What is more stable: A pure diamond or pure graphite?
And what does this have to do with innovation?
Both of these are a pure form of the element Carbon, so chemically at the atomic level they are identical, but structurally diamond is the hardest natural material in the world, whereas graphite is brittle and soft.
We would expect therefore for diamond to be the most chemically stable form of pure carbon. However, in reality, graphite is actually more stable than diamond, so this should be the ideal state for carbon.
In chemistry, the laws of thermodynamics suggest that molecules tend to move towards a state of local stability, so why do diamonds not slowly turn into graphite.
The answer is that in order to turn diamonds into graphite, you would have to apply a huge amount of additional energy to first break the bonds between the diamond carbon atoms, putting them into a temporarily much less stable state, before they could then form into the even more stable graphite.
And nature does not like a reduction in stability.
Using another metaphor, if the stability of diamonds is the high peak of a mountain, then the stability of graphite is an even higher, better peak you want to reach. But you would need to go deeper into a dark valley from the first peak before being able to climb the next higher peak.
The same thing happens in companies when they try to innovate.
There may be a fantastic new innovation which could significantly improve performance for the company if it were implemented.
But in order to implement the innovation, you need to go through a temporary change, a transition phase, where for a period things could be less stable than they were previously.
It is this fear of the reduction in stability which can cause resistance to actually implementing the innovations, as people fear what the change may bring.
And so many companies prefer to stay on their first lower mountain peak, not willing to go down into any valley, even if they can see higher peaks ahead of them.
Diamonds may be forever. But companies are not.
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