I recently took my strategy and innovation class out of the classroom. Guess where we ended up? A safari or a zoo (whatever you want to call it). What’s a better place that teaching strategy where you can see the survival of the fittest. It was a suggestion from my students.
History is filled with examples of animal species with Dinosaurs as the lead example that were made extinct by their inability to adapt environmental change and the prediction from scientists is that there are more to come. An alarming finding that was published in the scientific journal Nature that suggested more than a million existing species could be extinct by 2050 because of climate change. Probably 80% of those species we have never heard of.
Can studying why species in the safari went extinct provide us with lessons for business? The answer is a yes, the first being that not everyone will survive. Everyone knows that but the big question is how to make sure your company is not on that list? To survive, it means understanding what is your food chain. There is a simple food link between two animals and many animals struggle to obtain adequate amounts of their particular food(s) and cannot simply change their diets as other foods becomes available and ultimately face extinction. For business, the lesson is about your revenue streams might not sustain as the industry structure shifts and you need to reinvent your business models. Companies needs to change diet before they run out of food.
The second lesson is to know your role in the food chain. Some animals in the jungle can eat both plants and each other, as well as use each other for shelter and nesting. Companies need to learn to use other companies by way of strategic alliances to shelter competition to increase their chance of survival especially for those who are not in a position of influence the market. Think about what these terms like predator, prey, continent, climate, and habitat means in business strategy and what role does your company play? Darwin suggested that extinctions were a prolonged and often undetectable process. It is true for business as people or animals in the jungle don’t see survival in a strategic manner.
The third one is understanding your competition and their innovation capabilities. Companies should not just worry about the external change such as discontinuties but need to be aware of the evolutionary potential of other companies or species if we are talking about the safari. Animals cannot do that because they do not posses the intelligence, nor will they hire consultants - but companies can. It is the practice of strategic foresights, what we do that to ensure companies can engineer their own evolution and create their most favorable conditions for that to happen. Someone once said “The rules of the jungle do not apply to those who wrote the rules of the jungle." There is a lot you can learn by spending a day at the safari with me.