CEO Company Speech 2016 – Reflections
In the past 5 years, things have changed so much. We can say that the pace of change for business and in life is now in almost constant change. This completely turns the past 50 years on its head.
New waves of inventiveness, fast-paced next-generation technologies, a massive worldwide boom in artificial intelligence, and the rapid rollout of process solutions driven by new ways of doing business are a constant disruptor.
It might even be said that the time has come where we must stop discussing how to adapt and change, but to rather start discussing the relevance of what we do. Importantly, it seems this new world is now here, and here to stay.
2016 might be marked, by many out there, as annulus horribilis. This is especially true for businesses that have steadfastly remained confident by their size and legacy and convinced by their success over many decades.
It has been a year of massive changes to almost everything we do, from how we communicate to realising past fantasies like Mars in-habitation – which is not a pipe dream anymore.
Questions of human relevance in the workplace, volatile politics, and a demand for instant gratification in new emerging markets, is commonplace.
Think that the first driverless cars are now out commercially. A driver-less truck with 50, 000 beers made it through the state of New York and delivered without crashing. Drones are now being used by the Australian post office to deliver packages in rural areas. New solar roof tiles for independent energy generation in your home are in production, GM is almost mainstream in many improved crops that now require hardly any water and are almost disease-free. Even money, as we know it, is vanishing with new paradigms that involve the block-chain solution and a future workforce is being predicted as being placed as a productive unit from home.
The biggest employers from major corporations, governments, banks to insurance and financial and industry houses are beginning to automate more, or are being displaced in part by cheaper, simpler services that don’t hide their costs. The biggest employers such as energy providers are now being described as entering a “utility spiral” so like Eskom, may well soon become irrelevant.
For the first time in our recent history was are also seeing political establishments simply vanishing, replaced by popular social thought and not – as media and betting pundits put it – on trends that drove key predictors of the past for the future.
Our next generation consumer is coming into the market wants a simple, quick and personal service. Businesses with any legacy now have the extraordinary problem of meeting these needs having being built on complexity. If we thought 2016 was interesting, we might like to take a ringside seat for what 2017, which we might describe as the year of “shock and awe” to come.
So the question is really, where to from here?
Well I don’t have the answer but it makes me think that if any business is to survive, what is it that will drive them to success? Will it be, as in the animal world, based on momentum of size and the wisdom and memory of an elephant driven by memories of past choice, or might it be the tiny almost invisible scurrying and nimble life of the ant designed to constantly test, build, change, adapt and please?
So let’s take this an opportunity to use your metaphors and pick our lessons to go forward in 2017. You had a choice – would you rather be an elephant or an ant? Here are your thoughts:
An ant I think. They are good at getting things done and they can keep a low profile.
I’d rather be an ant because I like the idea of living underground in massive big caves and tunnels filled with rushing and scurrying friends carrying out their daily tasks tirelessly. I can pop out a surface hole anywhere and enjoy the green grass and warm sun and possibly make a new ant heap out of wet sand or clay – what fun. I’ll follow those lovely sweet scents that float past my feelers and find a dropped sweet or a can of cola or an opened packet of biscuits and have myself a little sugar rush party! Of course, I would invite my friends and we can carry back some sweet loot for the others in the caves… whoo whoo – another party!!
When it rains I am safe and warm underground with plenty to do with friends and family, either chores or recreation. I’ll have a great stash of food to keep my tummy full and a warm bed of fresh leaves that still smell of sunshine! When the rain stops I can surface and enjoy the fresh scents of clean earth and air and drink a satisfying drop of cool water to quench my thirst…. What a life!
I won’t dwell on the downside – the possibility of being squashed by an elephant!!
We want to be two ants on Ritalin riding on the back of a schizophrenic elephant that sometimes thinks it’s a giraffe. And sometimes a fish.
I would prefer to be an elephant as I would live longer and not be at constant risk of being squashed. Elephants are magnificent while ants are just annoying.
I sense a trap! Because elephants are awesome! They are intelligent, able to feel emotions and are just so majestic.
I would rather be an elephant, of course. They have the largest brains of the animal kingdom! Plus they have a very thick skin and a long memory, both of which I would love to have. An ant? No way
In 2017 I’d rather be an elephant – don’t want to forget all the things I have to be grateful for.
An elephant. Because it’s more than an ant but not a sycophant and they never forget. And it’s more than an ant. And they never forget. What was the question again?
Elephant – Ants are just soooooo flipping irritating!
I think I would have to be an Elephant. Even though they are poached – it must be wonderful to be such a powerful caring animal. Strong yet gentle and has a memory for a lifetime. So, in the end, they are not so far apart expect simply by what you see – their size.
An Elephant. Because intelligence is king.
Right you chose the animal in you, between the two. Now let’s look at their key personality traits – ones that you probably exude:
An elephant personality is a person whose deliberate movements exude confidence and calm in all aspects of his or her life. While maybe not the king of the animal world, it is surely a member of the royal family. With an imposing physical presence and kind, spiritual demeanor, it moves easily through life where few barriers can hold it back.
