Forrest from the Trees

July 16, 2009

A friend took me sailing, if you can call it that when both the mast and boom are naked, a week or so ago. (I cheated on these terms and looked them up.)  A beautiful, sunny, breezy day. A perfect backdrop to hang-out, swim, eat, drink and listen to music. 

A half-bottle of chardonnay later, I lay down on the bow—I know, I know…some of you might not think I work—what jumped out at me was a thick, even, tree-line juxtaposed against the bright blue sky. 

This long line of trees all seemed about the same size.  In the world of Adapt or Die, it struck me that on the surface it appeared as if these trees were all in agreement to grow and flourish collectively—a wall of uniformity. 

It reminded me of Big Brands. HP, IBM, Dell.  Eli Lilly, GSK, Pfizer.  Coke, Pepsi.  – You get the picture.

We know that between these players the only agreement is the constant pursuit of ‘lunch eating’.  They have to appear to play nice, partner, co-opitate. (Except Coke and Pepsi—no cooperation there.) But underneath the veneer, you know they struggle. They’re tripping over each other to separate from the pack, gain an advantage and then somehow keep it. Look at Coke Zero. It’s even fighting against its mothership, Coke. 

Market share, revenue, shareholder wealth—or in the case of my chardonnay-induced analogy, sunlight, water, air and nutrients.

I know I am beginning to sound like a broken record, but once again the notion of having a Disruptive ConversationTM blows its way in.  Of course to have the Disruptive Conversation you have to be disruptive.  Be a tree that thrives in shade, have seeds that are light enough that wind can carry them to places where there are fewer trees competing for resources.  Live with less water.

Find and embrace your differentiation. Be disruptive. If roots can break rocks, what can you do?

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