Apple is a gibbon; everyone else are sloths

gibbonby cliff1066™

Talking about monkey bars from my last post got me thinking about gibbons and their mode of travel – brachiation. By swinging and properly timing their movements, they can accomplish really exceptional progress, apparently effortlessly. They adapt to what is needed to get them where they need to go.

Now look at another arboreal mammal, one that is just the opposite of the gibbon – the sloth.

Notice how it does not let go with one paw until the other has a firm grasp. It  is slow and careful because it doe not have the ability to adapt quickly to changing circumstances. The gibbon can change immediately if the branch is not capable of holding it. Not so for the sloth. It must be certain of each of its moves, before it can even make them.

Most large 20th Century corporations act like sloths. It is just too hard to change direction. They  will not let go of one product until they know for sure that the next will be successful. They can not use their momentum – timing the transition to take the best benefit of their energy – to make rapid adaptive change.

But now we live in an environment where being able to rapidly change directions is a strong adaptive response. This change happens so rapidly that corporations will simply lose if they wait for things to be certain. Their slothlike organizational skills simply do not allow them to take real advantage of 21st Century processes.

Apple, on the other hand, does. It has created an organization that can not only come up with wildly popular and amazing products but can also make sure it can produce them and sell them worldide, in quantities that are simply mind-boggling to people from 20th Century companies.

A sloth can only tolerate success. One misstep at it can fall to the forest floor. Even to defecate requires a tremendous risk. The gibbon can take much greater risks because its agility and adaptibility permit it to recover from mistakes.

Which one will have more success in a rapidly changing environment?

I’m betting on the gibbon.