No, no, not the practice of eating human flesh — yuck! I am talking about the term in the business context. But first, let’s explore the definition of Cannibalism. According to everything2.com, corporate cannibalism refers to, “a new section of a company ‘eating into’ the revenues of an older section of the same company.” The site actually goes on to say, ” Competing with yourself is a bad idea.” Or is it?
But before I go on, I just want to say that I’ve never been trained as a business person, as in I have never taken a business course or gotten an MBA. But if you think that disqualifies me to make sense of running a business, then I invite you to talk to Bill Gates, Michael Dell, Steve Jobs, and my dad. Anyway, my point is, you don’t necessarily need a business education to run a business. As a friend of mine who received his MBA from Harvard Business School likes to say, “Education is for the average people.” But I digress….
I am actually a big fan of corporate cannibalism, and if for no other reason than this: Why give your competitors the benefit of eating your lunch when you can eat your own lunch? Seriously — think about that for a moment. Let’s imagine we are back in the 50s, and your company dominates the market in two-way radio transmitters. That’s the cash cow and the bread and butter of your company; in other words, that’s your lunch. Now if you don’t have the audacity to eat your own lunch by inventing something that works better than two-way radio transmitters such as cell phones, guess who will? Your competitors! And if their products actually work better than yours, guess who is going to suffer? You!
I know that’s a very simplistic way of looking at a very complex picture, but I like simplicity because it gets the point across. More importantly, I simplified it because I think the concept equally applies to the individual. A lot of people fear losing their job, so they actively try to crowd out their competitors within the same company. Their thinking usually goes something like this: If I am the only one who can do this job, then they can’t fire me. But they fail to think of it this way: If I am the only one who can do this job, then I will never be promoted because I will be stuck doing this job forever. A better approach in my opinion is to cannibalize your own job by learning new skill sets while at the same time training somebody to take over your old job.
OK, now it’s your turn to share your thoughts….