Set the heather alight.
Have you heard that phrase?
It’s frequently used in Scotland.
Often associated with an average thought or idea — “It’s good but it doesn’t set the heather alight.”
I hadn’t thought about its origin until recently, so I looked into it.
Heather is of a botanical genus called a Fire-Climax plant.
It requires the removal (burning) of old growth to enable new growth to come through.
It has to eliminate that which inhibits and prevents regeneration so it can survive and thrive.
Fire-Climax, that’s a great term.
One of my favourite songs as a child was ‘The roses of success’ from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.
The inventor Caractacus’ Father is imprisoned with the king’s inventors and told to build a floating-flying car like his son’s. Not knowing how, the inventors try to motivate Grandpa Potts with the song;
Every bursted bubble has a glory!
Each abysmal failure makes a point!
Every glowing path that goes astray,
Shows you how to find a better way.
So every time you stumble never grumble.
Next time you’ll bumble even less!
For up from the ashes, up from the ashes, grow the roses of success!
For every big mistake you make be grateful!
That mistake you’ll never make again!
Every shiny dream that fades and dies,
Generates the steam for two more tries!
(Oh) There’s magic in the wake of a fiasco!
It gives you that chance to second guess! Oh yes!
Then up from the ashes, up from the ashes grow the roses of success!
Disaster didn’t stymie Louis Pasteur!
Edison took years to see the light!
Alexander Graham knew failure well; he took a lot of knocks to ring that bell!
So when it gets distressing it’s a blessing!
Onward and upward you must press! Yes, Yes!
Till up from the ashes, up from the ashes grow the roses of success.
I love that song. I love its truth and its optimism. It feels very natural.
Nature has a way of disrupting the old to make way for the new.
And often that positive disruption requires turbulence and destruction.
In other articles I’ll be explaining my thoughts on the new Connector Class who are changing the world economy by connecting ideas and inventing new models, and as a result disrupting established business models and therefore the economy.
Of course the base infrastructure of the global economy is a beast of a machine. Under the hood there are monstrous cogs interconnecting to keep the world working. Much of the machine run and steered by the methods of business which are controlled by accountants and lawyers (bankers and politicians by another name).
But this machine is old, and many of its working parts are in disrepair and failing (by ‘parts’ I mean industries that contribute to the whole economy).
The rapid advances in technology are offering efficiencies and improvements that are rendering many businesses redundant. And the Connector Class (both immature and mature) are connecting human behavioural needs with new technologies to create rapid growth where there has been stagnation.
The new growth is the fire that is burning away the dead wood.
We are living in a fire-climax economic ecosystem.
The dead wood is burning and the new growth is pushing through and flowering.
I think that’s quite beautiful. And it fills me with hope for the future that a different and better world lies ahead.
And I want to be new growth not dead wood.
But all of this is good if you’re a new seed pushing through towards flowering (that’s a metaphor for the tech startups, the unicorns, the new model businesses that are flourishing), but not so good if you’re the dead wood burning (the old cumbersome, tired, heavy businesses burdened with old machinery/infrastructure).
The great saviour of the moment, according to the business press, is Digital Transformation. The knight in shining armour that rides in taking the form of agencies or consultancies that will turn you from an analogue model to a digital model. Making everything better. And for the bargain price of hundreds and hundreds of thousand of pounds, if not millions in consultancy services (Not including licensing and implementation of an entirely new technical business infrastructure).
Well, is it?
You’ll be the same business afterwards that you were before.
If you’re a retailer, you’ll still be a retailer. Just an online one rather than an offline one.
If you’re a Bank you’ll still be a bank. Just an online one rather than an offline one.
Even if you can’t be online, a bus operator for instance, you’ll still do what you do, just building a digital infrastructure to replace your analog one.
Which is all fine and well, after all, we all need to modernise and evolve.
But it’s not transformation.
It’s really simply alignment.
Aligning all your systems to be connected with the best technology for operating your business, in line with the behaviour of the modern (digital) customer.
It’s digital alignment not transformation.
What is transformation then?
Well it’s when a thing changes from the thing it is into a different thing.
Like when a caterpillar transforms into a butterfly.
Or a car that turns into a giant, fighting, alien robot.
In fact, you’d be hard pushed to come up with many more examples, because transformation is rare.
Spend an hour online researching companies that have transformed and you’ll see it’s a struggle. There are a number of articles about how Hasbro started as a textile retailer, Xerox began selling photographic paper, Shell traded tools and machinery, Amex were couriers, Samsung were grocery exporters, Wrigley sold soap and baking powder, and there are a few more similar stories.
But these transformations are more evolutions based on opportunism, mergers and acquisitions, or in some cases just accident or dumb luck.
There are very few inspired or strategic transformation examples.
Of course many businesses grow as a result of diversifying into new areas.
It would be wrong to consider this transformation.
As I mentioned earlier, to change from one thing into a different thing, to transform, is a need usually coming about due to the redundancy of the thing that went before.
From the ashes of disaster grow the roses of success.
So what can you do if you are a dead wood industry or organisation?
And trust me, all the denial in the world will not prevent change happening. Almost every industry, especially the giant businesses of those industries, are predominantly dead wood.
Well, that’s what I’ve been working on, a new growth solution, and I call it Transference. And in my next article I’ll be telling you all about it.