Developing strategies and capabilities to cope in hostile business environments is a must for today’s managers. In this way, nature and the animal kingdom offer a number of solutions. The coping strategies of animals like lions, seagulls, sharks and bears have evolved over billions of years and can be adopted by managers too; these can be summarized as fight, flight, search and sleep, and are discussed further in this Idea.
Rather than develop strategies for coping with future challenges, managers often blame market turbulence or unexpected events when a crisis occurs. This “corporate déjà vu” takes place in many organizations. How can companies avoid the blame game and instead manage better in hostile environments? Could the solution lie in genetic codes found in nature?
Hostile environments – defined by natural scientists as a set of unstable external conditions – have become a clarion call for business. Even without the threat or likelihood of corporate failure, the challenges of senior managers increase exponentially as they strive to lead their companies in business environments characterized by instability. These are the kind of environments that many versions of can be found in nature too. So how do animals deal with them and what insight can such an analysis provide for business managers?
As the coping instincts of animals have evolved over billions of years, managers can learn from them which genes, or capabilities, they need to “switch on” and which they need to “switch off.”
One of the researchers, Dr Tazeeb Rajwani, points out that it is too easy to blame market turbulence or unexpected events for a company’s poor performance but this is often the response of managers to circumstances beyond their control. These findings, however, identify four basic coping capabilities and survival strategies that businesses can develop to survive and thrive in unpredictable environments.
The four capabilities-based practices for ensuring strategic fit can be summarized as fight, flight, search and sleep:
Do You Have Survival Instinct? Leveraging Genetic Codes to Achieve Fit in Hostile Business Environments. Thomas Lawton, Tazeeb Rajwani & Patrick Reinmoeller. Business Horizons (January-February 2012).
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