Comfort, Complacency and Collapse
The Poor Frog:
I know you will be bored if I remind you of the story of the frog in the pot of water. Y0u have probably heard the story many times – how, if you put a frog into a pot of boiling water, it will jump out of the pot. But, if you put our, by now worn-out, frog into a pot of cold water and gently bring it to the boil, the frog will remain in the pot and slowly boil to death. The explanation being that the frog does not notice the gradual change and rise in temperature as one second seems the same or very similar to the previous one. Now I can’t vouch for the accuracy of what happens to the frog as I have never done it, never seen anyone do it and never even heard of anyone who has done it. What I can vouch for is that very few people who hear and understand the message from the demise of the frog ever do anything about it.
Who are the Stupid Ones…the Frog or Us?
The normal reaction is around how stupid the frog was. But the whole story is a waste of time –and a waste of a frog – unless we all realise we are daily doing the very same thing and making the very same mistake that the frog did. The fundamental mistake the frog makes is to use its comfort as the criterion for its welfare and for what it does. But are we any different? Do we not do the same and every day do what is comfortable for us without questioning if this comfort is good for us or not? In our lives and in our organizations we become prisoners of our comfort, of our way of doing things, of the pattern of relationships we are in and our comfort with these. Our relationships and our routines can be just as lethal for us and our welfare as was the hot water for the frog. We become addicted to a way of doing things, to a way of life and we become unwilling and unable to change.
Boiling or Drifting to Death
This is serious. Really serious. Just do a check on how many Companies, apparently successful Companies, have disappeared off the face of the map or globe in the last 20 years. And ask why? Did they not see it coming?
The point is that it is not much good just knowing this. Many of these companies also KNEW it but they didn’t act out of a real awareness of their situation and the danger, the boiling water they were in.
How do you know if you are Complacent?
How would you know if you were really seeing the danger or not? How could you tell?
It’s simple…by looking at what you do and how you are organised and manage.
Only this will tell if you are really aware of the danger of comfort, routine and complacency, and that is why Companies need fresh and innovative ways of relating in new and dynamic ways with their customers. Customer surveys, customer information mechanisms, even Customer Focus Groups will not be enough to shake us out of our comfort and to our attachment to our strategies, plans, products and services
But before that, why not take a little test:
Which category do you think you and your Company belong to?
- “Things are critical. We must change or we die!”.
- “Things are serious – we face big challenges, strong competition, and we will need to change a lot of things.”
- “Things are not critical – but they are changing and moving and we need to take a serious look at what we are doing and how we are doing things.”
- “Things are okay but we may need to make a few minor changes.”
Now, you might feel good about your answer and hopefully not go for either 1 or 4. Hopefully you are not at 1 and hopefully you are not thinking along the lines of 4. Ok?
But, what really matters is not so much how you answer but how you are behaving.
If you feel that you are somewhere between 2 and 3, the more important question is if how you are organised, how you manage and how you behave is in line with those answers.
Another good question to ask and answer is: how would other people in different areas and at different levels in your Company answer that question based on how they see things and what they see happening in the organisation?
So what now?
It will be great if, having taken this test, you believe there is nothing more to be done and that you are not only alert and fully awake to what is happening but are organised in such a way that you are responsive and responding to every change, even the smallest changes in ‘temperature’.
It will be equally great if you conclude that you are not really organised and structured and behaving in a vibrant, flexible, responsive way and realise that you have to change some ways you currently operate and introduce new and fresh ways to become a wide awake organization, structured and able to adjust and respond to every change or sign of change so that you remain healthy and robust, vibrant and thriving.