Sonder | Are you a butterfly or grasshopper?
Business growth comes in many forms, but butterflies and grasshoppers highlight two very different ways to do it.
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Are you a butterfly or grasshopper?

Are you a butterfly or grasshopper?

There is no one single way to grow and evolve as a business. Sure, consistent sales growth would be great (but not always a reality), a growing pool of potential customers would be amazing, a dynamic and current brand that magnetises people is always helpful. But growth comes in many forms. Sometimes obvious, often oblique and surprising.

Some businesses grow like butterflies in a holometabolistic way – which is they start out as caterpillars before cocooning themselves away from the outside world. When they reappear, they’ve completely transformed. The transformation is extreme and stunning. Apple did it when they launched the iPod, Old Spice transformed with its iconic advertising, Burberry was forced to evolve out of its unfortunate chav phase and Nokia might well be in a cocoon right now.

Other businesses are more like grasshoppers that grow in a hemimetabolistic way. They start out as miniature versions of their larger selves. To grow, they moult their exterior, then take on a larger form. But they’re fundamentally no different, just bigger. FedEx, Starbucks, Target and Nike are all examples of businesses that haven’t reinvented themselves, rather they have been able to grow consistently with little outward or radical transformation.

There’s no right or wrong way to grow. The butterfly must go through extreme change to grow – to the outside world it can seem difficult and shocking. The grasshopper must continually shed its skin and when it does, at first, it is vulnerable. If you’re a butterfly, innovation is extreme; if you’re a grasshopper, innovation is more iterative. So, what kind of business are you part of?

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