Change : Bring the Shark into the game

Change : Bring the Shark into the game

Every day, organizational leaders face new problems and challenges which require them to adapt to the change. Sometimes, it may seem risky to embrace change because of the uncertainty of outcome. However, change is the only constant.  Furthermore, organizations that are skeptical to change end up losing their competitive edge and perish in times of adversity.  In addition, employees with a fixed mindset, set  belief system and attitude find it difficult to deal with challenges and change adoption.

But the truth is that threats (challenges) are essential for growth and innovation. Threats keep leaders on their toes to constantly remain relevant. Challenges require organizational leaders to accept the challenge with an open mindset, positive attitude, and learn new skills to better deal with the challenges at hand. Challenge requires shunning complacency to find out-of-box ideas to approach the problem. It pushes people to emerge as winners with innovative solutions and growth potential. 

To elaborate this lets find out how the shark changed the game in the Japanese fishing industry.

Japan along with being known as the nation of the rising run and has a sizable population of “centenarians”-people older than 100 years. One of the secrets to their longevity lies in their diet which comprises fresh fish. Japanese love eating fresh fish and don’t compromise on its quality for health reasons. 

To cater to the dietary needs of the domestic population, Japanese fishermen captured fish from the shallow waters of this archipelago. However, as the Japanese population increased so did the demand for fresh fish increase. This required the fishermen to go further in the ocean to capture fish as the shallow waters around the archipelago saw a decline in the fish population. In the deep ocean, fish were in surplus but the small fishing boats increased their time to return back to shore. This affected the freshness of the fish which directly affected the sales of the fish.

The declining sales of fish pushed all the stakeholders in the fishing industry including the fishermen to rethink the strategy of increasing sales. They needed to address three key issues:

  1. How to reduce the transportation time?

  2. How to retain the freshness of the fish?

  3. How to increase the sales of fish?

The first step involved investing in bigger fishing trailers with freezers installed to go into the deep ocean. The fishermen were confident that the bigger trailers with freezers would solve the problem of transportation time, freshness of fish and in turn improve sales. However, the plan failed as Japanese people didn’t like the taste of frozen fish. This forced all the stakeholders back to the drawing board to rethink how to keep the fish alive while returning from the deep ocean. 

Again a new plan was devised. They removed the freezers from the fishing trailers and replaced them with large fishing tanks with the assumption that fish would remain alive and active in the fish tanks. But again their presumption was miscalculated and the fish were dull by the time they reached the fresh markets. The sales of fresh fish dropped because Japanese vendors and people refused to procure stale fish. This impacted the livelihood of fishermen and forced all the stakeholders in the fishing industry to revisit the plans and improvise an idea which would match all the parameters- fish to reach the markets at the earliest without affecting the quality of the fish. 

Upon analyzing the issue, the fishermen realized that the freshness of the fish in large tanks was compromised because of their complacency as there was no threat to their survival. This gave birth to an out-of-box idea of placing a small shark in the fish tank. Once the shark was placed in the tank, the game changed. The constant threat from the shark kept the fishes active on the journey back to the shore. Their complacency was replaced by the threat of being eaten by the shark. The stakeholders had accounted for a few fishes to be eaten by the shark but the payoffs were many- increased sales of fresh fish. 

Lessons learnt from the Shark in the tank story:

  1. Threat (Challenge) is an opportunity to learn and grow

  2. Threat (Challenge) removes complacency

  3. Threat requires change in mindset, behavior, attitude

  4. Change is necessary to adapt to new scenarios 

  5.  Open mindset gives way to out-of-box thinking

  6. Change requires learning new skills

As an organizational leader, one must understand that change is constant and the shark in the tank keeps us competitive and relevant.