Monoculture risk

“Ecology” is a popular word currently being bandied around in business management circles.

The current predominant business ecology, certainly at the visible big business end of the market, is primarily made up off monocultures. And as such, it is highly susceptible to massive die-off from a single threat. Whole sectors can be wiped out in a relatively short period of time.

A large field of a single crop is highly vulnerable to a single new disease. A large number of investment banks all behaving more or less in the same way is vulnerable to a sudden change – witness the sub-prime crisis in the US.

As with agriculture, a business ecology that is made up of a larger selection of smaller or tiny businesses is far more resilient. Certainly life in the larger percentage of largely invisible small and medium-sized businesses is probably more stable when seen from 20,000 feet.

So how can we get more diversity into the ecology of larger businesses? To build more resilience. To encourage more innovation. Remembering that larger businesses currently have disproportionately larger impact on our lives and the wellbeing of this planet, whether we like it or not.

The key barriers are: fear of change, debilitating risk aversion, entrenched practices, fear of loss of economy of scale, focus on short-term profits, overt emphasis on the financial bottom line.

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