I was reading a newspaper article online 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 ignored the advert and continued reading. But after a few minutes, my curiosity would not let go of the question.
What did happen? So I went 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.
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 land 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 introduction of a camera on a mobile phone can have a dramatic impact on companies like Kodac, to an extent that it files for bankruptcy.
The introduction of free wifi in the City of Tshwane had an impact on the business models of internet cafés in the city.
The introduction of WhatsApp and Skype calls had an impact on mobile service providers sales changing from predominantly airtime to data sales.
The change of one political leader can mean the growth or the end of a country.
Unstable ecosystems are the enemy of traditional businesses, especially market leaders.
Market leaders have optimised 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.
Elephants don’t turn, big companies due to their sheer size respond slowly to change.
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? Or are you always looking for ways to change your status-quo, staying relevant and proactively leading the change. Survival is not enough.
Ecosystems are not stable.
It is always better to disrupt your business model, than for someone else to.
When someone disrupts your business, it may render your business extinct, but if you disrupt yourself, you still own your market share.
If the rate of change on the outside exceeds the rate of change on the inside, the end is near.
Speed is the new currency. Today, the future of most companies is up for grabs.
Winners change; losers don’t.