This moral is, experience counts.
In the story, the leopard is described as a young animal with little experience, the human is an older and much wiser being. Faced with a changing environment both leopard and human struggle to adapt and hunt successfully, however the human is willing to take advice and changes his skin according to Baviaan’s suggestion. He realizes that by following the baboon’s advice and that of his own prey is the best way to become a strong hunter again. The Ethiopian recognizes that he is no longer equipped to hunt in the way that he is used to.
When faced with change, the educated and experienced individual will make it quickly. It does not take much hardship to make this type of person want to make an improvement in their life.
Deloitte recently released a fascinating publication titled Toward Zero Impact Growth. Taking the general premise that our economy is bumping up against some hard limits in terms of resource availability, climate impact and a context of growing population their postulation is that the global economy and business in particular needs to change - and fast.
Of particular interest is the work that Anneke & Ralph have done around mapping the current position of a number of high profile companies on that path of transformation. Some solid analysis using a robust trajectory model developed by Volans clearly highlights where these organisations have got to and what still needs to be done.
What struck me from these results was the relative slow pace of progress toward maturity on this scale for many of these businesses. The fact that most of them seem to be battling at an “enterprise level” of development highlights the difficulty for most companies to break free of the myopia around their own business confines and parameters. The implications of truly embedding sustainable business practice mean engaging in change right the way up and down an organisational value chain. This barrier between internal and external or as the model articulates it "Enterprise" and "Ecosystem" seems to be a big jump.
There looks like a rich seam of research could be done here, looking through a sustainability lens at the difficulties incumbent organisations face when attempting to make this internal to external shift. Organisational structures, employee capacities, leadership, innovation, collaboration will all weigh heavily on the eventual success of shifting to another state of operation for a business. We all know the penalties businesses face for not changing, history is littered with their ghosts.
During a lecture this week at the LSE, Giles Hutchins made a bold prediction from his latest book The Nature of Business, he said that by 2020 at least 60% of organisations in business today would be gone. Why was he so sure of this prediction? Giles felt that current trilemma we are experiencing, financial, environment and social are just the beginning of a rapid transformation to new operating paradigm for everything everywhere including business. Jack Welch, of GE fame stated that for a business, “If the rate of change on the outside exceeds the rate of change on the inside, the end is near.” Perhaps this is what we are experiencing right now - change but on a scale and at a pace not experienced before.
Can incumbent brands and businesses transform to a new paradigm and do so quickly - can a leopard really change his spots? I think the answer for many will be no. Is this going to mean a catastrophic breakdown of life as we know it, again I think not. The answer to how business operates within a new sustainable paradigm tomorrow may lie at the periphery of what exists today. Outside of the behemoth brands and multinational corporates exists a whole eco-system of smaller companies, typically relatively young who don’t need to change because they have consciously embedded this new paradigm in their DNA from the very start.
Kipling uses the leopard to demonstrate the consequences of someone that is stubborn, not willing to take advice from others or learn lessons from the environment around them. The leopard sees little reason to follow what Baviaan said. I for one hope that as many as possible of those businesses operating today can transform to a new paradigm.
The call from Baviaan is clear, but could perhaps do with being a little louder!