Friday, 3 June 2011

Boiling Frogs - not just the one interpretation!

Boiling frogs - my interpretation has always been that frogs die in water that slowly heats up because they don't notice the imperceptible changes in their environment... then BANG ... they explode!
Richardson, who uses the analogy of frogs and tadpoles, provides an interesting, alternative method of classifying reasons for failure.

Boiled frog failures
These are long-established organisations that exhibit the often-observed organisational characteristics of introversion and inertia in the presence of change. This category can be illustrated by the problems faced by ICI.

Drowned frog failures
Less to do with management complacency and more to do with managerial ambition and hyperactivity. In the smaller company context, this is the failed ambitious entrepreneur; in the bigger context this is the failed conglomerate kingmaker, perhaps typified by Robert Maxwell.

Expensive show-offs who need to adorn themselves with the trappings of success. The bullfrog exists on a continuum from the ‘small firm flash’ to the ‘money messing megalomaniac’. The behaviour of bullfrogs often raises ethical issues due to a failure to separate business expenditure from personal expenditure (for example, Conrad Black).

Tadpoles never develop into frogs and represent the failed business start-up in the small business setting. Small tadpoles usually fail to become frogs because of over-optimism, a failure to make contingency plans and a lack of interest in overall success as a result of too much focus on the product.
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