One of my favorite classes this semester is Larry Downes’ “Strategic Planning During Technology Revolutions.”
Among other things, Professor Downes teaches us to apply lessons from the psychology of death to firms and industries that face dramatic change.
In her 1969 book On Death and Dying, psychiatrist Elizabeth Kubler-Ross introduced the “five stages of grief” model to explain the emotions that dying people and their families often experience: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Patients diagnosed with terminal diseases often find transition between these stages quite painful, and many never reach the acceptance stage.
The behavior of corporations that face disruptive change often seems to fit this model. (For more details and great examples of this, see chapter 8 of Downes’ The Strategy Machine). Too many of these organizations have tremendous difficulty accepting the fact that “business as usual” is no longer possible. Too many executives find acceptance of change excruciating and avoid facing it for as long as they can.
I’ve been thinking that nowadays, when so many industries are grappling with disruptive change, there might be a good bit of money to be made by selling morphine to megacorporate malingerers. This morphine can take the form of products and services that don’t have any real promise of profitability, but that provide some comfort to frustrated executives in the form of soothing illusions. Indulgence in such fiction can make it easier to languish in the stages of denial and bargaining.
The SNOCAP recipe:
Big Music executives have already lined up to buy the Morphine; they’re fawning over Fanning’s fix in press interviews. Universal already signed on.
Bravo Shawn; thanks for another big hit!