Seth Godin on Survival Is Not Enough, Part 8

In his book, Survival Is Not Enough: Why Smart Companies Abandon Worry and Embrace Change, Seth Godin discusses how innovative organizations and individuals can apply prudent strategies in adapting and positioning themselves for the constant changes.

These are some of my favorite concepts and takeaways from reading the book.

Chapter 8, The Basic Building Block is People

In this chapter, Seth discusses how individuals can zoom within an organization or find one that would allow them to zoom. He offers the following observations and recommendations for us to think about:

  • As an employee, every one of our jobs is just a stopover on a lifelong journey of personal evolution. When we move from one organization to another, we take the learning from one job to the next. Unfortunately, depending on the organization, most of the learning we bring with us will be useless at best, dangerous at worst.
  • To build a zooming organization, we need to deprogram ourselves from time to time. This is because a zooming organization has a fundamentally different set of memes about how it conducts business. While it is hard to give up the winning strategy we are comfortable with, adopting the continual change that comes with zooming can help us evolve more quickly and with a greater chance of succeeding.
  • For an individual who decides to zoom, it is up to the employee to find a great boss and figure out how to use the company the best possible way. The critical element is to adopt increasingly more powerful winning strategies to advance our careers.
  • When the great people leave to join companies that let them zoom, runaway sets in. Those organizations can zoom ever faster, making them more fun, more stable, and more profitable over time. But this process cannot happen until individual employees choose and develop their zooming ability along with the organization.
  • We may have decided to zoom, but how would we transform an organization filled with non-zoomers? How can we get everyone in the organization aligned, focused on the same tactics, and willing to take risks to find success? The answer to both questions may be surprising. Don’t.
  • Do not try to force the reactionaries to change. Do not spend hours cajoling the “serfs” to give up their bondage and become farmers, hunters, and wizards. Instead, we should teach them how to think about the issue and understand the implications. Forcing people to change rarely works. Rather, be a zooming example and give them a chance to join us.
  • Hiring intelligent people with self-initiative is the fastest, more efficient to evolve our organization. It is also the only way to get a runaway state. Skilled people also do not want to work for a company that drains their initiative. If we find ourselves stuck in an organization with people who only want to be the serfs, it might be necessary to look for a way out. Another word, “You’re not stuck if you don’t want to be.”

In summary:

“The most convenient carrying case for mDNA is the individual. Each individual has his own winning strategy and carries a large number of memes with him to every job and every situation.”

Seth Godin on Survival Is Not Enough, Part 7

In his book, Survival Is Not Enough: Why Smart Companies Abandon Worry and Embrace Change, Seth Godin discusses how innovative organizations and individuals can apply prudent strategies in adapting and positioning themselves for the constant changes.

These are some of my favorite concepts and takeaways from reading the book.

Chapter 7, Serfs, Farmers, Hunters, and Wizards

In this chapter, Seth discusses how different employees can create different sorts of change within an organization. He offers the following observations and recommendations for us to think about:

  • There are four types of people in most organizations:
    • Serfs: They do what they are told.
    • Farmers: They work within the bounds of a winning strategy but constantly use feedback loops to improve the efficiency of their efforts.
    • Hunters: They look for means to expand the company’s winning strategy in ways that the organization probably had not considered before.
    • Wizards: They introduce significant mutations into the company’s mDNA, thus creating opportunities for entirely new winning strategies.
  • Farming, hunting, and wizardry all represent different ways in which zooming organizations can evolve.
  • Many people want to be serfs in a company, and many companies are eager to hire serfs. Our genes drive us to work in a steady job that insulates us from many external changes. Companies hire serfs because the machine-centric view of the enterprise demands people to be compliant cogs. For companies trying to evolve, a large number of serfs is perhaps the most significant single impediment to change.
  • Farmers have understood for thousands of years that focusing on yield is their most important activity. Establishing the communication and follow-up mechanism that permits farmers in our organization to interact and teach others is necessary for their success.
  • Hunters need the freedom to move around and a large territory to roam and identify opportunities. While the hunters have the luxury of not depending on a piece of fixed assets of land, they have a responsibility to report to the people who rely on them for planning food supply. Hunters also need to interact with their peers so that everyone can learn better hunting techniques.
  • Wizards invent opportunities by describing how the organization can use its assets to accomplish something very different. Of course, most of the things the wizard will bring to the organization will not work. However, most organizations fall victim to technology changes by not acting on the ideas of wizards. Unless our organization knows how to zoom, even the wizard’s most excellent idea will go nowhere.

