Survival of the Sh*ttest: 3 Reasons Corporate Mediocrity Endures

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Business is a constant process of innovation and adaptation. With business technology changing every handful of years, staying competitive means keeping abreast of trends and best practices.

If you’ve been working for at least a handful of years, then you know that the sensible thing for a business to do is to stay competitive.

If you’ve been working in the Philippines for at least a handful of years, then you know that there’s always one crap reason or another for businesses to stick to the Old Ways.

People around a bonfire in a cave
“This is fine.” (Image from Blogspot)

There’s a very good chance that the business you own or work for sucks (even just a little bit) for reasons concerning innovation. It isn’t necessarily anyone’s fault; after all, history tells us that structural change isn’t a natural inclination for our species.

Yet, like my mother would always say, “We build homes to perfect them over time, anak. So please, for God’s sake, clean your f*cking room.”

Or something to that effect.

Let’s have a look at the common organizational roadblocks to innovation–things you’d likely hear when someone shuts down the idea of opening up a new department, or signing up for a helpful new training program.

Reason 1: “If it Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It”

The first roadblock to innovation is the “If it Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It“ mentality.

You’ve heard it before: the excuse that your department or company has a perfectly fine way of doing things, so there’s never a need to shake things up.

Heck, you might even be making a lot of money sticking to the status quo, and besides: if growth is at a plateau, then it’s your own damned fault for not working harder.

To the Luddite, improvement isn’t worth the effort for so long as the status quo gets the job done.

While things could be quicker and easier for the people who need to slog through an outdated way of doing business, the current model is here to stay for as long as it isn’t impossible to work with.

Example: File Storage

Here’s a history lesson for the kids reading: before Google Drive, people had to rely on local file storage—that is, keeping all your documents and media stored on one or more computers. If people needed to access their work files from home, then they had to carry around USB flash drives or email themselves before clocking out.

They were dark times indeed, but humanity trudged through to a beautiful, cloud-hosted future.

Or, most of us did, anyway.

Some of today’s businesses continue to rely solely on local file storage.

In a handful of truly surprising cases, businesses with the funds to shift to cloud storage refuse to digitize their files at all, opting instead for clunky filing cabinets full of critical data and information (they’d better pray that there isn’t a fire hazard anywhere near).

One such business, pictured here. Probably.

If you’re dead set on introducing your workplace to a key innovation, find a way to get it into people’s hands without being insubordinate.

Find a compelling product review online, download a free trial on your personal laptop, or submit a copy of your next report made using whatever tools or formulae you’ve got your eyes on.

It’s like Prometheus bringing fire to mankind, without the punishment of being fed to ravenous birds.

Reason 2: Cost

The second possible reason why your company sucks is because it’s afraid of cost. People tend to be skeptical about the value of an investment –whether it’s in opening a new department, or adopting a new practice or technology.

Not every business can afford to upgrade every quarter, and that’s well and fine. But companies and departments with the resources to make a much-needed change are a far too common sight, much to the dismay of professionals who wish they could do more on the job.

In many cases, vital business upgrades are seen as frivolous expenses or risky gambles. The reality is that many investments like cloud hosting or a robust data infrastructure are well-known for their steep ROI.

Upon closer inspection, the cause of this line of thinking is closer to ignorance than it is to frugality.

We can understand being skeptical about the merits of today’s chatbots or even blockchain, but people continue to second-guess technology that’s been propelling businesses since 2005.

It’s rock-bashing traditionalism at its finest, and it’s holding our enterprises back.

Example: Working With Data

Every business can benefit from working with data.

That’s not a sales pitch, it’s a fact: when used properly, having a functionalthe data value chain can help an organization eliminate guesswork, predict business outcomes, and reach new heights of efficiency to the tune of over $10 in ROI for every dollar spent.

Data analytics, however, isn’t a simple matter of plug-and-play: it takes time, money, and mental bandwidth to build an infrastructure and collect the kinds of data that can be used for significant improvements.

Plenty of businesses are content with letting their data rot in filing cabinets, and any extra spending is taken as a deal-breaker. Apparently, they missed the memo that it takes money to make money.

“Like out of five stars??”

Communicating the benefits of an investment can be difficult, especially when trying to convince someone who clearly wants to remain skeptical. Our best advice is to be patient, be systematic in making the case for adopting a key innovation, and be persistent.

One way or another, you’ll either find yourself delivering the right pitch to get it through your superior’s thick skull, or find yourself killing time as you wait for your next career shift to greener pastures.

Reason 3: The Learning Curve

By its nature, innovation comes with a learning curve. For many adopters, it’s a necessary speed bump on the road to better business. For others, it’s a brick wall.

Organizations that reject innovation on account of the learning curve fall into one of three categories.

First, you have groups that can manage the challenge, but can’t be bothered to throw in any effort (the lazy).

Second, you have groups that can’t manage the challenge because they’ve hired people who simply aren’t up to par (the inept).

Finally, there are people who could learn but lack the funds or skills to hold training sessions (the unfortunate).

Example: Automation

It’s possible to automate common business tasks like managing files, organizing schedules, and even taking phone calls. If you name it, the chances are good that someone’s already taught a computer how to do it for you.

Of course, introducing a workplace to automation comes with an adjustment period –and the fact of that alone is enough to discourage some local businesses from literally kicking back and letting manual tasks perform themselves.

If you find yourself among the unfortunate, know that there are plenty of affordable training options for many of the latest innovations. You don’t need to cut a department to teach another how to work with automation software.

If you’re surrounded by the lazy and inept, however, we wish you all the best. There’s little to do when your managers and team members lack the initiative or mental power to stay ahead of the curve. Your best shot is to perform well, and keep your eyes open for a smarter career setting.

Case in Point: Blockbuster vs Netflix

In 2004, the American video rental service Blockbuster reported six billion dollars in revenue.

In 2010, Blockbuster declared bankruptcy.

Today, in 2019, your youngest work colleagues would scratch their heads at the very idea of renting videos only to return them to a store after some time has passed.

Conversely, there’s barely a soul alive today who hasn’t heard of Netflix, which is probably why most people cringe hard when they learn that back in the year 2000, Blockbuster declined an offer to purchase Netflix for a measly $50 million.

I’d bet my subscription that you or the people at your workplace feel for Blockbuster. Nothing was broke that needed fixing, $50 million is a hefty sum by anyone’s standards, and who the hell could have explained video streaming back in 2000 anyway?

Before you leave a flower on the grave of the world’s greatest home entertainment failure, know this: when Netflix tried selling itself to Blockbuster, the young streaming company was already raking in billions in revenue.

They knew they were sitting on gold, and the signs of continued success were plain as day. Why they even tried to sell themselves off is beyond me, but whatever motivations each party may have held, the outcome is clear: Netflix knew how to ride the tides of change.

For Blockbuster, innovation was optional, until it suddenly wasn’t.

Conclusion

Things aren’t all doom and gloom, and believe it or not, you can teach an old dog new tricks. In our Business Analytics Masterclass, we teach some best practices and techniques so that you can be more hands-on with your data.

We guarantee you’ll leave armed with the tools for transformative innovation.

Bonus points if you can bring any knuckle-dragging supervisors along with you—we have a thing for communicating the power of innovation to people who don’t want to hear it.

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