Metaphors for Achieving Irresistible Growth

Most people haven’t yet worked in an irresistible growth enterprise, one that prospers regardless of external business conditions. As a result, it can be hard to imagine what allows an irresistible growth enterprise to succeed. To help you appreciate what is involved, let me present two metaphors for ways that nature and inventors have created such usefully flexible adaptations to the external.

Nature provides an intriguing example of how individual adaptability expands success chances for larger groups of individuals in an organization. As described by John Tyler Bonner in the December 1984 issue of Science ’84, a type of amoebas, known as cellular slime molds, display some very valuable characteristics in the face of daunting circumstances that affect their survival, their irresistible forces.

Normally these amoebas live individually on the forest floor, and are limited in their potential to grow and prosper by the local supply of food they can reach in a fixed position. The size and location of the food supply serves as an irresistible force for the amoebas. For most organisms that are essentially stationary, high death rates follow the exhaustion of food sources.

When food sources are scarce, the individual amoebas also have the capability to group together as slime molds to move to where there is more food. The temporary clumps of amoebas creep across the forest floor to warmer, sunnier areas where food supplies are more plentiful — something they cannot do individually.

In time, some of the clumps will also change physical form and create a multi-celled stalk culminating in a spore sac filled with dormant amoebae spores. When animals and people brush against the sac, the dormant spores attach themselves and are carried to other new locations beyond the range of movement for the clump in order to find further additional sources of nutrients. Organized slime molds are able to be much more successful as a species in survival and growth than individual amoebas are, by the cooperation they employ.

Imagine how your organization would have to change in order to have the same ability to adapt successfully to irresistible forces, and how much more would be accomplished if that were the case.

People can do better than slime molds because we have the physiological and psychological agility to take advantage of even unpredictable change. We are far ahead of all but a few of the most sophisticated biological adaptations.

For centuries, people have relied on windmills to generate power. Originally, windmills were built to face in only one direction. If the wind blew in the right direction, great results occurred. If not, either small amounts of or no power was generated. That’s the way it is with many organizations: If things do not go just as planned, we simply get no benefit from our resources, time, attention, and effort.

Windmill designers got the message about the benefits of planning for perfect, timely use of the unpredictable and went on to develop the pivoting windmill. This remarkable invention serves to turn the face of the windmill into the wind so that the greatest amount of power is produced, regardless of which direction brings that wind.

You need to make a similar adjustment to give your organization the same ability to generate and use power from its potential.

Copyright 2008 Donald W. Mitchell, All Rights Reserved