In summary:

“Change is not monolithic. Different sorts of employees create different sorts of change. One of the main reasons organizations fail to change is that they try to introduce the wrong kind of change at the wrong moment.”

Seth Godin on Survival Is Not Enough, Part 6

In his book, Survival Is Not Enough: Why Smart Companies Abandon Worry and Embrace Change, Seth Godin discusses how innovative organizations and individuals can apply prudent strategies in adapting and positioning themselves for the constant changes.

These are some of my favorite concepts and takeaways from reading the book.

Chapter 6, Winning Strategies, Getting Unstuck and Sex

In this chapter, Seth discusses how a company can get stuck with its winning strategy and get unstuck if the strategy is no longer working. He offers the following observations and recommendations for us to think about:

  • Every company, big or small, has a winning strategy. The winning strategy needs not to be perfect or market-dominating, but it does generate results that the people at the company want to execute repeatedly.
  • The organization thrives as long as the winning strategy and the corresponding environment that supports it stay the same. But, at some point, all winning strategies cease to last forever because the surrounding climate eventually changes. Today, because the environment and rules change often, winning systems do not stay for long.
  • When the winning strategy is no longer working, many companies have difficulty making the necessary changes shifting away from the old system. There are usually three reasons for the unwillingness to change.
  • The first reason is that following someone else’s path is often an excellent substitute for the perceived risk of original thinking. The second reason is that sticking with tried-and-true approaches helps justify past decisions. The third reason is that, until recently, feedback loops have been slow and unreliable. As a result, it took a while before the vivid and urgent proof showed that a company’s strategy is not working anymore.
  • Unfortunately for us, the ever-changing world will always allow someone to find a new winning strategy. For someone who has an open mind about the new winning design, the quick-changing, technology-rich environment will offer many angles that make their newly adopted system more robust and potent than our existing strategy.
  • In evolution, sexual selection and natural selection determine how a species evolve and thrive (or becomes extinct). Such a mechanism works similarly for organizations, too. Sending fitness signals efficiently can enable an organization to find better partners and lead to more product and service offerings.
  • To enable an organization’s ability to change and to zoom, the organization needs to send the signal that it is not just safe for people to change but unsafe for those who conduct discourage change.
  • Bullies in an organization make it hard to zoom. A bully-free company is faster, wiser, more profitable, and fun. Firing people is dramatically underrated as a management strategy. By firing people who slow our organization down, we substantially support everyone who remains. Sticking by one or two influential people who refuse to zoom can easily lead to the layoff of hundreds or thousands of people.
  • Our customers also do a lot to determine our company’s mDNA. They affect the work we do, the prices we charge, and the kind of people we hire. As a result, we choose our future when we choose our customers.

In summary:

“Organizations can respond to competition and environmental shifts by organizing to evolve their mDNA, making incremental evolution less painful for the people who work there.”

Seth Godin on Survival Is Not Enough, Part 5

In his book, Survival Is Not Enough: Why Smart Companies Abandon Worry and Embrace Change, Seth Godin discusses how innovative organizations and individuals can apply prudent strategies in adapting and positioning themselves for the constant changes.

These are some of my favorite concepts and takeaways from reading the book.

Chapter 5, Your Company Has mDNA

In this chapter, Seth discusses a company’s meme DNA (mDNA) and how organizations can leverage the mDNA metaphor to embrace and adopt changes. He offers the following observations and recommendations for us to think about:

  • A company’s mDNA comprises the rules, processes, policies, market position, and people in the company. Without this mDNA, an organization would forget, from day to day, what it did and how it operated yesterday. What an organization did before today often plays a significant role in planning to do business tomorrow.
  • Unlike human DNA, the company mDNA can mutate as often as the business wants it to. The mDNA must change before the organization can change. Trying to change a business and its people without mutating the mDNA is not possible.
  • The business ecosystem is made up of many businesses. Each business in that environment is a smaller system, but all of them are in the same environment, entwined with each other. At each step along the way, a business, like organisms in nature, evolves along with its people and sub-organizations.
  • The job of the CEO is not to be right about the future as it is impossible to get everything bit right. The position of the CEO is to organize the company to execute a strategy that is winning for now, at the same time, to organize the company to evolve often enough to find the next strategy before today’s plan becomes useless.
  • Companies that can zoom are more likely to evolve, more likely to be launching innovative new products and services, and more likely to be successful. In addition, a company that knows how to zoom more than likely will attract employees who want to zoom. “When your company starts hiring zoomers, it’s going to zoom faster!”
  • Most of the fantastic big business ideas did not initially come from start-ups. Instead, they came from the research group inside big companies that were too rigid to do anything with them. “The challenge companies face is not in inventing new ideas. It’s in moving the old ideas out of the way so that they can implement the new ones.”

