Overall, our upward evolutionary spiral toward infinite productivity is a good thing. (More profit with less work – can’t argue with that.) And also good is our Darwinian desire to increase our chances of realizing profit by winding a thick cocoon of risk reduction around the work.
But with our productivity helix comes a little known illness that’s rarely diagnosed. It’s not a full-fledged disease, rather, it’s a syndrome. It’s called Transplant Syndrome, or TS.
Along with general flu-like symptoms, TS produces a burning and itching desire to transplant something that worked well in one area into another. On its own, not a bad thing; the dangerous part of TS is that scratching its itch feels so good. And it feels so good because the scratching fits with capitalism’s natural law – only the most productive species will survive.
In a brain suffering from TS, transplanting Region A’s successful business model into Region B makes perfect productivity sense (No new thinking, but plenty of new revenue.) But that’s not the problem. The problem is the TS brain’s urge to transplant is insatiable and indiscriminate. With TS, along with Region B, it makes perfect sense to transplant into Region C, Region D, and Regions L, M, N, O, and P. And with TS, it must happen in record time. Like a parasite, TS feeds on our desire for productivity.
When you transplant your favorite flowering plant from one region of your yard to another, even the inexperienced gardener in us knows to question whether the new region will support the plant. Is the soil similar? Is there enough sun or too much? Will it be blocked from the wind like it is now? And because you know your yard (and because you asked the questions) you won’t transplant unless the viability threshold is met.
But what if you wanted to transplant your most precious flowering plant from your yard in North America to someone else’s yard in South America? At a high level, the viability questions are the same – sun, soil, and water, but the answers are hard to come by. Should you use google to get the answers? Should you get in an airplane and check the territory yourself? Should you talk to the local gardeners? (They don’t speak English.)
But digging deeper, there are many questions you don’t even know to ask. Some of the local bugs may eat your precious plant, so you better know the little crawlies by name and learn what they like to eat. But still, since the bugs have never seen your plant, you won’t know if they’ll eat it until they eat it. You can ask the local gardeners, but they won’t know. (They, too, have never seen it.) Or worse, they may treat it as invasive species and pull it out of the ground after you leave for home.
Here’s an idea. You could scout out local plants that look like yours and declare viability by similarity. But be careful because over the years the local plants have built up tacit defenses you can’t see.
Transplant Syndrome not just a business model syndrome; it infects broadly. In fact, there have been recent outbreaks reported in people that work with products, technologies, processes, and company cultures.
Unfortunately, there is no cure for TS. But, with the right prescription, symptoms can be managed.
Symptoms have been pushed into dormancy when companies hire the best, most experienced, local gardeners. These special gardeners must have been born and raised in-region. And in clinical trials the best results have been achieved when the chief gardener, a well respected local gardener in their own right, has full responsibility for designing, viability testing, and implementing the transplant program.
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Mike Shipulski brings together people, culture, and tools to change engineering behavior. He writes daily on Twitter as @MikeShipulski and weekly on his blog Shipulski On Design.