Silicon Valley State of Mind, a blog by John Weathington, "The Science of Success"
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Silicon Valley State of Mind

Tips, thoughts, and advice based on the consulting work of John Weathington, "The Science of Success."

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Posted by on in Strategy

We’ve recently been entertaining some uninvited visitors in our cement pond. A couple of months ago, a cute avian couple landed in our swimming pool to hang out for the day. I knew it was a couple because male ducks are much more colorful than females. At the time, my wife felt compelled to feed them; they ate well, feasting on our 9-grain bread and stoneground wheat crackers. Well, the word got out, and now our pool is a popular hangout among the duck community. Although it was a bit surprising at first to be greeted by ducks in the morning, the truth is—they were here before we were here. Survival requires adaptation.

I had this epiphany a few months back when I saw a band of coyotes emerge from a nearby creek. It startled me at first, then I quickly realized that there were children playing at the grade school a block away that would not be thrilled to have coyotes join their fun, so my wife immediately called the school and I called animal services. That’s when I received my education. After assuring me that the coyotes were no threat, the gentleman kindly explained to me that we moved into their territory—not the other way around. The wildlife around here has had to make some significant adjustments over the last few decades to accommodate the disruption we call suburban progress. It was an unwelcome change for the incumbent fauna; however, survival requires adaptation.

To survive today, leaders must focus on keeping their organizations adaptable. Martin Reeves and Mike Deimler, partners at the Boston Consulting Group, assert that today’s companies must adjust their strategic focus from building out one strong competence to learning new things quickly (Reeves & Deimler, 2011, p. 137). I agree, provided your organization is suspect to wildly changing external conditions. This ideology ostensibly flies in the face of traditional strategy planning where a long-term vision is articulated; however—for some companies—survival requires adaptation.

If you’re trying to run a company where the rules of engagement keep changing, think about where your focus is. To be successful on a traditional program, you must firmly focus on what will be delivered; however, to be successful on an agile program, you must firmly focus on how it’s being delivered—with a deep respect for the effect change will have on the evolution of your product and how this change will be managed.

Take some time to evaluate your environment. If you sense radical disruption, you may want to focus more on adaptability than your articulated vision. This doesn’t mean abandoning your mission—this is your reason for existence. However, a radically changing external environment has engendered a different attitude in leaders who are running successful organizations. If this is your situation, adaptation is your only answer. If ducks and coyotes can do it, I’m sure you can figure it out.


Reeves, M., & Deimler, M. (2011). Adaptability: The new competitive advantage. Harvard Business Review, 89(7/8), 134-141.

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