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  • Inogesis

Ostrilemmings versus the Megadisruptors

Updated: Mar 18, 2019

Sir Kenneth Olisa.


Shock, horror! I recently discovered that two facts on which I have relied since school are myths!

To my surprise, it turns out that ostriches don’t bury their heads in the sand to avoid facing reality (they’re tending eggs) and lemmings don’t commit mass suicide by leaping en masse off cliffs (apparently they confuse migratory messages while searching for water). Despite the biological truths, both myths are kept alive and well by the Ostrilemmings of today’s corporate world.

Pick up any business paper and you will be regaled with tales of companies which have buried their heads so deeply in the sands of disruption that they can’t see that the end of their world is nigh.

The front of the herd is led by the retail sector. While Amazon’s customer-delighting e-commerce innovations rip swathes of destruction through the traditional bricks and mortar model, the familiar High Street brands just bury their collective head in the sand and hope that when they eventually come up for air, everything will be OK. Instead of applying leading-edge technologies to leverage their own customers’ loyalty, these losers are racing at speed to the cliff edge wasting what remains of their creative spirit trying to find clever ways of avoiding paying their rates and rent. And clawing in cash by resorting to that last resort of the failing shopkeeper – heavy discounting. But they’re not alone. Companies across the industrial spectrum are in a state of collective denial, hoping that what the Kings of the Megadisruptors – Amazon, Airbnb and Uber – have done to retail, lodging and transport, won’t happen to them! Of course, there are some who recognise that a cliff edge is approaching, but even they seem incapable of denying their genes and taking actions which might save their lives.

Rather than learning from the Megadisruptors and embracing innovation as part of their business-as-usual operations, this new breed of Ostrilemmings become group-thinking followers of fashion. Today that usually means pouring money into unsustainable experiments conducted in the ‘cool’ laboratory programmes of incubators and accelerators, the output of which is never more than a few column inches of sexy PR and some photos for the company intranet.

The idea that amateurish innovation dabbling is an antidote to the might of the Megadisruptors is the biggest urban myth in the Age of Disruption. The only way to de-risk the new reality is to delight your customers by adopting continuous innovation as a way of life. And the only way to do that is to pivot your business’ approach to innovation from experimental to evergreen.

Avoiding the looming cliff edge fate requires company leaders to reject the false security of the ostrich and the lemming. Unlike the head-in-sand/collective suicide myths of their ancestors, the Ostrilemmings are no myth and they’re doomed to extinction. Happily, the Megadisruptors can be beaten at their own game.

Survival and prosperity in the Age of Disruption depends on delivering a continuous steam of customer-delighting innovations by embedding what we used to call 'R&D' as a core element of every business’ supply chain.

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