Deloitte Insights

Lessons from the Edge: What companies can learn from a tribe in the Amazon

Report 6 in the 2013 Shift Index series

The Surui, an Amazonian tribe, fought back from the brink of obsolescence by embracing learning through a variety of technologies and partners, illustrating useful lessons for enterprises trying to learn and adapt to the Big Shift.​

Read the 2013 Shift Index Series Foreword by Steve Denning.

​Executive Summary: Lessons from the Edge: What companies can learn from a tribe in the Amazon

For decades, firms have developed processes and practices to not only survive, but compete in the current marketplace/ Operations were designed to mitigate variance and ensure predictability. Organizational structures were built on the premise of control, hierarchy, and tightly defined roles and processes. Strategies promoted the status quo and discouraged experimentation.

But what happens to these businesses when we move from the slower pace and relative stability of the 20th century to the fluid 21st century, where interconnected technologies and economies create constant tension and rapid change?

In this world of the Big Shift, learning, rather than efficiency, can be a key to success. Organizations need to learn and evolve as rapidly as the world around them. By creating environments, processes, and structures focused on enabling workers to learn faster, true learning enterprises can accelerate performance improvement.

While less literally life-threatening, the challenges faced by organizations today can be likened to the challenges of the Amazon tribe, the Surui. The business environment is changing rapidly, and so are the roles that companies and organizations play. A failure to adapt could result in a jeopardized existence.​

Shift Index organizational self-assessment tutorial (interactive video)

“Our 2013 Shift Index findings indicate that US firm performance has declined over the past four decades. In such an environment, organizations need the ability to adapt as rapidly as the world is changing around them, continuously learning from each challenge. Understand how well your organization is ready for the Big Shift by taking this 20-minute tutorial.”

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