Corporate Cockroach: The Significance of Workplace Adaptability

  • July 26, 2019

“It is neither the strongest of the species that survives nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.” – Charles Darwin

The story that I am going to narrate is a perfect analogy of the above description by the master of evolution. Deriving its name as the “insect that shuns light”, the cockroach is a creepy crawler that has come a long way since the Carboniferous period. But today neither is it afraid of the dark nor does it shuns the light anymore. Evolution has been redefined time and again by this brilliant creature. Let us explore!

Corporate Cockroach
Corporate Cockroach

Once upon a bright afternoon at work, an unexpected visitor popped out of my desk. This came as a shock, especially when I was talking about how spic and span the office was!

While I was admiring the tenacity and evolution of the creature, I suddenly found myself in the mid of a mass hysteria where others were panicking, screaming their lungs out and a little short of having a heart attack, as the guy run amok! It was nothing but a pandemonium of sorts!

When he saw the crowd, he stopped and gave them a look. Carefully moving, his antennae would sense the danger and opportunity to wiggle through. He was now calm did not run like a crazy teenager high on sugar! The roach showed a sense of confidence and steadfast behavior, it tried to induce a sense of wonder and fear both at the same moment.

Earlier, I think it was worried and hence scurried around, but now, sensing the space he was in, he remained calm, moved slowly, made sure no one was panicking, and made his way out through a big large crevice on the floor. That’s when it struck me – how calm and composed this creature has been despite the most chaotic situation he created by just showing up!

Leaders and Entrepreneurs Are No Newbies to Such Conditions and Chaos!

When I first set out to write about ethology, the first thing that struck me was that of an insect species and not that of an Animal. Roach spawning 4000+ species, 320+ million years, and even claimed to survive a Nuclear holocaust, is among the hardiest insects on the planet.

The measly insect seemed like the perfect creature that epitomizes an entrepreneur’s qualities. Some species are capable of remaining active for a month without food and are able to survive on limited resources like the glue from the back of postage stamps. Some can go without air for 45 minutes. In one experiment, roaches recovered from being submerged underwater for half an hour. An entrepreneur should exhibit all of these qualities as the business world offers nothing less analogous to the hard tests that a roach can endure!

Like roaches, a leader and an entrepreneur do one or many of the following:

  1. Presence – Introduces himself to a total world of strangers and makes his presence felt, all of this in a poof! Just like the roach jumped out on my desk that crazy noon!
  2. Confidence and Composure – Initially shows some jitteriness and calms down once he gauges the situation. Senses the opportunity and the traps at the same time. Knows which side to move and seizes opportunity just like the aforementioned large crevice!
  3. Resourceful – Lives off minimal means and support with utmost confidence, creativity, and courage. Hibernates when needed too! The roaches live off the minimal food supply and sometimes hibernate for long to conserve energy!
  4. Conserving – Lives a Stealth-mode when needed. Does not show himself at large when not needed similar to the Blatta (the insect that shuns light)
  5. Collective decision-making – Roaches display collective decision-making when choosing food sources. When a sufficient number of individuals exploits a food source, this signals to newcomer cockroaches that they should stay there longer rather than leave for elsewhere. A perfect comparison of a leader who knows which market segment to cater to and when to plug a leaky bucket!
  6. Social Intelligence – The roaches are an extremely social bunch and are amazingly gregarious. They leave pheromones wherever they move and attract their kinds all the time. The entrepreneur does something similar. He finds talent and people similar to his taste and the culture he seeks to build!
  7. Embrace Change – Finally, the ability of the roach to fly is never utilized unless and until needed. It stays grounded and runs as much till a moment of utter need arises for it to fly. It consumes a lot of energy and hence is used as a last option. A leader or an entrepreneur never use this trump card to press the “Eject” button unless forced to. His passion and his desire to create a culture leave him to try every possible means of survival for him and his team!

An entire class of study by the name of Emergent Behavior and Swarm Theory including many mathematical models is based on these amazing creatures! An emergent behavior can appear when a number of simple entities (agents) operate in an environment means that those who possess the skill of workplace adaptability have a greater chance at success than those who don’t, forming more complex behaviors as a collective. Which is exactly what a #Leader #Entrepreneur or #TheCorporateCockroach does! Brings a lot of collaboration amongst simple entities to create a vision of a larger order!

While I know many may squirm at the thought of such a comparison, this essay at writing a book on ethology and its direct correlation to entrepreneurs is to create a new learning platform for entrepreneurs. One that is close to nature and has always served as a reference board for any modern invention. And it is also truly indicative of the competitive behavior exuded by several animal species again akin to the competitive entrepreneurial jungle.

Watch out for #BioMimicry – the next in the series!

Disclaimer: For want of brevity I have used Man and He synonymous to both sexes of the Homo Sapiens. I am no sexist who propagates a male domineering perspective although some animal species do exhibit such a quality!

Ramanan is 51% technologist and 49% creative. He is a polymath and comes with 18-plus years of experience in both technology and marketing/communications.


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