The Dinosaurs That Still Walk Among Us

by Jay Deragon on 10/17/2013

extinction-2Some suggest that an asteroid hit the earth 65 million years ago and the  impact led to extinction of Dinosaurs. Yet today we have a similar kind of Dinosaur living among us in the form of organizations whose business models, cultures and leadership theories have been hit by rapid disruptive change.  Such businesses are extinct and they just don’t know it even as the impact of continuous change crumbles their realities like the asteroids vaporized the life support systems for the Dinosaurs.

Change can come quickly, it can be unforeseen and its impact can be larger than expected. There are asteroids of change hitting every industry and every business not watching diligently as “stars” fall on familiar landscapes.

The recent asteroid that hit Chelyabinsk, Russia in Feb of this year was estimated to have been about 55 feet wide (17 meters wide) with a mass of 10,000 tons before it entered Earth’s atmosphere. Based on more readings from a sensor network built to detect nuclear blasts, suggest the meteor released the energy equivalent of nearly 500 kilotons of TNT. That’s about 30 times the power of the Hiroshima atomic bomb.  And no one saw it coming..something so small yet so incredibly powerful…just like most business leaders are clueless about what the internet is doing to business and social landscapes everywhere.

Today’s Dinosaurs Are in Our Minds

The historical business and social landscapes reflect the living synthesis of people and places vital to local and national identity. Landscapes help define the self-image of an eco-system, its sense of place that differentiates it from one time period over another. It is the dynamic backdrop to people’s lives.  The self-image of one landscape of time over another is largely influenced by the experiences of people who live within the new eco-system that prevails. The old eco-system clashes with the newer eco-system primarily because of a difference of cognitive experiences.  The older eco-systems gets disrupted by asteroids of change that transformed the landscape yet the participants either have yet to recognize it or refuse to accept it.

You can see some of these Dinosaurs still walking among us. Some have transitioned to the new eco-system while most still walk around like old Dinosaurs among us. We’ve seen the internet transform publishing, media, retail, broadcasting, distribution, legal, shopping, transportation, logistics, small business funding, printing, financial businesses, capital markets, education and the list goes on and on.

The asteroid that will wipe out dinosaur thinking in today’s world has already hit. And just like the extinction that followed the dinosaurs 65 million years ago many businesses in the industries mentioned above  the asteriods of change didn’t wipe them all out overnight. There is always an extinction phase during which a few species waddled on before finally becoming extinct and known only to us as old memories on earlier landscapes in time but rest assured the slow movers and backwards thinkers will vaporize.

We are living in a new extinction phase now. Many are trying to survive and thrive in this rapidly changing landscape by adopting the latest technology and newest social strategy.  None of this will work because it doesn’t enable an organization to survive in an eco-system that is constantly in flux while seeking meaning and value as the glue that holds the human network together.

During times of turbulent disruption the only things that create meaning and value are the intangibles that touch our hearts and souls. Even the asteroids of disruptive change can’t destroy the intangibles. Smarter Companies anchor themselves in their intangibles which makes them immovable and eternal even during disruptive times. Something the Dinosaurs still walking among us ought to learn.

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