It’s not the bear or the outrunning the slowest runner. It’s being a Jack Russell

There is an old adage: to get away from a bear you don’t have to be the fastest runner in the world, you just have to be faster than the person behind you. Hmm… A bear can run between 30–40mph (48–64kph). Whippets are the fastest domesticated animals of their weight. They can get up to breakneck speeds of 35 mph, in part down to their unique running style, matching almost the average bear.

I tell you this because no doubt you have read numerous business blogs all attesting to the importance of keeping nimble and on your toes, and you are forging ahead. Pushing forward. Your business or organisation is better at providing their product or service. The self-belief of the organisation wrapped up in the knowledge they are “better” than the competition and are therefore outrunning the bear.

That self-belief worked for a while but take a look around. There is more than just a bear; there are also a few wolves hanging around. The pace of everyone running has slowed down so that we are almost equal. So should we cling on to the hope that if we are simply better than our competitor, we will succeed? Where does our client or customer fit into this equation? They don’t and currently with all that has happened and is happening, they don’t want better — they want different. They want to do business and have suppliers who think and react differently and still do better.

Personally, as a non-executive director or as a business owner, I want to be more like my Jack Russell. In general, small breeds don’t make the best running companions but the Jack Russell Terrier defies this rule. When I have taken my Jack Russell out for walks we inevitably will meet a whippet or greyhound and she will be chased. She will never outrun them in a straight line but what she does is not focus on just being better, or faster, but rather is smarter and uses intelligence and strategy. She scopes the land, calculates her plan and actions her escape by pivoting and turning almost doubling back on herself, leaving the greyhound or whippet running in a straight line wondering where she went.

In today’s new normal, it’s not going to be enough to outrun the slowest runner, you have to be smarter because businesses are demanding this of their supply chain.

It’s time to rethink how as a business you will present yourselves and what to believe in. Do you think you can outrun the bear, or do you want to be more like the Jack Russell — plan, execute and find new land?