All your Base are Belong to Us

How the mindset of a science fiction writer can help your organisation capture more marketshare.

Science fiction writer Isaac Asimov (who died in 1992 aged 72) is relevant again in 2024. The reason? His Three Laws of Robotics help focus our attention on the question of how humanity could begin to think about existential dangers that may originate from Artificial General Intelligence.

Beyond that though, some of Asimov's thoughts about concepts such as change and strategy seem to support many of the notions that we covered in the book about Shoprite's Checkers Sixty60 outperformance. (And we hope and trust that the preceding sentence is fair comment.)

Asimov said "I suppose he's entitled to his opinion, but I don't suppose it very hard." Well, in this post, we will suppose Asimov's opinions very hard.

Iterate and tinker to success:

Asimov was a big proponent of tinkering on the way to eventual success:

"To succeed, planning alone is insufficient. One must improvise as well."

In our book (see the chapter titled "The Thesis" - page 98) we describe a thesis that advocate for progress through Bayesian iteration and tinkering, i.e. continuous improvisation (at the right moments).

You must innovate and change

All strategy has value only in the future; which is exactly where the opportunity needs to be analysed, using the openness of than imagination rather than historical facts.

"It is change, continuing change, inevitable change, that is the dominant factor in society today. No sensible decision can be made any longer without taking into account not only the world as it is, but the world as it will be." - Asimov

In our book (see the chapter titled "Foundations" - page 82) we discuss the notion that there are two necessary foundations on which a ourperforming corporate venture such as Shoprite's Checkers Sixty60 service can be built. These two foundations are (a) the absolute imperative to innovate / change and (b) a very deep understanding of the environment in which we are operating.

Resistance to change is complex

Those that hate change the most are those with the most to lose from it.

"I discovered, to my amazement, that all through history there had been resistance ... and bitter, exaggerated, last-stitch resistance ... to every significant technological change that had taken place on earth. Usually the resistance came from those groups who stood to lose influence, status, money ... as a result of the change. Although they never advanced this as their reason for resisting it. It was always the good of humanity that rested upon their hearts." - Asimov

In our book (see the chapter titled "Corporate Hell-Holes" - page 311) we discuss the ways in which corporate environments have been structured to, fundamentally, be change-averse.

While many organisations preach the gospel of change, they, simultaneously, brutally sanction those who attempt to convert to such a change-friendly gospel. And they do so by flogging the corporate-religion apostates for having broken the laws of the land, namely the Standard Operating Procedures, Executive Dictates, Best Practice processes, and many more. It is true, however, that these laws were enacted for the "good of (that particular subset of) humanity". I.e., there is usually not much, if anything, wrong with those laws. These laws just, very successfully, prevent most types of meaningful change.

True corporate resistance to change is never "Luddite" behaviour. Brian Merchant in his book "Blood in the Machine" states that we misread the Luddites if we think that they feared progress. He argues that Luddites were simply uncomfortable with blind faith in change.

Either way, true corporate resistance to change has little (if anything) to do with the openness to change of the individuals there. It has much more to do with the carefully constructed corporate cathedral, its hymn sheets and the daily maintenance (and even, to some extent, the improvement) of such magnificent cathedrals. And most of those edifices are worthy of the 'magnificent' adjective. But cathedrals and mausoleums may be at risk if the buildings are not sufficiently aware of changes in the surroundings - as is the case with the Taj Mahal?

A good strategy is crucial

"You don't need to predict the future. Just choose a future -- a good future, a useful future -- and make the kind of prediction that will alter human emotions and reactions in such a way that the future you predicted will be brought about. Better to make a good future than predict a bad one." - Asimov

In our book (see the chapter titled "Purpose, Vision, Strategy" - page 166) we explain, how to "make a good future" through the creation and implementation of a good strategy. And we do so by working with the insights of, perhaps the deepest thinker in this domain, Prof. Richard P. Rumelt. Having a good Strategy is perhaps the most vital underpinning of any business or venture.

Its easy to misunderstand risk

"Isn't it sad that you can tell people that the ozone layer is being depleted, the forests are being cut down, the deserts are advancing steadily, that the greenhouse effect will raise the sea level 200 feet, that overpopulation is choking us, that pollution is killing us, that nuclear war may destroy us -- and they yawn and settle back for a comfortable nap. But tell them that the Martians are landing, and they scream and run." - Asimov

In our book (see the chapter titled "Risk" - page 285) we explain how the concept of Risk Management is different when you are launching a corporate venture (and during times of change) - as opposed to simply operating and improving the existing as-is business.

Approach begets outperformance

"Finished products are for decadent minds." - Asimov

In our book (see the chapters titled "Thesis", "Marriage of Foundations and Thesis" and "Ventures" - page 259 and 149) we explain how a certain type of mindset, together with the right types of approaches lead to spectacular levels of outperformance.


What does the heading to this post ("all your base are belong to us" / AYBABTU) mean?

AYBABTU is an internet meme that originates from a mistranslation (resulting in 'Engrish') from the Japanese video game Zero Wing. A better translation (according to Wikipedia) would have been: "With the help of {this group}, {that group} has taken all of your bases".

Need to develop your strategic thinking practice?

Build your brand better in 2024 with our structured 12-week program of strategy development for you and your team.

Get in touch to discuss