On Becoming Adaptive: The New Imperative for Survival and Success in the 21st Century

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Authors: K.N. Dervitsiotis

Publication Year: 2007

Source: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/14783360601043005

Journal: Total Quality Management & Business Excellence

Categories: Crisis, Entrepreneurship, Gestalt Switch, Qualitative


Change has been recognized as a key element of human existence since the 5th Century BC. Until the mid-70s change was slow enough to allow fairly accurate predictions of the future. This enabled organizations to develop plans and implement them based on a ‘command-and-control’ mindset, still dominant in our time. A combination of significant developments in technology and the world economy has altered dramatically the nature of perceptible change, the pace of which has been accelerating and is now almost totally unpredictable. This has rendered formerly successful strategies ineffective, making a ‘command and control’ approach obsolete in addressing today's big challenges. Consumer preferences, the nature of competition and the sources of competitive advantage continually shift. Drawing on metaphors from physics is giving way to new ones from biology and ecology, suggesting that in order for human organizations as living systems to survive, they must adapt and become fit in emerging new business landscapes by changing their structure and behaviour. This shift to a new mindset calls for a new image of an organization in an ecology-based worldview and for new measures of excellence relating success to an organization's landscape fitness, reflecting a capability to generate value for all stakeholders. In this emerging new reality of a rapidly changing environment, the only way for an organization to survive and succeed as a social ‘species’ is to become adaptive to emerging conditions, a transformation that becomes the new imperative for the 21st Century.