While watching the world cup cricket match between South Africa and West Indies, I checked the history of cricket in West Indies. I was impressed with the side’s virtual invincibility in the 70’s and 80’s. There were so many greats and top achievers and at a point of time many records were being held by their team. Even more impressive was the fact that it was not a single nation’s team but a federation of cricket clubs spread across 12 different countries. Going by the performance in the last decade or so I could hardly believe that they fielded the greatest cricket team.
I inferred that the team suffered a learning disability when they were at the height of their power. Peter M Senge in his book “The Fifth Discipline” lists out the learning disabilities a person or organization can go through. The one example that comes very closely to explain the case of West Indies’ decline is “The Parable of the boiling frog”. A frog will jump out of kettle if you try to drop it inside boiling water, but if the frog was already there inside the kettle and slowly the temperature is raised; chances are very high that the frog doesn’t realize until it is too hot and dies in the boiling water.
Humans evolved to react to sudden threats (fight or flight) and not to slow changing events, the West Indies team members would have thought that they are being too successful in cricket that they will be able to face any team any day and win. What they did not look forward was to groom the next generation of greats and ignored the responsibility to promote new members.Combine this disability with the economic issues and weird logistics issue in the federation of clubs across 12 countries, the cricket team board never got up from deep trenches.
Organizations and individuals can also get stuck in a similar situation where they are on a performance plateau but don’t really see up what is in store for them. One of the factors which holds back anyone from learning or moving on, is to leave the comfort zone and venture into cold waters. The other significant factor is the learning horizon, if we don’t get an immediate feedback on what we do; we generally tend not to pursue that activity. Constant learning is a continuous and long term investment which can’t be very easily observed or quantified. Great flourishing civilizations have disappeared due to outdated weaponry and fight methods. Companies and individuals will have no other way to stay up than to keep on learning.