Mussel Syndrome- resistance to change

“The Mussel (a mollusc) has to make only one major existential decision in life, and that’s where it’s going to settle down. After making that decision the mussel cements its head against a rock and stays there for life. Many people are so resistant to change that they might as well be cemented in place.”

-Manfred Kets De Vries in The Leadership Mystique

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Business conditions, markets, technology and industries change with enormous speed. This requires effective responses to stay competitive. But some leaders suffer from Mussel Syndrome, they are resistant to change, they behave like mussel which cements itself to hull of ship and stay there for lifetime , so such leaders, when they have settled down, resist every move that will disturb their position, they want status quo to last for ever.

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Due to such attitude business suffers; IBM is an example of the mussel syndrome. In 1983 according to Fortune Magazine it was at the top of its industry and by 1997 it was ranked 102. IBM bet on main frame computers and gave away its Personal Computer technology. Bill Gates got a hold of it and the rest is history. IBM was unable to change fast enough towards the tech industry trends.

Back home, we have examples of Ambassador Car and  Bajaj Scooter.

It is not that such leaders are paranoid about change, threats due to change can be real. Change can hurt esp. when new technologies displace old ones, jobs can be lost; prices can be cut; investments can be wiped out. But solution to this cannot be resisting change but managing change to put company in higher orbit.

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