Disruption And The ‘Genetic Drift’ Of Modern Organizations

“People who lead frequently bear scars from their efforts to bring about ‘adaptive’ change.  Often they are silenced.”  -Richard Foster Creative Destruction

Below is a very important story that gives account to the demise and extinction of the dodo bird. Important in how it how correlates to what is facing today’s modern organizations, from business, to government and even education. No one or organization is immune to this ‘drift’.

According to ‘How It Works’

“While debated hotly by scientists, the dodo became extinct for three reasons. First, before humans arrived on Mauritius – an island in the Indian Ocean where the dodos had evolved – they had no natural predators and as such were easy to hunt by travelers looking for food supply. Second, the humans who landed on Mauritius brought with them numerous foreign animals not native to the island such as pigs, dogs, and macaques, which are reported have frequently raided the dodo’s nests to take their young. Finally, as more and more of Mauritius became colonized so that its natural resources could be harvested and exported, habitat loss severely reduced the territory in which dodos could successfully live and reproduce.”

What the story above fails to reveal, in regards to the eventual demise and extinction of the dodo bird, is that at one time they had the ability to fly. But over a long period of time, living undisturbed by predators, as well as having easy access to food that had fallen to the ground, the dodo bird lost both its need and ability to fly.

It became comfortable…

It is this lost of flight, this ‘genetic drift’ that made the dodo bird vulnerable to predators. Which wasn’t a problem, until humans landed on Mauritius, at which point it was too late to change or adapt. It was too late to adjust to save itself.

The problem is that this same ‘genetic drift’ happens in today’s modern organizations.  

We find that we hide in our successes and insulate ourselves from change for so long that when the real need for change comes along, we are unable to adjust in agile and adaptive ways. We find that we’ve lost the ability to shift or change, often leading to this ‘drift’ into irrelevance. In which our organizations go the way of the dodo bird, unable to cope or compete with the predators that are disrupting the current state of things.

The question then becomes…

Can we enable our individuals and organizations to become more adaptive in how we look at change?  

Can we learn to recognize our ‘drifts’ and how to correct them effectively before they lead us down a path of irrelevance?

Can we learn to correct our ‘drifts’ before they embed and entrench themselves in our individual and organizational DNA?

Far too often, our successes and not our failures lull us into a state of stasis and status quo, allowing ‘fixed mindsets’ and ‘genetic drift’ to settle in. And when change is needed, we often find that it is too late. The damage is done and the losses become irreparable.

In the end, we have to recognize that organizations have an embedded need to recoil to the safety of the status quo, which requires ongoing disruption to build collective and adaptive capacity…

If we are to avoid the fate of the once thriving dodo bird.


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