Interesting quote from Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman, World Economic Forum: “In the new world, it is not the big fish that eat the small fish, it’s the fast fish which eats the slow fish.” What about the scrappy fish?
Klaus Schwab is founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum, which he began in 1971. The WEF is well-known for its annual forum in Davos-Klosters, Switzerland, which attracts leading business, government, and civil society leaders from around the world to engage and shape global, regional and industry agendas
My understanding (spin on) Mr. Schwab’s quote cited before the economic disruption of the current Russian sanctions, are the fast fish eating the slow fish are the global leaders in society embracing transformation in our new covid world? However, I believe Mr. Schwab is overlooking a third species of fish, scrappy fish. The species I am most familiar with are remoras. A remora is a fish which attaches itself to large fish by means of a sucker on top of its head. They are attracted to great white sharks given the shark and remora relationship benefits both species. Remoras eat scraps of prey dropped by the shark as well feed off parasites on the shark’s skin and in its mouth. I am using remora metaphorically to describe the third species of new world fish, scrappy fish (a.k.a. people/sycophants) populating the waters of Wall Street, Washington D.C. and Silicon Valley.
I like the metaphor of “slow fish”, “fast fish”, and “scrappy fish” to describe businesses. It’s also a good way to define business changes. I have seen lots of slow fish like Sears, Montgomery Ward, A&P, White Castle, and others who were giants in the retail business forty years ago, but they got eaten by Target, Walmart, Kroger, McDonald’s, etc.
Now those fast fish of the 1970’s to 90’s are being challenged by on-line fast fish who have grown into giants like Amazon, Google, Alibaba and other on-line giants who have become faster fish over the past 20 years.
Sears and Montgomery Wards were giants in catalog sales who also had a chain of national stores that put mom and pop single stores out of business in the early to mid 1900’s. But they got eaten because they were slow to adapt or transform.
It was easy for me to come up with the names of “fast fish” and slow fish”, but I was struggling to come up with a list of “scrappy fish” like the Remora that feed off the scraps of the giants. Then I thought about Uber and Door Dash. Are they examples of the Remora’s?
Transformation of business models is moving at a faster rate. Complete change is the new norm. Leaders of organizations need to prepare for rapid change. How do we help leaders look for and apply rapid transformation versus gradual change of business and organization models? So many leaders are still reading the Montgomery Ward catalog as their business manual.
Jim never considered myselft fast or slow fish but defintely would not want to fall into the scrappy fish category.
As we strive in our respective business to “swim fast”, the question is how do we swim through he sea of scrappy fish with out coming out the other side wearing a scrappy fish dress? (it’s akin to the meat dress Lady Gaga wore.)
Do scrappy fishes ultimately turn into slow fishes or fast fishes?
A species by itself, neither slow or fast.