Your Company’s Aversion to Change is Killing Your Business. Seth Godin Explains Why – and What You Should Be Doing Instead

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By Jessica Yubas. Jessica champions progressive cultural change at both the professional and personal levels of society through her work and lifestyle as a digital nomad. Through her actions and ideas, she inspires businesses and individuals alike to consider and implement alternative, positive approaches to work and living. Follow her at Capa Consulting Group’s blog, Instagram and LinkedIn.

Let’s talk about change.

We are currently living in a time where we are experiencing rapid, unstoppable change propelled by a constant exchange of ideas due to increased global connectivity (thank you Internet). 

However, while the concept of an agile business is starting to catch on, there are still too many companies that are resistant to making even the smallest of changes.

In his book titled Survival Is Not Enough, digital marketing guru, Seth Godin, adopts concepts from Charles Darwin’s theories of evolution to make an excellent argument in support of the necessity of corporate change.  In this post, I share his central points with you:

  • Businesses Naturally Resist Change

    Businesses, like organisms, crave stability. 

    This is because both desire longevity, to exist from generation to generation into the infinite future.

    So naturally, then, the default reaction of both is to resist change, because change represents uncertainty, uncertainty is scary, and uncertainty can threaten the survival of a species (or business).

    As a result, businesses tend to adopt the stance that “any change, any innovation, any risk at all would lead to some terrible outcome,” and, as such, they treat “everything that’s new…as a threat, nothing is an opportunity.”
[Change] at most companies is a huge threat, an opportunity for failure.


  • But, If You Resist Change, You Will Go Extinct

However, more businesses fail when they don’t adopt changes than when they do. 

Change must happen to allow for the ongoing survival of a species (or business) - and must happen over time. If we aren’t changing (i.e. evolving) to maximize our odds at long term survival, we will become an unsuccessful species: a species that does not survive – or a business that doesn’t last.

Either we change our businesses, or they die.

Shortsightedness on the part of management leads a company to thinking only about what the short-term results of a change will be – those that would affect their own career or the company within their lifetime.

As a side effect, the company doesn’t consider the long-term effects of not making that (or any) change - and thus isn’t properly planning for the company’s infinite future survival.

We’re more afraid of sudden death than what will become of us in the long term.

An important factor to remember is that our businesses, just as species, do not live in a bubble where all external factors are constant.  We operate in “an ever-changing competitive environment,” which, in evolutionary biology terminology, is called The Red Queen.

Even if your business is resisting change, other businesses (your competition) are not.  If you want to ensure the survival of your business both during and beyond your lifetime, you must change over time because the corporate landscape will change with or without you.

Companies will fail if they stick to one idea only and expect all factors to be constant.


  • Change Is Good and Change Is Inevitable

Many businesses are only familiar with change when something major (and usually negative) happens, such as a failed business idea resulting in financial instability, or when merging with, acquiring, or being acquired by, another organization.

In these instances, companies implement severe and disruptive protocols in a rapid act of change to smooth over whatever event caused the necessity for that change.  Because of the drastic nature of the intervention, employers and employees alike grow even more fearful of the implications of change.

Change is no longer [just in response to] an emergency. Change is normal.

Don’t be afraid of, or threatened by, change. 

Learn to get comfortable with small changes so that you can embrace big changes when they need to happen.

Animals respond to inevitably changing environments and competition by evolving gradually and improving upon the foundation of their species to give themselves an advantage - however small - over other species.  Businesses need to constantly do the same.

What if embracing change didn’t just help us survive but actually gave us better results?


  • Start Zooming
Zooming is about constant change, change for no particular reason, with no particular goal

Similar to the Japanese concept of Kaizen, zooming is about making small, constant changes so that your business is not only staying current and fine-tuning itself in a competitive field, but so that the act of change itself doesn’t cause disruption or have negative connotations that prevent ongoing change. 

Your business should always be zooming for the sole reason that nothing is ever in stasis and nothing is ever certain or free from disaster. 

When you’re in idle mode, your value compared to that of your peers’ decreases.

Don’t think that your work is done once you have discovered your “great winning [business] strategy.” Part of the reason why so much competition exists in the corporate landscape is that companies become complacent after finding success.  Other businesses believe that they can out-achieve you by taking your initial great winning strategy and modify or improve it.

Your company cannot get too comfortable without eventually getting caught off-guard. “So, the imperative is to plan for failure, to repeatedly try new winning strategies, and to do it as cheaply as possible.”

The more frequently a company evolves, the better the odds that that company will zoom. 


  • The Changes That Allow Your Business to Zoom Come from the Bottom
Flexible companies make better use of their assets, and the first asset they maximize is their people.

Evolution is propelled by each individual organism, not by a collective species - as if controlled by some centrally organized source. Similarly, in business, your employees will offer the changes your company needs to enter zoom – not management.

For most companies, the biggest driver of your future is in your employees.

However, companies hold back their own progress in this regard because they host an environment of criticism and fear, rather than being open-minded and experimental.

Most companies have a culture that supports the critic, not the new idea…A great idea isn’t going to kill you.

When your company demonstrates that it is truly receptive to new ideas - by certifying a willingness to test them - the number of proposed ideas will exponentially increase.

Your company’s mindset should reflect that it’s no big deal if the company tries a new idea and the idea fails – because you will have attempted the idea quickly and cheaply and have setup a fast feedback loop to quickly assess its viability.  No harm done.

The ongoing and extended benefit is that once you become a company that zooms – a company that is constantly changing and is doing so because it openly fosters a culture of encouragement and experimentation – your company will only attract zoomers: people that have ideas that can move your business forward. 

Talented people don’t want to go to work for a company that drains their initiative. And if you can’t hire talented people, you’re stuck.

Zoomers will bring to your company all of the great ideas that they have absorbed from previous organizations they've worked for, which serves to further strengthen your company as a result.

Truly talented individuals are worth more, because when they move from one organization to another, they bring more value with them.


  • You Must Take Your Company into Zoom NOW

You must act now, because, “as more companies demonstrate that embracing uncertainty is a viable business strategy, our patience with those that don’t will evaporate.”

Just as when the evolutionary aspect of one organism eventually spreads throughout an entire species by natural selection, morphing into a standard feature, those organisms that do not change to integrate that new feature go extinct because they are no longer performing at the highest possible level of their species.  Survival of the fittest is the name of the game.

It’s human nature not to seek out a replacement until you need one.

Yes, “replacing a strategy that’s still working is difficult indeed.” However, you have to replace or evolve your current winning business strategy BEFORE it goes obsolete - because, at the world’s current rate of change, if you wait, it will be too late.

It’s pretty clear that intelligent leadership is the critical distinction between a company that zooms to success and one that just fades away.

All quotes in this blog post are from the text of Survival Is Not Enough.