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DecisionNext Blog

Ego is the Enemy

Published by Janette Barnard June 01, 2018

Have you read Ego is the Enemy by Ryan Holiday? It’s on the list of “books I should read every quarter the rest of my life.”

The premise is that the unchecked ego is what limits leaders’ potential or leads to those spectacular implosions of previously successful people.

In other words, the unchecked ego is the enemy of greatness.

Or, for our purposes, the unchecked ego is the enemy of meat & poultry executives operating in a world that is increasingly complex AND changing at an accelerating pace.

Here’s my hypothesis: effective meat & poultry leaders are constant learners with insatiable curiosity, managed egos, and appetite for iterative problem solving.

Consider two proof points:

A recent Wall Street Journal article highlighted one aspect of collateral damage of rapid change is that “Over the past two years, at least 16 major packaged-food and beverage chief executives have stepped down.” The article goes on to say, “The top 25 food and beverage companies in the U.S. have continued to lose market share, averaging annual sales growth of 2% from 2012 through 2016, compared with 6% for the rest of the industry.”

The best quote?  “It was certainly much easier in my early decades than today’s CEOs have it,” said former Conagra Foods Chief Gary Rodkin, who retired in 2015.”

Meanwhile a recent Fortune article highlights the uncertainty & opportunity in the colossal bet Amazon made with the Whole Foods acquisition.

"But with the $13.7 billion acquisition, Amazon had bought itself a real shot at remaking the $800 billion U.S. grocery sector—the last frontier of e-commerce and a massive one at that. The very thing that makes grocery delivery hard—that food goes bad—is the reason it’s so desirable to a company like Amazon."

"One question that remains unanswered is how Amazon will use Whole Foods’ 483 physical stores to help solve what’s known in the industry as the “last mile” problem—the final and most expensive step of the delivery process that takes a product from a central hub to its final destination."

"With the average supermarket operating on a 1% profit margin, the economics of the grocery industry are fragile at best. What makes Amazon such a threat is that the same math just does not apply. They’re not disruptive because they have all the answers, but because they don’t have to play by the same rules.”

The rules Amazon plays by are about real time, data driven, iterative problem solving of the as of yet unsolved problems.

Case in point, Amazon recently announced that it has 100 million Prime members.

Know where Amazon Prime as a concept originated? From a junior engineer who had a silly idea and was given enough leeway to test it out long enough to prove the concept which was then refined at scale and now here we are.

Are you giving your team enough leeway to iteratively test concepts that can be refined later?  Are you giving yourself room to test and iterate?

If your competitors aren’t doing so today, they will be innovating by iterating soon. Much more importantly, so will your customers.

To tackle unsolved problems demands that leaders bring more questions than answers to increasingly complex problems, which inherently demands ego checking and an appetite for iterative learning.

Ego is the enemy for leaders at meat, milk & egg companies.

How do you keep the enemy at bay?

Here is a guide to ways ego interferes with price forecasting & 5 ways to overcome it.

This article was originally published on Meatingplace.