Chameleon? Nope!

We all know that we have to change with the times, change with changing markets, or we get left behind. We do not always do it before we are forced to, however. Some might express admiration for a chameleon at this point, an animal that can change to match its surroundings.

I’m not going to do that. Chameleons react to their environment, they do not choose the change. Human beings, on the other hand, are amazingly adaptable. You can find us in the Antarctic or the Sahara, in the tundra of the Yukon or the rain forests of the tropics. We can choose where we want to go…and we are generally smart enough to choose how to adapt to the environment we choose. Parkas or sunscreen? Warm boots or waterproof boots? We are able to adapt wisely.

We need to apply that same talent to our businesses. We need to be just as knowledgeable about the environment in which we are conducting business (our markets, the economy, trends, etc,) and know how to adapt as they change. That requires intentionality, research, and foresight. You do it in the rest of your life. Do it in your business, too!

Moving Beyond “Newtonian” Change Models

Moving Beyond “Newtonian” Change Models

by Jerry Straks

ABSTRACT: “To deal with dynamic change, it would appear that the “Newtonian,” mechanistic, control-oriented views of change may need to give way to newer models. Emerging models of change which better account for the current reality of highly dynamic change are based on the less familiar perspectives of quantum physics, self-organizing systems, and chaos theory. If we are going to help organizations create cultures that are as nimble, flexible and adaptable as they need to be to not only survive, but to thrive, we must continue to evolve how we as OD professionals look at change.”


We hear a lot about sustainability from an environmental standpoint. I’ve been thinking about sustainability in other contexts lately, as in “sustainable leadership” or “sustainable business processes.”
The topic of sustainability has been near and dear to me for decades, especially in its organizational applications. I have watched too many things done “one-off” with no consideration for precedence, repeatability, skill transfer, or anything else. I have watched too many companies and nonprofits peak and plunge. I have watched processes that were made so cumbersome they collapsed into disuse through their own weight.

My observations have morphed over the years into a list of requirements strong leaders can apply to make something sustainable. “Sustainable” in a human or organizational context means to me that the system of people, processes and resources operates and remains relatively stable without requiring ongoing, overt, external action to support it. When necessary, the system takes the initiative to draw from its own reserves and from its environment the information and resources needed to adapt to any changes. The overarching goal is to survive so it can continue to maintain its ongoing successful functioning, however its members define “success,” without needing a caretaker or hovering benefactor.

Sustainability is not the same as maintaining the status quo. Companies and organizations that try to maintain the status quo only manage to peak and plunge. Trying to avoid change when everything is changing around you is a recipe for disaster, though it may be a slow-death type of disaster. True sustainability requires savvy, strategic leadership that knows when to make evolutionary course corrections and when to make revolutionary, transformational changes.

Everyone knows the metaphorical example of buggy whip companies. Compared to the early 1900s, the need for buggy whips today is drastically less. The number of buggy whip companies is correspondingly drastically less. Any that attempted to maintain the status quo are gone. Those that leveraged their skills and resources into new domains (steering wheels? leather seat covers?) and made the transformational changes needed, could have survived.

The kinds of changes that made buggy whips obsolete still happen in markets with deadly regularity. Your market is probably not exempt, either. Sooner or later something is going to change about your audience or in your market that could put you out of business if you have not been the kind of leader who knows how to maintain a (1) sustainable business with (2) sustainable business practices using (3) sustainable leadership skills. Join me for the next few days to explore these topics.

Join me tomorrow to explore how to maintain a sustainable business.
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Leadership QuickTip Application Question: What examples of “peak and plunge” have you experienced? What did they teach you about how your business could peak and plunge?
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Please feel free to use the blog comments to share hints from your personal experience about “peak and plunge”.
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Lead as though the future depends upon it!

(originally posted to my “Leadership QuickTips” blog in April 2007)