Wednesday, February 16th, 2011
Stop me if you’d heard this one.
“[COMPANY] is in the final stages of preparing a bankruptcy filing, clinching a long fall for a company with humble beginnings that helped change the way Americans buy [PRODUCT], but failed to keep pace with the [CHANGE] rocking every corner of the [INDUSTRY] landscape.”
Today (February 12, Wall Street Journal) the missing words are ‘Borders’, ‘books’, ‘digital transformation’, and ‘media’, respectively. Tomorrow there will be another company in another industry that pays the ultimate price for not “seeing” what has been going on for some time.
I put seeing in quotes because seeing has two major dimensions—perceiving what is happening at an organic level on the one hand, and incorporating it into a world view and subsequent actions on the other. Social scientists have long documented that cognitive dissonance, the human mind’s ability NOT to perceive what it finds contradictory or threatening, is a powerful force.
We like to think that organizational intelligence is the eyes and ears of the organization, and in a very literal sense it is just that. But what the eyes and ears capture—physical sight and sound—must be processed by the human brain in order to yield meaningful images. Likewise, so must relevant signals in the competitive environment not only be swept in by the organization’s eyes and ears, but also processed and analyzed by a sense-making and action-taking capability.