One of the key reasons founders start a new company comes from their desire to change the way things are being done. These innovators have identified new ways to disrupt the status quo of a current process/product. The Merriam Webster Dictionary defines “status” quo as “the current situation, the way things are now”. Unfortunately, although startup companies launch their operations with the notion of being innovative and becoming change agents, as time progresses, some of them become comfortable with the status quo and stop innovating. This is nothing short of the “kiss of death” for these startup companies. As they stop challenging the status quo, they lose their competitive edge and become just another ordinary company… at best.Complacency and stagnation are the enemies of any company, whether they are a startup or an established corporation. However, promoting and executing change can be easier said than done for a leader, as there are many forces within a company that will oppose challenging the status quo. Just as cross country skiers get drawn continuously into the tracks set up by previous skiers, so do some organizations so as to avoid the uphill battle of implementing change.
In general, the older the company, the more difficult it is to introduce changes. It is generally easier to implement changes in a startup as older companies will have already defined their policies, procedures and identified their most important customers using existing products and/or services. Innovative companies realize that they must continually evolve and innovate even at the expense of cannibalizing existing product lines. They do so in favor of establishing new product lines based on new technologies.
Some companies, startup or existing, maintain their operations in the same way that they always functioned and wonder why they are not making progress. Albert Einstein, the Nobel Prize winner who developed the general theory of relativity provided the answer by coining the phrase: “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results”. Such companies will face major challenges in the market place from new and existing competitors whose customers are choosing their new solutions over the current incumbent.
BizGuide # 23 Why Don’t the Monkeys Eat the Bananas?
Scientists placed 5 monkeys in a cage and hung a bunch of bananas from the ceiling. Positioned underneath the bananas was a ladder. The alpha monkey, seeing the bananas, immediately climbed the ladder to fetch the bananas which triggered the Scientists to soak the Alpha monkey and the other 4 monkeys with cold water. After warming up, the monkey tried to fetch the bananas and again the same process repeated where all of the monkeys were soaked with cold water. After a number of unsuccessful attempts, the monkeys abandoned the idea of climbing the ladder to fetch bananas and sat quietly in the cage looking at the bananas not daring to climb the ladder.
At this point, one monkey was removed from the cage and a new monkey was introduced into the cage. The new monkey, seeing the bananas, started climbing the ladder. But before the monkey could proceed up the ladder, the rest of the group of angry monkeys proceeded to drag him down and beat him. The scientists removed another monkey from the first set of monkeys and introduce another new monkey. The new monkey attempted to fetch the bananas and faced the same fate, the 3 original monkeys and even the newer monkey beat him. The same process repeated as each of the other 3 original monkeys were removed one by one and replaced with a new monkey. At the end of the process, there were 5 monkeys sitting in the cage staring at the bananas however none attempt to fetch any. A great video about this story was presented very eloquently by the business educator Eddie Obeng in: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QhBv1kEGUeE.
The take away from this story is that one must challenge the status quo when something appears unreasonable, incorrect, not in the right place and/or does not feel right. To move forward from the current phase of a company state to a new state (a product, sales process, business process, etc.), one must question why things are being done the way they are and request answers until they are satisfied that it is the best way to move the company forward (the same is also applicable to an individual).
Stay tuned for more of the guiding principles and anecdotes that have directed me through my career of growing startups through to successful ventures.
Edited by Jamie Keeley, Event and Community Manager, L-SPARK.