Yes, Businesses Have a Melt Rate 

by Shane Cragun and Kate Sweetman


How can we gauge our relevance going forward in today’s tumultuous, disruptive and global business environment? How can we quickly determine if changes to our strategy and the way we do things is necessary? Are there a few key questions we would be wise to ask with our teams throughout the fiscal year?

Let’s consider the case of the trillion-dollar U.S. food industry. As more and more shoppers opt for fresh, organic choices, the top 25 U.S. food and beverage companies’ market share continues to decline year after year. It seems their fundamental existence is being challenged in very big ways.

A savvy industry analyst summed it up best: “These big food companies are like melting icebergs. Every year they become a little less relevant.” 

Wow. Melting icebergs.

The question now is whether these large companies are willing to confront the brutal facts and pursue significant change through reinvention and other large-scale change strategies.

In today’s Age of Disruption, we all need to continually reflect and focus on our current and future competitiveness. We can do that by asking four “confront the brutal fact” questions and, in fact, can ask them about ourselves as professionals as well.

  1. Melt Rate: Is my professional or organizational iceberg melting? If so, at what rate? Why?
  2. Relevance Trend: Am I and my organization continuing to increase in relevance in the eyes of customers and stakeholders? If not, why?
  3. Adding Value: Am I and my organization continually adding value to our products from our customer’s point of view? Am I engaged in vital work that adds value to the customer?
  4. Internal vs. External Change: Is my organization’s internal rate of change faster than the rate of change in the external environment? Am I learning faster as a professional than the creation of new knowledge in my external environment?

Although these questions are somewhat metaphorical in nature, they can spur deep insight into our ability to successfully compete now and in the future. If we avoid asking strategic questions such as these, we risk sliding into irrelevance and launching squarely onto the path of failure. “Head in the sand” strategies will not work for those who have a bias for success in the 21st century.

Whether it is asking the four questions we suggest above, or others that may be more relevant, we challenge all individuals, teams, organizations and societies to proactively ask profoundly self-reflective questions in an attempt to maintain complete awareness of their strengths and weaknesses.

There is a natural law called The Law of Nemesis that has been in play in business over the centuries, but seems especially acute and powerful today. The law states, “Find a good thing and count on this: A nemesis will appear. Nothing good lasts forever because others will want to share it.” Asking “confront the brutal fact” questions will be a striking characteristic of future market champions.

Having a mindset in the Age of Disruption of being a “disrupter” versus a “victim of disruption” clearly makes professionals and organizations feel much more in control of their future, with their hands squarely on the operating dials in an effort to leverage incoming global shockwaves that are sure to come.

What does survival in today’s digital and bit economy really require? Learning agility is a good start. Much has been written on this strategy, so we feel little need to elaborate. But suffice it to say, learning fast and well 24/7 will be a competency as valuable as gold for organizations going forward.

Speaking on the criticality of ongoing learning, American moral and social philosopher Eric Hoffer summed it up in this way: “In a time of drastic change, it is the learners who will inherit the future. The learned usually find themselves beautifully equipped to live in a world that no longer exists.”

To maintain market leadership, business leaders need to embrace the strategy to be a voracious learner willing to ask the tough questions.

Shane Cragun and Kate Sweetman are founding principles at SweetmanCragun, the world’s leader in providing leadership and high-performance solutions specifically tailored for today’s Age of Disruption. They are co-authors of the new book, Reinvention: Accelerating Results in the Age of Disruption


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