Businesses should be more like cockroaches

Channeling these creepy crawlies can help achieve equitable growth for all

Image by Eunice Hee

Cockroaches have existed way before the dinosaurs. No matter what’s been thrown at them — an asteroid, the ice age, Covid-19, your shoe — they’ve still managed to stand the test of time.

That’s why I believe it’s critical for businesses to adopt a cockroach mindset to meet the new growth agenda, which is about creating equitable growth for all, and not just exponential growth for a few.

If businesses fail to evolve like our creepy little friends, they risk being viewed as pests that must be killed.

So, whether you love ’em or hate ’em, here are 5 cockroach-like things that businesses can do to achieve equitable growth:

1. Think long-term not short-term

Image from WALL-E

Cockroaches have survived for millions of years, and it’s hardly by accident. These ancient insects weren’t just looking to thrive for the next 3 to 5 years — they had ambitious aspirations for the future.

Businesses need to do the same and adopt a long-term, sustainable approach for our generation and the ones to come.

This is because when businesses go beyond traditional key performance indicators (KPIs), find new ways of measuring success, and make purpose just as important as profit, they end up becoming more successful, like Patagonia and Ben & Jerry’s.

2. Make more inclusive decisions

Image from Joe’s Apartment

If we see one cockroach, there are probably others nearby. Roaches aren’t loners and are surprisingly prone to collective decision-making — which is both irritating and inspiring.

When it comes to calling the shots, businesses should be more inclusive by considering the impacts on the wider society and focusing on value creation for all stakeholders.

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) used to be enough. But these days, it won’t suffice. Businesses must move towards Creating Shared Value (CSV) in order to do good while doing well.

3. Have a clear vision

Image by Jean-Charles Debroize

Unlike human eyes, which only have one lens, cockroach eyes have over 2,000 lenses each. Their eyesight is great and that’s probably why they always seem to know where to find us.

Though it’s impossible for businesses to see things as well as roaches do, they should still have an extremely clear vision.

Apart from having visionary leaders, businesses could also use frameworks like the Golden Circle model by Simon Sinek, to identify their why, their how, and their what (in that exact order). Identifying a North Star Metric is also essential if businesses want to reach their maximum growth potential.

Having a clear, compelling vision, with a strong strategy to back it up, helps all employees work towards the same goal. It’s the bedrock of any business. Without it, it’s hard to visualize and actualize continued success — especially when the business expands.

4. Do their part for the planet

Image by Cristian Girotto

Though we sometimes question why cockroaches even exist, they’re actually essential to the environment and various ecosystems.

Businesses must aim to make just as big of an impact on Mother Earth, with efforts to combat climate change, conserve habitats, protect biodiversity, etc.

The reason for this is because going green has numerous benefits. Not only can it help improve the image of a business and impress shareholders, but it can also help attract millennials and zoomers who want to work for companies whose values resonate with their own, as well as prepare the business for future regulations.

5. Never give up

Image by Fred Burdy

Cockroaches are basically indestructible and can live for over a week without its head. They have endurance, resilience, and grow stronger under pressure.

Businesses that want to meet this new growth agenda have to be prepared for quite a bit of resistance. After all, if it was that easy, there’d definitely be more than 4,000 certified B Corporations all over the world. The journey is particularly hard because there are so many factors that come into play.

Some of the factors that make achieving equitable growth hard are:

1. Bad leaders

Mindset shifts need to happen for a business to prosper in the day and age, so leadership or shareholder buy-in is mandatory. Without management support, it’ll be difficult for employees to create real change, no matter how much they want it.

Some cockroaches have braver personalities than others — so it’s key to hire or promote leaders with a similar kind of courage too, since those in power should lead by example.

2. Fear of failure

People are inherently risk-averse. However, the right company culture can empower employees to take chances, make mistakes, and reiterate fast — like roaches who crash into walls and just keep going.

It’ll take a lot of effort to do this, and some businesses consider it to be an afterthought until it’s too late. More has to be done to create an agile culture that’s open to experimentation and failing fast.

3. Unforeseen circumstances

Covid-19 has completely changed the way we work. Many businesses have been able to successfully pivot and go to greater heights like a flying cockroach, but it still took them effort to do so.

No matter how prepared we are for the unexpected, there’ll always be situations that we could’ve never imagined. The only thing businesses can do is be ready to transform.

Morphing into a cockroach might sound like a nightmare at first, but there are certainly things businesses can learn from them to meet the new growth agenda. So, think twice the next time you reach out for a rolled-up newspaper when you see a roach in the bathroom.