In summary:

“Organizations can put the proven tactics of evolution to use by embracing change, not fighting it. By incorporating adopting successful new memes into a company’s mDNA, organizations can defeat their slower competitors.”

Seth Godin on Survival Is Not Enough, Part 4

In his book, Survival Is Not Enough: Why Smart Companies Abandon Worry and Embrace Change, Seth Godin discusses how innovative organizations and individuals can apply prudent strategies in adapting and positioning themselves for the constant changes.

These are some of my favorite concepts and takeaways from reading the book.

Chapter 4, Do You Zoom?

In this chapter, Seth discusses the concept of Zooming and why it is essential to start zooming before a crisis comes. He offers the following observations and recommendations for us to think about:

  • Seth stated that “Zooming is about stretching your limits without threatening your foundation. It’s about handing new ideas, new opportunities, and new challenges without triggering the change-avoidance reflex.”
  • With the constant changes, many companies are now stretched beyond their zoom-width. As a result, they see everything new as a threat instead of an opportunity. If we can learn how to zoom and then hire people who want to zoom with the organization, the organization can grow, adapt, and perhaps even transform itself.
  • Zooming is different from change management. Change management is about making adjustments for a significant change or an urgent change with a purpose. Change management is a one-time event, followed by a period of healing.
  • On the other hand, Zooming is about developing the flexibility for constant change. Zooming prepares us to deal with changes for no particular reason or specific goals. We do not have to heal from Zooming any more than we need to recover from breathing.
  • Although every company zooms, some zoom more than others. Increasing our zoom width is a challenge, but the practice can build an asset that pays off for the organization.
  • More importantly, the best time to start zooming is before our company looks at a significant, life-threatening change. We should get into the habit of making frequent, small changes first. Then work our way up to bigger things.
  • Zooming is not the same as traditional re-engineering. A zooming organization is not worried about making today’s machine work better. It is more concerned with being flexible enough to put its assets to work building tomorrow’s machine
  • Re-engineering is a fancy term for layoff and labor force reduction. Flexible organizations make better use of their assets, and the first asset they maximize is their people. Unfortunately, the reality is that we cannot always shrink our way to greatness.
  • Most organizations get attached to the winning strategy that has made the organization’s assets valuable. As the world changed, the assets grew much less helpful, but the organization still hopes to reclaim the former glory by sticking with the old strategy that offers certainty. Unfortunately, fear and inertia keep a company standing still.
  • However, if our new winning strategy is that nothing is certain with change inevitable and welcome, we will likely not be disappointed by the reality.

Seth Godin on Survival Is Not Enough, Part 3

In his book, Survival Is Not Enough: Why Smart Companies Abandon Worry and Embrace Change, Seth Godin discusses how innovative organizations and individuals can apply prudent strategies in adapting and positioning themselves for the constant changes.

These are some of my favorite concepts and takeaways from reading the book.

Chapter 3, Fear and Zooming

In this chapter, Seth discusses the need to change our mindset on embracing changes. He offers the following observations and recommendations for us to think about:

  • There are usually four situations where people freeze in the face of making a change in organizations. They are:
    • Pressure from deadlines
    • Fatigue
    • Fear
    • Bosses who desire closure, not uncertainty
  • When organizations do want to enact changes, they often sabotage their effort by putting up two significant barriers:
    • Committees: Most organizations allow any committee member to say no to a change but require a unanimous yes for anything to move forward.
    • Critics: We are afraid of failing, and that mindset makes it easy for criticism, most of them ill-informed and unfair, to derail our effort most of the time.
  • It is not just the people. Most market-leading organizations are afraid of change. When an organization is mature and successful, it is harder for a needed change to gain traction because of the status quo and possible criticism.
  • For many people, change can feel like death. Species have evolved to avoid change or danger to survive. For a long time, we have grown to carry genes afraid of change. In the present age, one great idea is not going to kill us. We should not automatically associate change with danger.
  • Most change management approaches no longer work well. We have used change management to get ourselves out of emergencies. However, change is no longer an emergency. Change is now a regular occurrence in our daily environment.
  • To build an organization that can embrace change is to redefine change. We should create a “Zooming” practice that allows us to embrace change without causing the change-avoid gene to kick in with waves of fear and panic. If we can bypass that reflex, we can define “normal” as an environment in which new things appear regularly.

