It’s a bit cliché, but nearly all of us at some point in our career have heard or shared the example of what happens to a frog if you put it in a pot of water then slowly increase the heat. Because the frog’s body adapts to the changing water temperature, the frog doesn’t realize it is slowly boiling to death. It is sad, and it is cruel. The irony: the frog literally has the ability to leap out of the water at any points to save themselves, but because they don’t fear or sense the risks, they ultimately meet their demise. Such is the danger with complacency.
Complacency has the capacity to “kill” companies and leaders. It can stunt growth , limit effectiveness, and yes, even lead to becoming obsolete. Leaders and companies who don’t monitor signals of change in the environment, who don’t proactively innovate or disrupt themselves, and/or who believe they don’t “really” have competition are at the greatest risk of becoming complacent. They are at the greatest risk of being bypassed, losing market share, or disrupted by something unexpected. Think about Blockbuster, Kodak, or even Blackberry.
In contrast, leaders and companies who have a “fear” of what might happen or change tend to be more alert and future ready. Some may even have a little paranoia that someone, somewhere is working to be better or to “beat” them. In this way, the fear and/or the paranoia keeps them sharp. As Alison Levine, the leader of the first US Women’s Expedition of Mount Everest states, “Fear is what prevents me from becoming complacent. Fear is actually a useful tool. You have to be able to act and react quickly when environments are constantly shifting and changing.” Rather than being complacent or accepting complacency, these companies show organizational agility – the ability to evolve and thrive in an environment of constant change.
Be a strong leader. Fight complacency for yourself, your team, and your organization.