All I Need to Know about Business I Learned from a Duck

Archive for January, 2011

Can Bedbugs Teach Us Anything about Surviving in Today’s Business Environment?

Friday, January 21st, 2011

Bedbugs have been around since 400 BC and were nearly eradicated in the early 1940s; however, over the past decade their numbers have soared by 100 to 500 per cent. Up until just a few weeks ago scientists thought the increase was primarily due to an increase in travel to and from bug infested regions; but studies conducted by Ohio State University researchers found that bedbugs may be genetically resistant to the pesticides currently used to get rid of them.

In other words bedbugs have gone so far as to change their DNA in order to survive and thrive … which made me wonder if there was anything owners and managers of America’s small to medium-sized business could learn from them about surviving in today’s business environment. (See video of a genetically modified bedbug hatching, below, if you can stomach it!)

Here’s my take:

What was successful in the past may not be the best strategy for long-term survival – Just as insects and other aspects of nature change and evolve over time; to remain competitive and successful companies need to accept and encourage change. Hershey Foods Corporation didn’t advertise for 76 years. Milton Hershey stuck to his guns saying, “The quality of our product is the best form of advertising.” But after suffering significant losses in market share during the 50s and 60s, he finally consented to printing a Sunday newspaper supplement in July, 1970 followed two months later by national TV and radio commercials … which helped launch the company to unprecedented increases in sales and profits.

Be willing and flexible enough to make monumental changes, if necessary – After repeated exposure to toxic compounds and pesticides, some “intelligence” within bedbugs figured out that deep, deep change – changes to its genetic make-up – was required in order to survive. As an owner or manager, are you willing to go so far as to change the DNA of your company in order to survive and thrive? Are you willing to change your value proposition, your brand position … possibly even change your organization’s core values?

What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger – Nobody truly welcomes or desires adversity in their life. But if you consider that we learn best from failure, running into a few bumps in the road, even some major ones, might lead to novel ways of operating your business that you probably wouldn’t have considered if all was going smoothly (after all, what new insights can be gained if all you experience is success after success after success?).