» Is slow to anger
» Doesn’t waiver when it sets its mind to something
» Tends to have a formidable personality
» Is trustworthy and honest
An ant personality can be described as showing the following distinctive characteristics in life or at work:
» They work hard now so they can enjoy the benefits later.
» They show a balanced mixture of observation and judgment to not only plan accordingly but to focus wholeheartedly on the task at hand.
» Once they have their claws into something, they’re not letting go until it’s finished.
Interestingly not every ant has the same personality. Some colonies are full of adventurous risk-takers, whereas others are less aggressive about exploring the great outdoors. Other research has shown that collective properties, like how much the ants explore, or their aggression levels, can vary from colony to colony. Perhaps most interesting is the discovery that the environment is an important factor in determining a colony’s personality. Ants are responsive to the environment and adapt quickly and in harmony.
Ok, so this is all nice to know, but I hear you ask, who would you bet on going forward when it comes to some comparison? Should we aim for the wisdom and strength of an elephant or the nimbleness and tenacity of the tiny ant?
Maybe let’s do some comparison statistics.
A large elephant weights 6 tons. A large ant weighs 5 mg – comparatively, the elephant is 1.2 trillion times heavier than an ant.
Elephant brains weigh in at a hefty 11-13 pounds — about four times the size of the human brain. In fact, elephants have the largest brain of any land mammal. Compared to a tiny ant brain, the elephant’s brain is thousands of times larger!
But if we think about brain size, it’s also helpful to compare the size of the brain to the size of its body. Elephant brains are huge, so are elephants! If you compare the ratio of brain to body weight in elephants, this ratio is about 1:800 for elephants. Elephants are also known for their intelligence. Even though their brains aren’t all that big compared to their huge size, they’re still quite powerful. In fact, elephants are known for having exceptional memories.
But what about the humble ant?
Of all the insects in the world, the ant can claim to actually have the largest brain. In fact, some scientists now believe the ant has the largest brain in proportion to its size of any creature on Earth! Even though individual ants can get smarter over time as they learn more about their surrounding environment, the real ant intelligence is in the collective. Just how advanced are their search capabilities? According to Time Magazine, ants are good enough to rival our best technology. Some scientists now would go as far as to say that the learning strategy involved by the humble ant is more accurate and complex than a Google search. Their findings even state: “These insects are, without a doubt, more efficient than Google in processing information about their surroundings.”
When it comes to popularity by location and numbers at the turn of the 20th century, there were a few million African elephants and about 100,000 Asian elephants. Today, there are an estimated 450,000 – 700,000 African elephants and between 35,000 – 40,000 wild Asian elephants living in parts of Africa and Asia. Sadly, the elephant is slowly being challenged by access, its size and lack of speed to continue to exist.
Ants have become so successful at working together that they can be found just about everywhere on Earth. The only places without ants are Antarctica and a few remote islands. The ant it seems is not challenged much by access to being anywhere.
Ants can survive at the extremes of the natural world. In the Sahara desert, shiny silver ants search the scorching desert sands to scavenge corpses of heat-stricken animals, before racing back to their nests to avoid overheating themselves. At the opposite extreme near the Arctic Circle, thatch ants build and live in their own ‘centrally-heated’ rotting compost heap.
But elephants are very successful animals and they have been around for a long time, the fossil record indicates that more than 300 species have walked the earth over a period of 55 million years. That’s a long time ago …
But then in 2006, Scientists collaborated to conduct a massive genetic analysis on ants from 19 out of 20 known subfamilies. Their findings discovered that ants first arose in the mid-Cretaceous period. Let’s put this into context. The K-T era was the point of extinction thought to have occurred approximately 65 million years ago following an absolutely massive impact event. It is widely regarded as the downfall of the dinosaurs (and, incidentally, the rise of mammals). Ants actually lived about 110—130 million years ago, which means they have almost seen everything that has passed through this world!
So what is the lesson to be learned here from all this and going into 2017?
The ant is a survivor. It’s been around the longest time. It works well together and shows common thought. It’s small enough not to be seen, but be felt. It’s everywhere and it’s pretty clever in a group.
The elephant is a creature to be noticed and awed. It has a tremendous memory as an individual. It can be seen and felt from miles away. It has a presence and is respected.
So 2017 might be the year of elephant. We need to remind ourselves that no matter how much change takes place, it is the wisdom of hindsight we should never forget nor ignore. Wisdom does not come easy and in the hype of change its pretty good to have hindsight.
An elephant never forgets!
And 2017 might also be the year of the ant. Memories of what works well may well count for less as completely new paradigms of doing things require group response and swiftness. How we think may well require adaptation and ability to think collectively more and more. It requires we respond together in concert and get used to fresh new environments.
An ant never quits and never gives up!