The rise of the chameleon…why adaptation matters in organisations

Image: Dreamstime

What do Chameleons, Stick Insects and Squid have in common?  They are all creatures that change colour depending on their surroundings, enemies, temperature or mood. In the natural world this ability is known as signalling, and has evolved as an evolutionary means to communicate or camouflage.

You are probably wondering what bearing this has on the modern business habitat?

Well, it may not be a jungle out there, but to survive – and thrive – corporate leaders and managers need to be comfortable with change.  Adaptability is key.  The financial pages are littered with stories of organisations who were looking the other way when the winds of change blew in.  In 2009, UK retailer Woolworths went bust after 100 years of trading history. 30,000 people lost their jobs. While there are many reasons for the decline, the contributing fail factor was a lack of focus on their core retail strengths (you could buy anything and everything) and an inability to respond fast enough to inclement market conditions. In these credit-crunching times it any wonder that these premises are now occupied by discount retailers such as Poundland – squarely aimed at budget-constrained consumers?

Savvy organisations recognise that change is a constant – and are able to respond to their environment.  Super-savvy organisations actually build this type of reflex into their strategy.  I’m reminded of the latest TV campaign for Amazon, who claim they ‘make the revolutionary, routine’– the premise being that innovating for change is the new normal.  For such businesses, change is not merely something that happens, but something  that the leaders of these organisations actively shape.

Sharks may be the ultimate predator, but their corporate repertoire is somewhat limited. Far better to be a chameleon. Not only can they change their spots in 20 seconds flat, they can focus on two objects at the same time. They also catch prey at about 30 thousandths of a second. Now that’s what I call a reflex! Managerial mimicry, anyone?

What do you think?  Can being a corporate chameleon help you adapt? Comments on the blog, please.

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