How Profit-Mapping Helps You Avoid Using the Ways of the Past to Manage the Challenges of the Future

Is your company trapped by its history? Surprisingly, most companies are shaped by their history much more than they are structured to respond to today or tomorrow’s opportunities and challenges. This problem is powerful, and so pervasive that no one even notices it. Yet it shapes virtually every aspect of a company’s structure and its managers’ behavior.

This article sheds light on this enormously important management problem and explains how profit-mapping enables real zero-based budgeting that can allow managers to turn their companies’ history from a sea anchor into a powerful driver of competitive advantage.

Editor’s Note: This is the third in an occasional series of articles based on transcripts of podcasts by MIT instructor Jonathan Byrnes. His Profit Levers podcast covers topics related to managing profitable growth, occasionally discussing issues of interest to marketers. Those episodes are the ones MarketingProfs will be publishing. The first article/transcript published by MarketingProfs was Big Data: Big Opportunity or Big Headache?; the second was How to Win a Price War (And Prevent Future Ones). This, the third article, is based on episode 4.

Episode 4: Are You Managing the Future Using the Ways of the Past?

Have you ever wondered why we hiccup?

I recently reread a fascinating book, Your Inner Fish, written by Neil Shubin, a professor of anatomy at the University of Chicago. In this very readable book, he describes how we humans carry the very real vestiges of our evolutionary past—hidden right in front of our eyes—in the way our bodies work every day.

For example, hiccups. Shubin writes, “If the odd course of our nerves is a product of our fishy past, the hiccup itself is likely the product of our history as amphibians…. It turns out that the pattern generator [the nerve controller] responsible for hiccups is virtually identical to one in amphibians. And not in just any amphibians—in tadpoles, which use both lungs and gills to breathe.”


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