You might be a dinosaur if...

Article Chris Erickson 6m read

For millions of years, dinosaurs ruled the Earth. And from the perspective of a late-stage T-Rex, it looked like that would always be true. That is until they were wiped out in a catastrophic event they didn’t see coming. Yet some dinosaur relatives (birds, reptiles, etc.) survived, evolving, persevering, and even thriving into a new age.

Companies that have dominated their landscape for a long time risk suffering the same fate as the once-mighty tyrannosaurus. Previous strategies no longer deliver the same results. The days of innovation and inspiration are faded memories. Younger, scrappier competitors are sneaking up on them.

If your company is lumbering along with little agility or speed, struggling to innovate as you did previously, or unable to make inroads into new markets, it might be a dinosaur.

But unlike the actual dinosaurs, companies like yours aren’t necessarily doomed to extinction. In fact, in becoming a dinosaur, you’ve built up some pretty impressive strengths. You’ve become dominant, established a solid reputation, and developed robust defenses. The key to avoiding extinction is recognizing that your position of strength can’t endure without evolution.

Companies that don’t evolve are inviting extinction.

It’s only natural for a company that has been around a while and enjoyed success to become complacent. But companies unwilling—or unable—to recognize their complacency are particularly at risk.

The list of dinosaur companies that didn’t evolve is long: Kodak, Blockbuster, Blackberry, MySpace, Sears, Kmart, Radio Shack, and Pets.com. They didn’t see the asteroid coming, accurately assess the competition, or take a long, hard look at themselves. 

For dinosaur companies, the biggest threat is becoming mired in the tar pits of uncertainty, indecision, and inaction. If your company has been stuck in the same spot, living off the same food for years, it’s time to make a move before it’s too late.

Four leading indicators that you need to evolve. 

Being a dinosaur company doesn’t always mean you’re experiencing significant setbacks or on the brink of bankruptcy. Your company might have a healthy profit, happy customers, and a strong staff—and still be staring down the barrel of extinction.

  1. Your company isn’t as agile as it used to be.

    1. Over the years, you’ve built up plenty of armor. You have strong relationships with vendors and established reliable distribution channels. This is a great defensive strategy against the more conventional competition, but all that heavy armor comes at the cost of agility and speed. 

    2. A defensive posture discourages innovation and allows scrappier companies to invade your space. 

  2. Your entire organization struggles with change.

    1. A long history and strong heritage don’t automatically make your company a dinosaur. Not by those factors alone, anyway. But companies that are too attached to the past or can’t stomach change are doomed. They are often stuck in groupthink or decision by committee.

    2. People won’t speak up when the tallest peg is worried about being hammered down. Instead, everybody wants buy-in from everyone, and nothing gets done. 

  3. You’ve become complacent.

    1. Things have been good for a long time. So long that you can’t conceive that they would ever end. But at some point along the way, you got lazy. You stopped learning. You became set in your ways. 

    2. Sure, you’ve strived to become more efficient, but that’s only discouraged you from trying anything new. Those pesky new species are finding creative ways to creep into your territory. You’re not starving yet, but you must find a way to access fresh food. 

  4. You aren’t considering existential threats.

    1. Irrelevance is extinction. Innovators are all around you. Competitors are nipping at your heels and siphoning customers. The companies that make it have a vision for seeing themselves out of these existential threats before they become the next Kodak.

Evolve your business before the asteroid strikes.

Here’s the good news. Everybody loves dinosaurs. They’re awe-inspiring and powerful. So remember what made your company attractive in the first place. Return to the sense of wonder that made you king of the world. Combine it with your success, and you’ll be unstoppable.

This, of course, requires a willingness to take some risks and invest in the yet-to-be-proven. You’ll need to invite fresh perspectives, challenge yourself, and imagine a future that is different from the way your brand is today. You can’t allow legacy to cloud your judgment. Clinging to the past ensures your legacy will be stuck there.

Part of escaping the dinosaurs’ fate is understanding what led you to this point. Companies don’t turn into dinosaurs by accident or all at once. They become so gradually. They grow dependent on the status quo. They see disruption as a threat. And they resist change, even at their own expense. 

But you can course correct. To avoid the dinosaurs’ fate, start by addressing the following.

  • Examine your vulnerabilities.

    • You’re big and strong, but you’re not invincible. It’s easy to keep playing the same hand from a position of strength. Instead, you need to be aware of your weaknesses and blind spots. Don’t become too deluded by success. Sometimes that’s better found by soliciting an external perspective. Nobody has told you what you need to hear.

  • Be prepared for disruption and disruptors.

    • You made your bones by making waves, leading your industry, and transforming everything in reach. Now the world is changing more rapidly than you are. Dinosaurs once had the upper hand, too. But they weren’t ready for such momentous changes. You need to have your head on a swivel and understand what’s coming next. 

  • Determine how you’ll adapt to stay at the front of the herd.

    • Once you’ve closely examined your weaknesses and how your competition might exploit them, you need to establish a strategy. Have a plan for evolving and adapting. You need to prepare for how things will be, not how they were. Embrace change. Start small. Tolerate failed experiments. Make iterations.

Even the most entrenched dinosaur brands can get the gears of adaptation going again. An outside agency can help you identify your most significant threats. Whether your company checks off one or more of the above, the dinosaur diagnosis must be addressed. Parliament can help you do that. Let’s chat .