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a blog by Chris Barrow

Did you say “fit test” or “fittest”?

“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.”

Wrongly attributed to Charles Darwin, the famous phrase “survival of the fittest” was first used by Herbert Spencer, English philosopher and founder of “Social Darwinism”, some 7 years before Darwin published “On the Origin of Species.”

Spencer was heavily influenced by Darwin’s ideas and suggested that society itself is a living organism that adapts and changes over time.

One could suggest that the 20th Century was dominated by our adaptation to revolution and war.

Perhaps historians will look back at the 21st Century and observe our adaptation to pandemic, climate change, social injustice?

I suppose it’s too early to say at this stage. There is a feeling though, that some aspects of our new lives in face masks and with social distancing may take a very long time to return to any semblance of pre-Covid normality. The suggestion that it might all be over by Christmas is beginning to sound as misguided as a similar notion at the start of the First World War.

A few weeks ago, I was in conversation with Guy Deeming from Queensway Orthodontics, reflecting on how well his team had adapted to the new world. He told me how impressed and proud he felt as he witnessed his team responding to “The Challenge of Reinvention”.

That phrase captured my attention and has been echoing since.

On 31st July The Financial Times commented in an editorial:

“The histories of Kodak, Nokia, Blockbuster and others show that all too often it is the market leaders that face the biggest challenges when an industry goes through disruption due to technological change. Their dominance can make them dismissive of challengers, unwilling to accept that their way may not be the only one and fearful that their gilded existence is threatened.

Kodak, the company that popularised photography, is having a moment of its own. Shares in Eastman Kodak have soared more than 15-fold in the past week after the company received a US government loan to produce ingredients used in drugs to combat coronavirus.”

That’s a convincing example of reinvention if I ever heard of one. To go from film and cameras to the development of drugs is a stunning and brave change of direction, even if driven by desperation.

That’s the level of thinking that we all have to embrace, going beyond “how do we make what we used to do fit into the new world?”

Moving on to “what is the new thing we have to do?”

We are beginning to see some exciting examples of the answer across the dental landscape.

It’s not enough to be strong or intelligent, we must respond to change, adapt and reinvent.

As leaders we have to take our teams (and our patients/clients) with us on that journey.

It’s a ratchet - there’s no going back.


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