Adapt or Die!

It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent; it is the one that is most adaptable to change. –Charles Darwin

The business mantra used to be grow or die. It was said that businesses that weren’t growing were shrinking, and therefore, dying. This is no longer true, and acting in accordance with this maxim isn’t as wise as it once was. Instead, surviving and thriving is really about what Darwin noticed 150 years ago: adapting and changing.

A Modern Tale of  (un)Certain Death

Two weeks ago I was in a Barnes & Noble. A giant bookstore chain like Barnes & Noble is a modern day dinosaur. It is big and powerful, but it is right in the middle of a cataclysmic change that threatens its very existence. It will either adapt or it will become extinct. As I walked through the aisles with my three children, I used my cellular phone to take pictures of the covers of the books I found interesting. I am still not comfortable taking the Kindle DX out of my backpack and actually purchasing the books on the Kindle while I am standing in their store. I still read a lot of books, but I never buy the old format book anymore.

Would it help Barnes & Noble to open even more large stores? Maybe for a short time it would, as long as the adoption of the new book format and technologies were slow to be adopted. As the e-ink format grows and becomes adopted, more big stores just gets you a bigger dead dinosaur later. It appears that Barnes & Noble thinks so too, and they have released their new book reader with the unfortunate name, the Nook.

It appears that Barnes & Noble has decided that adaptation to change is more important than the growth of large store locations. Survival means giving up something that is right for the past for something that is right for the future.

Are You Growing Larger or Adapting?

This lesson isn’t just for businesses; this lesson is for us as individuals (and sales professionals) too. It isn’t enough to grow larger while ignoring the changes that are occurring around us. It is helpful to start by making some observations and taking an inventory.

1. Beliefs, Behaviors, Activities: Which of your beliefs, behaviors, and activities that served you in the past no longer serve you? What are you doing that allows you to grow over the short term to the detriment of your long term survival?

2. Environmental Changes: What has changed in your environment? What do these changes mean to you and your survival?

3. New Beliefs, New Behaviors, New Skills: What new beliefs must you adopt to survive and thrive in the future? What behaviors will your survival require? What new skills do you need, and how will you go about getting them?

More of what served you in the past may in fact make you a bigger dinosaur, but then, you are still a dinosaur. Instead of thinking more and bigger, think adaptation and speed. Think change. Think personal innovation. Think personal adaptation. Think personal reinvention.

Adopt the mantra: Adapt or Die!

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