The Only Way to Stay in Business is to Reinvent

by Nadya Zhexembayeva on 3rd May, 2015 at 7:02 PM CEST

“Ask any manager on planet Earth, ‘What is your key challenge?’ and among many different responses one will strike you with remarkable consistency: Staying afloat. The fast-moving roller-coaster economy we live in today makes this task increasingly difficult. Just as we handle one crisis, another looms around the corner. How can we sustain—and even thrive?

The answer is the one you’ve heard before: We must consistently remake who we are, what we offer, and how we deliver our offerings to the world. Put it simply, we must reinvent.

What you may not have heard before is this: Today, the frequency with which our reinvention must take place is staggering. Essentially, we must become a new company every three years.

In fact, we must reinvent so frequently and so radically that the traditional roles and processes inside of an organization cannot keep up. It’s time to make reinvention into its own profession. The Ten Commandments are here to help you with this task. Within this TIP of the week, here is commandment #1:


These days, the word “sustainability” has become closely associated with the green movement. But if we return to sustainability’s original meaning, it’s all about survival. At the center of our search for sustainability is the desire to hold on, to endure whatever the harsh environment has to offer, and to keep going. This desire to hold on is well documented by social scientists.

A 2010 study, for example, found that the longer something is thought to exist, the better it is evaluated, whether we talkabout university requirements, art, acupuncture, or food. Dr. Heidi Grant Halvorson writes:

“People who saw a painting described as having been painted in 1905 found it far more pleasing to look at than people who saw the same painting described as created in 2005. Students preferred the course requirement described as the status quo over a new version (regardless of whether the new version meant more or less coursework). People who were told that acupuncture had been in existence for 2,000 years expressed more favorable attitudes toward it than those who were told it existed for 250 years. Study participants were given a piece of European chocolate. It was described to them as having first been sold in its region either 73 years ago or 3 years ago. Guess which group rated the chocolate as better-tasting.”

When it comes to organizational change, 2005 research suggested that of all the emotions we feel towards change, three primary ones are cynicism, fear, and acceptance, with two of these emotions being fiercely negative and one vaguely positive. Intensely positive emotions never made the top of the list. For any one of us who survived organizational transformation, this negative predilection is hardly surprising.

It is precisely this desire to have things around for as long as possible and avoid change at all costs that drives us to create endless ‘lock-down’ rules and excessive regulations, to design rigid processes and detailed instructions, to celebrate books that showcase businesses that are Built to Last (which also happens to be an exceptionally good book!). 

We all want to last. To continue. To always get back to “business as usual.” We want to hold on to the world just the way it is.

And that is exactly where the central problem lies—and why so many of our sustainability efforts are doomed. It is the desire to stick with, no matter what, that ultimately gets us killed. Why?

Sustainability doesn’t drive life. Change does.

In every second of every day, things change; even us. We breathe in and out, becoming a different person with every molecule of oxygen that enters our bloodstream (incidentally, did you know that every day you are guaranteed to inhale at least one of the molecules of air that passed through Genghis Khan’s lungs?).

We observe change in seasons and eat foods produced through the gradual change called growth. We survive ups and downs of the stock exchange and come in and out of economic recessions (14 of them in the last 100 years in United States alone!).

Nothing in the world holds on. So, if holding on and locking down don’t work, what can we do? How do companies survive? How can we sustain? It will sound almost paradoxical. The real secret of sustainability is simple: take the essence of what you are, and let go of everything else. It is that essential core that you need to propel forward, reinventing yourself vigorously over and over again, with a rapidity that is staggering. Instead of desperately trying to stay in business by all means possible, it is time for you to get out of business—and get into a newer one.

Take the essence of what you are, and let go of everything else. It is that essential core that you need to propel forward, reinventing yourself vigorously over and over again, with a rapidity that is staggering.

Tip of the Week by Nadya Zhexembayeva

Commandment #1 from Nadya's "Built to Reinvent - The Ten Commandments of Today's Sustainable Company" 

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Muhammad Ali Ali

Muhammad Ali Ali

oooh freat!!!
its great article by a great leader
our matchless leader : Nadya :)

You are superb!!!!!!!!!!

14th May, 2015 @ 6:55 PM CEST

Stefan Alievikj

Stefan Alievikj | C:F staff

In such turbulent times when everything is changing on the fast run, it really looks like natural for companies, groups, organizations to live through reinvention only

Thank you Nadya for this good read!

20th May, 2015 @ 3:33 PM CEST

reena kataria

reena kataria

Really amazing article :)

Life's big funda you have given us very simple way ... hats off

"take the essence of what you are and let go of everything else" this line did great impact on me ..thank you so much for sharing this :)

3rd June, 2015 @ 10:02 AM CEST

Prashant Gupta

Prashant Gupta | Action team

couldn't have explained it in a better way. This is such an amazing article.

14th September, 2015 @ 6:21 PM CEST

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