Monday, July 7, 2008

Overcoming CIPE via Symbiosis

Back in January I wrote about the Corporate Intellect Plateau Effect (CIPE). I always thought I would come back to the topic, and it was just the other day when watching a news report about the Clown Fish that my neurons connected. Here's my thoughts:
The clown fish has a symbiotic relationship with a particular type of sea anemone which protects it from predators. In turn, the clown fish protects the anemone from its predators. A similar (and somewhat more applicable) symbiosis occurs with the Acacia Tree and Acacia Ant. In their case, the tree provides a safe home and sustenance for the ant, and the ant protects the tree from other insects, and prevents other seeds germinating nearby.
So I got to thinking about my experience of how an organisation grows, and oftentimes it is through some form of merger or acquisition of another (smaller) organisation. And the common catch phrase is around better profitability due to the 'synergies' that can be created. Mostly, this is about distributing costs for shared internal services, such as IT, Admin, Finance, HR, Warehousing, etc. And in my industry, it will often mean a consolidation of product lines.
Sadly though, these types of 'synergistic' activities end up resulting in staff changes, as the businesses battle it out to determine what areas stay the same, and what parts have to change. This process is a catalyst for the ongoing exodus of experienced and hence high corporate intellect, individuals.
So how can this be stopped?
That is where Symbiosis comes in. Imagine if, rather than merging common internal services and product lines, each business was left entirely to operate independently from any of the others, but each were encouraged to 'work together' to support one another, and to fend off rival competitors. Any bonuses would be based primarily on the success of the individual organisation, with a smaller measure paid on the basis of the entire group succeeding.
Now I may have over-simplified this, but it is an interesting concept.
What do you think?
Silver Fox

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