Seth Godin on Survival Is Not Enough, Part 2

In his book, Survival Is Not Enough: Why Smart Companies Abandon Worry and Embrace Change, Seth Godin discusses how innovative organizations and individuals can apply prudent strategies in adapting and positioning themselves for the constant changes.

These are some of my favorite concepts and takeaways from reading the book.

Chapter 2, What Every CEO Needs to Know About Evolution

In this chapter, Seth discusses that evolutionary biology can provide an essential analogy to how business can not only survive but flourish in times of change. He offers the following observations and recommendations for us to think about:

  • “Every time an organism mates, the genes from both parents are shuffled and combined. This reshuffling is the action that creates new organisms and allows evolution to proceed. This is the only time the genes get changed, but it happens every time. Try as the organism might, it can’t change its genes.”
  • “Genes cause offspring to resemble their parents.”
  • “Genes that are successful are more likely to spread through a population.”
  • “The choice of which genes are passed on to future generations is influenced by three factors: sexual selection, natural selection and mutation.”
  • “Evolution is a bottom-up phenomenon, with each gene and each organism driving the process. Elephants don’t need permission from the chief to mate.”
  • “Organisms that reproduce more often are more responsive to changes in the environment. Fruit flies survive change better than tigers.”
  • Present successful companies got to where they are by evolving and adapting better than their competitions. They changed and grew until they became successful.
  • Whether a company continues to succeed depends on whether it willfully stopped evolving. Those companies created roadblocks designed to slow their evolution process. They turn their attention to policies, committees, and investors. They also invest in attaining stable and repeatable operations while ignoring that change is constantly on the move.

In summary, Seth believes that change is unceasing and unyielding. Therefore, the best strategy is to embrace it and evolve.

Seth Godin on Survival Is Not Enough, Part 1

In his book, Survival Is Not Enough: Why Smart Companies Abandon Worry and Embrace Change, Seth Godin discusses how innovative organizations and individuals can apply prudent strategies in adapting and positioning themselves for the constant changes.

These are some of my favorite concepts and takeaways from reading the book.

Chapter 1, Change

In this chapter, Seth discusses why change is no longer something we can control with absolute certainty and the better strategies to deal with changes. He offers the following observations and recommendations for us to think about:

  • Many companies are not organized for change because they have never needed to be. Growing and profiting from stable times was a terrific strategy.
  • Unfortunately, change is now constant. The fundamental ideas we have used to build our companies and careers are quickly going out of style. The world is changing on our watch, and it is not fun.
  • Seth outlines the four structural changes in the business that have taken place in the last several decades:
    • “The speed at which we make decisions is now the factor that limits the speed of business.” Our decisions are on the critical path of getting things done, and the lead time for many things we do has shrunk dramatically.
    • “The Net has made information close to free and close to ubiquitous, further fueling the need for speed.”
    • Our worldview of having islands of stability is disappearing. “There’s only one market, and it’s the whole world.”
    • “Metcalfe’s law (networks get more powerful when they connect more people) has reached infinity.” As a result, we are all virtually connected.
  • For a long time, owning physical plants and factories has been the best way to get rich. However, with rich connectivity and cheap shipping, the factory-centric model is dying. Being factory-centric does not increase our profits but decreases them. The Factory-centric model also does not lessen our time to market; it now likely increases it.
  • Surviving change is a noble goal, but we need to find ways to embrace changes and get better results. We need to turn working with changes into a positive feedback loop.
  • When people start interacting in a positive feedback loop, the loop can get amplified and enter a stage called runaway. Even though runaway cannot last forever, it is fun while it lasts. So our job should be to figure out how to trigger a runaway, do it again later, and create a never-ending series of positive feedback loops and runaway successes.
  • Our fear of changing a used-to-be successful winning strategy combined with our reliance on command-and-control tactics makes it hard for us to embrace change. Evolution (inheritable modifications over many generations) is the most potent tactic for dealing with change. We should apply this proven, organic technique to embrace change, not fight it.

In summary, Seth suggests that we take an active role in embracing change. “Change is out of our control, and the way we deal with change is outmoded and ineffective. Our organizations assume that we live with a different, slower time cycle.”