07/23/2014 05:47 pm ET Updated Sep 22, 2014

Adapt or Disrupt: Pick One

JosT Elias via Getty Images

The chameleon changes its appearance in accordance with its immediate surroundings, either to assume camouflage or as a response to variations in the climate. It employs deceit as an agent to help it adapt.

Henry Ford, the automobile pioneer famously said "If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said 'faster horses.'" Yes, the mighty Mustang would have never seen the light of the day had it not been for Ford's stroke of brilliance. Steve Jobs, Apple's legendary founder and innovator went on record and said that customers never really know exactly what they want. Fusing amazing sagacity with focused clairvoyance, Apple, led by Jobs, gave birth to the iPhone, which totally redefined its genre, almost overnight.

Now both Ford and Jobs could have bred faster horses or churned out more run-of-the-mill smartphones. Factoring in their dexterity, they would have been fairly successful businessmen even if they chose to play it safe. Instead, they rose to challenge the status quo and ended up creating world-changing products. There is not a speck of doubt that this world would have been a poorer place without their display of gumption. These two men, coming from different backgrounds, belonging to completely different industries and separated by more than a century, did one thing in common -- disrupt.

Here's where the chameleon comes in -- it adapts.

There's a lesson here for all individuals and companies out there -- either you adapt to your surroundings, pledge your troth to the cause, cut your teeth in the task at hand, go back home and sleep soundly. Or, you wake up, doused in drudgery, exhausted with the rigmarole, realizing that contributing to a bigger cause awaits you, and decide to chase it ruthlessly, brutally, to completion. It sounds like a war cry because that is precisely what is need of the hour sometimes. Disruption crushes monotony to make way for new life-altering experiences. More often than not, these experiences wound up with millions of enriched lives.

Now the chameleon cannot disrupt, it is bound by nature! But an organization like Nokia certainly wasn't. Yet, they chose neither to adapt nor to disrupt. Nokia kept producing more of the same, regurgitating devices that time had already passed by, until it was too late. The humble and much-storied Kodak was singlehandedly instrumental in bringing photography into our living rooms. Think about it -- a brand synonymous with capturing images and responsible for giving millions of people the sensory delight of flipping through printed photos, has ceased to exist. Purely because behind a possible garb of complacency, it failed to grasp that in an era of instant gratification, the game had changed with the arrival of digital photos. Film cameras had become redundant. The demise was sad, but always waiting to happen. Likewise, the U.S post office has been dying a slow death since the advent of email; it has comfortably refused to adapt. Exploring revenue streams like issuing driver and hunting licenses are desperate measures to stay on the radar till a savior comes along. The bad news? The savior is only a figment of imagination.

Dinosaurs were caught in the cross hairs of nature's fury and could only watch climatic conditions around them alter dangerously. And if the mighty dinosaurs could not find their knight in shining armor, I suspect if anyone can. It's just you, your shadow and the man in the mirror which create magic and move mountains.

Yes, change is uncomfortable, it's unnerving, it's like getting out of the couch to grab hold of the TV remote. A few do it, the rest are content watching the same show run its course, even if it bores them, getting up only when it runs out. Sadly for the torpid viewer, the other channel just finished airing its blockbuster show while he was kinetically challenged. Opportunity lost.

To quote Darwin: "It is not the strongest species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the ones most responsive to change."

Adapt and become indistinguishable. Or disrupt and make others irrelevant. But never, ever, out of some false sense of fabricated righteousness, do neither.

Mudit Kakkar is an engineer by qualification, an analyst by profession and a writer by heart. For more, visit his website, where this post first appeared.