We’re all just ‘vulnerable little specks’ now that the storm has hit

The April issue of Inc. magazine contains a fascinating interview with Jim Collins, author of Good to Great and Built to Last, two of the most famous and well-respected business books ever written.

The title is “In times like these, you get a chance to show your strength.” As you might assume, the focus is navigating through the recession as a business or an entrepreneur.

One of the concepts I’ve been trying to relay to to people at news companiesfor some time is: welcome to the world of business. Now that the internet has disrupted publishing monopolies, media houses find themselves dealing with the same unpredictable challenges that other businesses have faced for decades.

Collins deftly describes the situation using an array of metaphors and analogies. (I’d point you to the intervew, but it doesn’t appear to be online yet.) My favorite is his climbing analogy. See if you can identify the legacy news business in the following passage:

“Most poeple are in the comfort of base camp, and the can go on doing what they’re doing even if there is a big storm,” Collins said. “But the people who wake up high on that mountain in a howling storm are in grave danger, like the technology people after the bubble burst. It hit me that we’re all heading up there, whether we like it or not. We’re heading into a world characterized by big events, big forces, massive storms. We’re going to be vulnerable little specks high on the mountain when the storm hits out of nowhere. And if we’re not prepared, we’re going to die up there. Or we’re going to be in real serious trouble.”

For those in business today, and that means most every journalist, it’s time to get out of the bunker (mode) and find a way to get back down the mountain to the safety, warmth and comfort of base camp. Digging in and covering up and hoping the storm goes away just isn’t going to cut it; for a news company, or any other business competing in this uncertain world today.

It’s time for innovation, action and even risk.

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