We are seeing, and will continue to see many company failures as our economies change shape and massive government support ceases. It made me wonder, why do those companies fail?
A metaphor. I’ve found myself recently discussing soil ecology with farmers and vets. An area I have very little understanding of, so the conversations have proved enjoyable and instructive. I think there is a parallel with business ecosystems. Bear with me.
Plant health depends critically on the invisible dry matter below ground – the root system and its ecosystem. This in turn depends on the health of just a few inches of topsoil, and industrial farming has dramatically depleted the health of that topsoil through the introduction of artificial fertiliser, over tilling and over use. The soil is exhausted. Good topsoil though offers:
- Improved water holding capacity
- Improved cation exchange capacity (nutrient holding)
- Better soil structure (drainage)
- Carbon sequestration
My view on parallels; Business “topsoil” is the people in it, and the “dry matter” it depends on is culture and resources. Over time, we have exhausted this topsoil as we outsource, pay minimum wage, organise, micromanage and overuse early and unproven AI in areas better done (at least for now) by humans. We have contaminated business culture with the external fertiliser of consultancy, simplistic “best practice” and short term profit focus.. Our business “dry matter” – the invisible things we can’t really measure – is often exhausted. Fixing that can give us:
- Improved customer retention through improved relationships.
- More idea generation through more human interaction.
- Better resilience.
- Better average profit over time.
Improving topsoil requires behaviour change. Leave the soil alone. Stop ploughing, don’t use inorganic matter. Pay attention to what’s below ground. The business equivalents are obvious.
Businesses are organic ecosystems. We should learn from those who really understand them.
note; high five to Andy Adler for the article that prompted this insight.