Q&A with Rasmus Ankersen
On February 27 2017, CIFF had the pleasure of hosting CIFF TALK with Rasmus Ankersen, the bestselling author of the books, The Gold Mine Effect and Hunger In Paradise.
As the chairman of FC Midtjylland, director of the English club Brentford FC and speaker on performance development for companies like LEGO, IKEA and GOOGLE, CIFF was pleased and excited to have Rasmus as a speaker talking about how successful organizations can remain on top and stay hungry for success even after achieving it.
Your book ”Hunger In Paradise” is about what companies need to do in order to stay motivated and hungry for success even after achieving it. Where did your interest in this topic come from?
A couple of years ago I was in Helsinki for a lecture at a conference. By chance I ended up chatting with three employees from Nokia who attended the conference. Every one of them had an iPhone in their pocket. At the time, Nokia wasn’t doing well and it made me reflect on what actually makes successful companies fail. How could, for example, Nokia fall from 50% global market share to 3% in less than five years? That experience in Helsinki sowed the seed for Hunger In Paradise.
You state in your book that the life span of today’s companies is getting shorter and shorter. How do you explain?
If you look at the development of corporate life span over the past 50 years and compare it to the development of human life span in the same period the conclusion is pretty clear. Whereas humans live longer and longer, the opposite is true for companies. They live shorter and shorter. That tells me that in order to survive and excel decade after decade companies must think very carefully about how they stay relevant. That message is more important than ever before.
Do you think it’s human nature to become complacent after achieving success or is it something tied to today’s culture?
Yes, it is very human. I call it the flipside of human nature. When companies become successful they don’t just fight their competitors. More than anything they fight themselves.
In your book, you also talk about the importance of being able to understand your own position in the arena in which you are competing. Is it fair to say that survival involves the ability to see yourself from the outside and understand your position vis-à-vis your competitors?
When you are successful it is not natural to look at yourself from outside-in. A lot of studies have shown how success changes people's perspective so they become more internally oriented. "We are successful because we delight our customers” becomes “We are successful because we are Nokia”. When the only thing you see is yourself you overlook both threats and opportunities in the market.
Looking at companies today, what are the first warning signs they should look for in order to avoid the pitfalls you are describing?
The fall of successful companies tend to happen gradually. Small opportunities are being missed, new and unconventional competitors are being ignored and critical questions are not being asked. But no one notices the gradually changing environment because the balance sheet is still healthy. Then one day it all falls apart, but most likely the rot started a long time ago with ignorance and slowly slipping standards. This is one of the human flaws: incremental changes over a sufficient period of time tend to go unnoticed. To overcome that bias the most important thing for companies is to have an early warning system that makes them able to confront problems when they become visible, not waiting until they become obvious.