock into a runaway hit.
Runaway Can't Last Forever -- Nothing Does
Cisco is a fine example. It established itself early on as the leader in Internet infrastructure. This meant that investors seeking to make a bet on this sector invested in the company, which drove up its stock. The increasing stock price gave Cisco a currency (a valuable stock) that it could use to buy other companies. In the last decade, it acquired hundreds of companies, which further reinforced its position as the leader, which attracted more investment and further drove the stock price up.
Cisco stock peaked at eighty dollars a share. According to the New Yorker columnist James Surowiecki , that gave the company a valuation that assumed that the company would be bigger than the U.S. economy is today in just twenty-five years. Runaway had led people to want to buy Cisco at any price, ignoring the obvious fact that no company can grow forever at the speed of Cisco's early years. Once the market realized that mass hysteria had set in, the stock dropped more than 80 percent in a runaway decline.
Despite the limits on runaway, Cisco returned an astonishing 89,000 percent (that's not a typo) increase in its stock price during the 1990s. Good work if you can get it! Runaway can't last forever, but it's fun while it lasts. If you can figure out how to trigger a runaway, you may be able do it again, creating a never-ending series of runaway successes.
The Best Form Of Runaway Is the Least Obvious
There's a positive feedback loop that can change your company and the way it deals with change. Your company can attract a different sort of employee and create a runaway organization.
I flew on TWA last week, and the entire experience was exhausting. The people behind the counter, beaten down by years of working for a company on the edge of bankruptcy, seemed tired. The planes, way behind on cosmetic maintenance due to a lack of investment, seemed tired. The flight attendant, who had stuck with the airline because she had seniority, seemed tired. By the time I got home, I needed a nap.
What sort of person applies for a job at TWA today? Is it someone who wants to embrace change, move quickly and take risks? I doubt it. TWA is reinforcing its factory view of the world every time it hires someone.
Compare this negative feedback loop with the one that was in place at Kinko's for years. What sort of person applied for (and got) a job as a manager at Kinko's? The company was able to reinforce its ground-up approach to change in the people it hired. The more zoomers they hired, the more likely they were to zoom. Unfortunately, new management is doing its best to eliminate the zoomers (they fired most of the kinkos.com division where the highest concentration of zoomers worked) and go to a factory-centric model.
If you were a hotshot networking engineer during the 1990s, the obvious place to go to work was Cisco. If you were an entrepreneur building a networking company during the 1990s, the obvious place to sell your company was Cisco. Great people want to work for fast-growing companies. The power of this positive feedback loop is underrated, though. Just as markets gravitate to leaders, so do employees. And smart employees in a hurry are the building blocks of your future success.
The Evolution Alternative
Now that we've seen the impact the changing environment is having on our organizations (and more important, on us), let me lay out a very different point of view. The rest of this book describes in detail this alternative way of doing business.
As I've described, change is out of our control, and the way we deal with change is outmoded and ineffective. Our organizations are built on the assumption that we live with the slower time cycle of yesterday. We build factories and try to make them perfect.
If we try to control something that is out of our control, we're going to fail. The failure is going to lead to frenzy, to stress and ultimately, to the demise of our organization.
Perfect is impossible when there is rapid change, and thus we're forced to search for a different way and a better metaphor. Smart businesses can learn from animals, which respond to competition in the environment through evolution.
Evolution (real evolution -- inheritable modifications over many generations) is the most powerful tactic available to us for dealing with change. Organizations and individuals can put this proven organic technique to use by permitting change to occur, not fighting it.
A mutation is a mistake or random feature created when a gene or an idea is transferred. By finding positive mutations and incorporating successful new techniques into a company's makeup, organizations can defeat their slower competitors. It is our fear of changing a successful winning strategy (the tactics we use to succeed) together with our reliance on command and control tactics that combine to make us miserable.
There's a different way. We start by bypassing our fear of change by training people to make small, effortless changes all the time. I call this zooming. Then we can build a company that zooms and that attracts zoomers. As the company gathers steam, it will enter runaway, distancing itself from its competitors and dominating markets by embracing the change that will inevitably come.
Copyright © 2002 by Do You Zoom, Inc.
Foreword, by Charles Darwin
Evolution is a fact, not a theory.
As many more individuals of each species are born than can possibly survive; and as, consequently, there is a frequently recurring struggle for existence, it follows that any being, if it vary however slightly in any manner profitable to itself, under the complex and sometimes varying conditions of life, will have a better chance of surviving, and thus be naturally selected. From the strong principle of inheritance, any selected variety will tend to propagate its new and modified form. If we look to long enough periods of time, geology plainly declares that all species have changed; and they have changed in the manner which my theory requires, for they have changed slowly and in a graduated manner.
I can see no limit to this power, in slowly and beautifully adapting each form to the most complex relations of life.
Companies that can evolve slowly and constantly will triumph.
Natural selection can act only by taking advantage of slight successive variations; she can never take a leap, but must advance by the shortest and slowest steps.
No winning strategy lasts forever.
No fixed law seems to determine the length of time during which any single species or any single genus endures.
And most companies will disappear.
More individuals are born than can possibly survive. A grain in the balance will determine which individual shall live and which shall die, -- which variety or species shall increase in number, and which shall decrease, or finally become extinct.
The good news is that you can teach old dogs new tricks.
Our oldest cultivated plants, such as wheat, still often yield new varieties; our oldest domesticated animals are still capable of rapid improvement or modification.
The bad news is that competition is cutthroat.
The struggle almost invariably will be most severe between the individuals of the same species, for they frequent the same districts, require the same food, and are exposed to the same dangers.
Companies that zoom have a competitive advantage.
The modified descendants of any one species will succeed by so much the better as they become more diversified in structure, and are thus enabled to encroach on places occupied by other beings.
Alas, there are no guarantees.
But which groups will ultimately prevail, no man can predict; for we well know that many groups, formerly most extensively developed, have now become extinct.
People have trouble embracing these facts because they're hard to see in real time.
The chief cause...is that we are always slow in admitting any great change of which we do not see the intermediate steps...The mind cannot possibly grasp the full meaning of the term of a hundred million years; it cannot add up and perceive the full effects of many slight variations, accumulated during an almost infinite number of generations.
Copyright © 2002 by Do You Zoom, Inc.