Gypsy Moths, Complexity, and Simplicity


Walking through the East Woods on a clear morning today, I noticed the constant sound of a fine rain hitting the leaves – the telltale noise of the droppings of larval gypsy moths and their impending infestation. Most experts are predicting a large outbreak this year with severe defoliation of many native trees and forests – much more than last year’s 100,000 acres across the state.

I’m not looking forward to this, but other experts are saying that the recent spate of damp weather bodes well for a resurgence of the caterpillar-killing fungus, Entomophaga maimaiga. This fungus was introduced a hundred years ago to control these pests, but was ineffective until it inexplicably started killing the bugs in 1989, showing the complexity and unreliability of trying to manage nature with natural methods. Unlike this natural ecosystem, most businesses and markets are far simpler, with parts and functions that are reasonably well understood.

Rather than delving into complex market models and infinite focus groups, a simpler review of your challenges may be beneficial. After all, entering new markets, building partnerships, or courting acquirers often have similar, well-trodden paths to success (and also well-trodden paths to failure). And in a simplistic sense, all you need are the right products and services, customers, channels, and relationships and success will be at your doorstep.

If you find your business is not making the grade, a step back may be helpful. Of course, sales people blame the products as the problem, marketing says it is sales, and R&D says it is both. In one sense the key is just unraveling this finger-pointing situation as the answer lies somewhere in there.

Honestly reviewing the recent opportunities won and lost will go a long way towards illuminating the most important factors. With these answers in hand, it is then time to make changes to the product or processes that will lead to successful forays into the marketplace. Unlike nature, you can not wait until the pathways and players finally align themselves and become productive.

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