The Problem of the Platypus

By Andrew Bass | Blog, Limiting Mindsets

platypusThe Platypus is a strange creature found in eastern Australia. Like a reptile, it lays eggs instead of giving birth to live young, but it is warm-blooded like a mammal. The bizarre appearance of this egg-laying, venomous, duck-billed, beaver-tailed, otter-footed mammal baffled European naturalists when they first encountered it, with some considering it an elaborate fraud – it was thought that tricky taxidermists had sewn a duck’s beak onto the body of a beaver-like animal.

Is a Platypus a mammal or a reptile? How can such an ‘anomoly’ (The Brisbane Times recently called it ‘a genetic mongrel’) exist? Such questions are not relevant to the Platypus of course, which has been thriving for millions of years without the warrant of some Victorian naturalist from London, or newspaper hack from Brisbane.

When observed facts do not fit in with existing categories, people struggle with and resist them, or just explain them away. The worst offenders are usually the ‘experts’. Think about the way the major US automakers responded to early ‘compact’ Japanese imports. They basically said: “Call that a car?!!!!” and carried on building gas guzzlers. This is the same mindset that predicted doom when Alan Mulally was appointed CEO at Ford. They ‘knew’ that you couldn’t run a US car company unless you were ‘a car guy’, and Mulally was from Boeing. He responded by engineering a dramatc turnaround, pursuing a global strategy substantially based, as it happens, on a compact platform. The company’s performance in 2010 was its best in a decade. Maybe those ‘industry insiders’ would benefit from some practice in allowing new ideas to re-jig their tired old categories?

© 2011.. Andrew Bass. All Rights Reserved.