As my husband and I bounced through our woods on ATVs, I observed, with some sadness, all of the trees that had fallen by the strong storms this summer. The mature and now struggling oak savannah reminded me of a question posed by scholar and futurist, Joel Barker. Which plant species is best positioned to take advantage of the prime real estate that comes available when a large tree falls and opens the canopy to new sunlight?
According to Barker, the common thinking was that the most competitive plant would prevail. Like many things, modern research has brought a change to that thinking. It turns out that it is not the most competitive, but the plant(s) in the best position to take advantage of the opportunity when it presents itself that win the battle for the coveted niche.
Of course, that makes sense. If the most competitive plant won every battle then the entire forest would be populated by the same species. In nature, as in business, diversity is the spice of life. Small, sometimes extremely fragile plants are able to find a niche in which they don’t just survive, but thrive, despite competitive pressures from all around. This is also true of many businesses.
This insight from the natural world is both excellent news and concerning news for us all. It provides great hope that the changes that are constant in the marketplace, if properly prepared for, may present great opportunities for the future. It also provides evidence that enjoying market leadership may be short-lived if preparation for the changes of the future doesn’t remain at the forefront of leader’s strategic agendas.
How quickly do changes happen? In high-tech industries, the changes can happen multiple times in a single year. Although they experience change more slowly, in other markets, such as the funeral industry, leaders are facing new challenges they’ve never seen at any time in the past that are reshaping business models. New technology introduces new possibilities to memorializing a loved one. Rising social interest in concerns about land use is leading people to make different choices around their final decisions.
Whether at the cellular level, the personal level, the organizational level, the national level or the international level, everything is changing.
Is your organization positioned to take advantage of opportunities presented when the landscape of your business environment changes?