How Do You Eat An Elephant?

You know that adage, “How do you eat an elephant?” Do you have time to eat an elephant one bite at a time? I don’t think anyone has ever had enough energy or patience for this task on their own! You’ve got to take your time and bite-by-bite chew up this big old beast before eventually getting hungry again for another round or two until finally finishing it off. Let’s answer that question, “How do you eat an elephant?” from an entirely different perspective, with a pack of strategically-aligned lions.

Now, think about your company culture, which is a huge factor in how successful your business can be. Is your pack aligned at the level that you want them to be aligned? Are they all playing off the same playbook? Are they in a “watch your back” culture or a ‘got your back” culture? If you’re in a “watch your back” culture, then there may not be enough clarity or trust among team members for true collaboration and cooperation to take place. If you’re in a “got your back” culture, where everyone’s on the same page and playing off each other’s strengths and weaknesses, then that’s where true conviction and clarity of purpose work in your favor.

I’m Ryan Berman, the author, keynote speaker, and founder of the “special forces change consultancy” called Courageous, the “create-the-change” company that builds and leads Courage Brands®. Courageous has helped install courage in the stories and culture at Google, Kellogg’s Europe, charity: water, Major League Baseball, Snapchat, Johnson & Johnson, Cereal Partners Worldwide, US Ski & Snowboard, and other brands. I also have an altruistic Courage Brand called Sock Problems, which is a sock company that “socks” different problems in the world. My book “Return on Courage” shows how courage is a competitive advantage for those leaders who choose to unlock it during these courage-deficient times. I believe that any willing business, being, or brand can earn a return on courage.


The Business Apocalypse

While writing my book, I learned of four very alarming truths regarding what I now call the business apocalypse. The Business Apocalypse is a term used to describe the current state of most companies. These organizations are restrained by external and internal factors that prevent them from evolving, transforming, and moving forward. Companies we used to adore like Toys “R” Us, Tower Records,, Blockbuster, and Kodak are no more. So what’s causing all this, and how can your company avoid this grave danger? I believe it starts by first accepting the Four Truths of the Business Apocalypse:

1. Companies are perishing at an alarming rate. Fifty-two percent of the Fortune 500 since the year 2000 are gone, and that trend will continue. A white paper released by the Boston Consulting Group reported that public companies of all shapes, sizes, and sectors are going out of business at an alarming rate. Assessing 35,000 listed corporations since 1950, the study noted, “Public companies have a shorter life span now than ever.”

2. What got you here won’t keep you here. We’re so focused on iterative growth, versus exponential growth, that we’re not building any process to push our companies forward. Change can be quite expensive and difficult, and it doesn’t help that there’s no guarantee what you do next will work. However, not changing isn’t going to help you prepare or evolve for a drastically different tomorrow. Once you’ve made your way to the top, you must always be looking at ways to evolve your company to stay relevant and in demand.

3. You need time, but you don’t have time. What happens when somebody leaves your company? You experience delays as new people are selected, trained, and integrated into your culture. Externally, your business is feeling the pressures of more competition and less control. Internally, your employees are wired to be a bit too self-serving, proud, or skeptical. Combine it all, and you find yourself and your company stuck. This stasis means you can’t change at the rate you need to. Indecisiveness and uncertainty lead to slow decision-making, and this can be your kryptonite: You must be urgent in addressing the changes that your company needs.

4. We are afraid of change. We are wired to fear change in the status quo by our central nervous system. It can be quite unnerving when you have consistently generated big revenue doing things a certain way, but this way will no longer suffice in the future. Indeed, change is hard and almost insurmountable when you don’t think you need to change. We must be willing to recognize the need for change, and instead of being afraid of it, we should embrace it, despite the stories our head is telling us.

These truths are daunting, but instead of suppressing them, it’s time to acknowledge them and take action. The experts say that ninety-five percent of us are in “freeze” or “flight” mode when we feel threatened, but there is an opportunity for those of us who can find the courage within ourselves to “fight” for change. That’s why I feel so strongly about the word courage. I see courage as the ultimate competitive advantage. If you can learn how to use it, and if you can learn how to unlock it in your teams, then you have a better chance at success.

The problem is we have the wrong idea of the word courage. We think it means careless and reckless, or we think it’s about anything but calculated. One dictionary definition described courage as the ability to do something dangerous or frightening. There’s no utilitarian value to this definition. Does anybody want to do scary things? But, if you’re ever going to do anything meaningful, then it starts at the center of your being with courage.


The Definition of Courage

I took a deep dive into the meaning of courage and interviewed the “three Bs” over a thousand days for my book: the Brave, the Bullish, and the Brainiac. I wanted to know how Navy SEALs, tornado chasers, and astronauts summoned courage, and apply their principles to ordinary folk. I wanted to understand how companies like Apple and Amazon, despite their being so big, also could be so agile and propel themselves forward. I came up with an alternate definition of courage based on my findings, which is: knowledge plus faith plus action equals courage. It has to be all three. Knowledge and faith with no action is paralysis. Faith and action without knowledge is reckless. Knowledge and action without faith is safe.

I think every brand on the planet sits somewhere on the spectrum between a “coward brand” and a “courage brand.” Your next-generation workforce will not stay at a coward, stasis, or iterative brand. Forty-three percent of millennials will be in a new job in the next two years. It’s the highest rate in sixteen years. So you have to train them and teach them skills. If you’re not training them, then the good ones will be gone. Or, as I like to say, they want to have their cake. They want to eat it too. And, they want the cake to be gluten-free. Do you blame them?

So as leaders, because you all are leaders—I don’t care what your title is—your job is to bridge the gap between the c-suite and the next generation of employees. The problem is we need to know how to be courageous before we need it. It’s a “break-glass-before-emergency” situation. Shameless promotion for my book: The front half of my book is the “now,” and the back half is the “how.” As in, how do we do this in a calculated fashion? If we’re talking about courage, then we’re talking about change. It’s up to you whether it’s a culture change, a story change, or an innovation change to drive that change. If you hire the right people, then they’ll take you where you want and need to go.


The Courage Equation

Here’s the equation: Courage (C) = Knowledge (K) + Faith (F) + Action (A)

And here’s what it looks like in action: For any willing being or business who aspires to transform their business into, what I call, a Courage Brand®, it comes with a P.R.I.C.E. For one, if it were easy everyone would do it. Two, P.R.I.C.E., as you already surmised, is an acronym that when followed, is the step-by-step plan that can help companies train their people on how to operationalize bold action so that they can earn a return on courage. How do you eat an elephant and help companies get their courage back? Let’s dive into the P.R.I.C.E. Method here:


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