3 Kinds Of Companies Trying To Survive and Thrive.

The sands are shifting and organizations are having to change. There are 3 ways in which companies are using their employees to do this. 

  1. Companies that have talented employees who see the difficult and innovative paths that must be taken – and are listening to them.
  2. Companies that have talented employees who see the difficult and innovative paths that must be taken – and are silencing them.
  3. Companies that had talented employees who saw the difficult and innovative paths that should have been taken.

Most companies fall into category 2 and 3.

It’s not on purpose. It’s not evil. It’s just human nature.

Our habit of catering to past patterns of power ensures that most organizations work this way.

Working differently is hard.

Working differently means taking an obvious risk and being ridiculed if it all goes bad instead of living with the risks no one else sees and receiving condolences when ‘nothing could be done.’

Ask yourself three questions:

  1. Do I think everyone in my company agrees that the current direction is the best one? If the answer is yes, then people are missing or silent.
  2. When was the last time I seriously considered a remark starting with “What about this way?” If the answer is months, then people are missing or silent.
  3. Can you list the employees actively working on projects that will decimate one of your existing business models if they succeed? If you can’t, then those people work for your competition.

Now, if you’re not running things. Are you silent? Time to speak up. No need to be rude. No need to demand everyone do it your way. Just make sure the folks that matter have heard and seriously considered your idea. If they decide to go a different way, then its time to be a team player. And if they ignore you… well that’s another post, but stories about banging your head up against or through a wall are always appreciated. 🙂

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8 Responses to 3 Kinds Of Companies Trying To Survive and Thrive.

  1. Brad Shorr says:

    Fred, Your third suggestion – working on projects to ruin your own business models – is brilliant. Do you know of companies that do this? It would be interesting to hear from them. All your challenging questions get at two organizational characteristics that are hard to shake – the tendency toward consensus and the tendency toward conformity. People within an organization have a deep desire to agree (consensus) and when they don’t, they keep their mouths shut (conformity). Tough to change that!

    Brad Shorr’s last blog post..The Benefits of Talking about Features

  2. Hi Brad, The concept has been on folks minds in a big way since Christensen’s “The Innovators Dilemma’ took off and is probably best pursued in high-tech. Google, Microsoft, Apple all have their fingers in a lot of pies trying to figure out where the next big threat/opportunity will come from. I’ve not seen much study that looks at specifically what might happen if you let the mavericks loose (mostly what happens when you do the opposite).

    You’re right about the power of consensus and conformity. Part of the reason it is so powerful is that it works incredibly well. There can be a fine line between driving an express train and herding cats when it comes to managing an organization…

  3. Bill Welter says:

    Interesting post, especially in these tough times. Too many people will feel that it’s safer to hunker down and not to rock the boat. But now is when it’s really needed.

  4. kay plantes says:

    Great post. I really like the third point. The Law of Nemesis says that everyone will copy a good thing (or best it). So you must disrupt your own business as you also try to run it for more and more profits. Great leaders know who to jump from one trapeze to the next—remaining calm in the daunting space between the first and the second swinging bar.
    Kay Plantes

    kay plantes’s last blog post..Value Promise and Profit Potential, Part Two

  5. Andrew says:


    I have a dream to by or run my own business at some stage in my life.

    That dream may be several years away yet, but the day I am able to make this happen, I will sit down with the staff (assuming that there are some staff at that stage and I am starting completely on my own) and say:

    “Any suggestions, no matter how big or small, which you have for better ways of doing things are more than welcome, and every suggestion will be given proper and due consideration.”

    Such a speech will be followed up by the regular practice of actively asking staff for opinions and advice on a wide range of issues and matters.

    I seriously don’t know why companies pay so much to hire paid consultants and then never bother about the opinions of those who actually deal with their clientele and understand how things work on the ground.

    You are going to pay for your staff anyway, so I don’t understand why on earth companies would not listen to their opinions and attempt to ascertain the maximum value out of staff whose services they have to pay for anyway.

    Andrew’s last blog post..Hate rappers – social menaces or genuine entertainers?

  6. Hi Bill, I agree. And in some places, unfortunately it can be more dangerous in the short term to speak up. But when you encourage people to hunker down at the office the talented ones tend to find another exit.

  7. Hi Kay, Interesting point. Competitive advantage is always in transition, even if competitors don’t catch up, consumer tastes will change right out from underneath you.

  8. Hi Andrew, Trusting and and empowering your staff to be real parts of the innovation your business brings to market will be very powerful. I like how you mention the ‘follow up’ part of your plan. That is truly the important part of getting employees to trust you with their ideas. I wish you the best of success.

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