Adapt or Perish

CEOs need to be equipped to lead their organisations in a way that allows people and systems to evolve by adapting both to internal and external changes facing their organisations. The only true source of sustainable and competitive advantage is the capacity to adapt.


Think about the notion of change management; it really applies this sense of “we can control outcomes” and that is a false confidence that is demonstrated in the failure rates of change management around the world. My way of looking at it is that anytime we’re trying to change, we’re not trying to change. So, the answer to change is not actually to change, but rather to adapt.

Adapting is a concept that you’ll see showing up in the business literature even today, but is there a model or a process that adequately explains what adapting means so that I, as the CEO, can take and deploy it into my organisation? Largely, this is an area that is lacking. In a way, we need to trace back to the roots of biology where the idea of adaption comes from. We need to learn how to take it, simplify it and localise it as a concept that affects not only the species that exist within nature, but also organisations and the way they develop with the understanding that anytime we try to change, we are actually trying to grow, develop and evolve the organisation. In essence, we’re never really trying to change; we’re trying to adapt.

We need to take a model for adapting to understand the cyclical stages. From that, use a process that can be applied consistently and reliably to replace the kind of process of change management. This model needs to be built into the fabric of the organisation so that it becomes a living, adapting entity.

Finally, in terms of decision making within organisations, the typical thinking is that we will either progress or regress based on the quality of the decisions being made. These day-to-day decisions are guided by the values of the organisation, the shared sense of purpose that sits beneath the way we approach a task at hand. They are guided by our imagined or envisioned future. It’s the intended reality we move towards that sheds light on the kind of decisions we’re making on a macro as well as micro level today in terms of investment and allocation of resources.

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