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5 Things The Walking Dead Can Teach Us About Business

There’s no shortage of zombies in pop culture these days, but no show has captured the challenges and obstacles of surviving an undead apocalypse quite like “The Walking Dead.” While the AMC show can teach you the many ways to take out a “walker,” it also offers plenty of lessons for our current, less zombified existence.

No one is irreplaceable
Taking a look at the cast photo from the first episode and comparing it to one from the current fifth season shows you that almost no one is left from the original group of survivors. One thing that makes this show stand out is that any character, no matter how important, loved or tenured, can end up with a chomp on the shoulder and find themselves a zombie’s brunch buffet at any moment.

If you’ve spent any time in the business world, this same scenario plays itself out often enough, although usually with slightly less blood on the floor when it’s over. Whether it is a CEO getting sacked at a board meeting, a middle manager falling out of favor or an important support staff member getting whacked during a cost-cutting move, no one is safe. The lesson for this is two-fold: never get comfortable and never let anyone become too hard to backfill.

You can’t rely on the status quo
Not only must The Walking Dead survivors be constantly on the lookout for new batches of walkers, they must also ensure they have enough food, water, shelter and ammo to make it through the day. They might find a good place to set up camp for days, weeks or months, but they know at some point an army of the undead or rival band of survivors is going to come a callin’. Whether it is posting a sentry, building up defenses or creating escape plans, the gang is only able to keep breathing by being prepared.

A prison was the perfect place to hole up in a zombie apocalypse… until someone else got the same idea.

In our slightly less lethal environment, plenty of parallels can be drawn. Competitors show up out of nowhere, supply chains break down and customer tastes change, which means the only companies that make it are the ones on the lookout and flexible enough to adapt to the new situation.

The same outcome can be achieved in many different ways
We’ve all heard the old adage “there’s more than one way to skin a cat,” and there are also a lot of different ways to take out a zombie. Whether it’s a gun, a sword, a hammer or a crossbow, the survivors who keep surviving don’t just use the same weapon over and over again. Instead, they adapt and use the best tool for the job that is currently available.

Businesspeople can benefit from this same level of flexibility and openness to different approaches. The same sales pitch won’t win over every client, a single bundle of services isn’t going to satisfy every customer and processes need to adapt to the scope and schedule of different projects.

There’s plenty of inconsistent terminology out there
The group of survivors that viewers follow during the show has dubbed the undead “walkers.” This is a fine name and gets the job done. But as their travels bring them into contact with other bands of survivors they find that this name isn’t universally used. Biters, roamers, lurkers, empties and skin eaters are just a sample of the various labels given to the flesh-eating masses, but no one ever calls them zombies.

In the business world, getting caught up in our own lexicon of nicknames and acronyms is pretty easy, but it can make things difficult when dealing with partners, customers, prospects or even new employees. We should always make sure people know what we’re talking about and – when possible – adopt their own terminology to make them feel more comfortable and remove any “lost in translation” moments.

Moving into new territory is fraught with unexpected difficulties
While the survivors would love to set up shop somewhere and stay off the road, the ever-changing conditions of their predicament often force them to move along. Not only must they contend with unexpected zombies popping out of the shadows, they run into other challenges, such as humans that have taken a different moral approach to the new world order (which usually involves less value being placed on the lives of others).

Companies often view expanding into new markets as a natural progression for their business, yet new countries and verticals all have their own share of differences that could use some advance scouting. It might be some tricky tax codes, additional regulations or different standards to contend with, but it also might entail less obvious challenges such as unexpected competitors/alternatives, significant cultural issues or pricing sensitivity – all of which can slow down or stifle any expected growth.