If your ears are in decline you can buy hearing aids. Poor vision? Depending on the cause you can be fitted with glasses or contact lenses, or get cataract surgery or cornea transplants.

Can’t smell well? Mostly, you’re out of luck.

Being insensitive to aromas can be debilitating, as when I briefly tried to become a wine snob. I had to give it up after drinking a glass that supposedly “… opens to reveal lifted fruit aromas of bright strawberry and jammy fruit, mocha, and vanilla, along with toasty oak notes. Expressive boysenberry, blackberry, dark cherry, juicy strawberry, and toasty mocha flavors lend complexity and depth on the palate.”

The gentleman running the wine tasting provided this account (well, it was sorta like that recitation; my memory isn’t good enough to provide the verbatim version) shortly after I was asked to provide my assessment. “Well,” I suggested, “It’s a dry wine, and I’m pretty sure the recipe included grapes of some kind.”

Actual anosmia and hyposmia, while rarely tragic, are still worth curing when a cure is possible. And yet we, as a nation, invest little in developing better treatments, as evidenced by the National Institutes of Health, which includes the National Eye Institute and National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, but no National Institute of Schnoz Syndromes.

Canines live in a different umwelt (perceptual universe) than human beings. If they ran the country, olfactory impairment would be a much higher priority, smell being a dog’s most important sense.

They don’t, and there’s a parallel in the business world (of course there is!).

If you’re among KJR’s IT readership, the situation is familiar to the point of distraction: Something in the IT architecture needs to be fixed because in its current state it’s debilitating with respect to IT’s ability to do what its business partners want it to do, or it’s well beyond its end of life, likely to fail unpredictably, or otherwise in an unacceptable state for highly technical reasons that are very real but quite difficult to explain to a non-technical audience.

That is, you’re the dog. You and the rest of your pack can try to explain just how bad it smells to the humans who decide priorities, but their umwelt limits their ability to truly(oh, what the heck, as long as we’re shoveling obscure terms around) grok the situation.

Reverse roles: If you’re among the humans who are listening to the dogs barking about the need to invest more heavily in the IT infrastructure, your eyes will start to glaze. They more or less have to as the primary arguments are aromatic, not visual, and there’s no way to add fragrances to a PowerPoint deck.

And … trust me on this … if your IT dogs are barking about infrastructure risks you aren’t going to placate them by scratching behind their ears while saying, “Who’s a good sysadmin? You’re a good sysadmin! Yes you are!”

It’s become commonplace to gripe about the extent to which humans base their (not our!) decisions on emotion rather than logic. I’ve made this point myself (for example, here). Mr. Spock notwithstanding, the criticism, while not wrong, is often a misdiagnosis of why people find even the most compelling evidence and logic unconvincing.

More often than not the problem is as much a matter of conflicting umwelts as of emotion overpowering logic.

In most companies, engineers, including IT professionals, live in a different perceptual and cognitive universe than business management. Fail to bridge the gap and tragedy ensues, as it did with the Challenger disaster, and again more recently with Boeing’s 737 Max.

The deep-root-cause isn’t emotion-based decision-making, or corporate greed, or some other personal characteristic.

It isn’t, that is, personal so much as it’s interpersonal. People have trouble spanning the gap that separates different umwelts. In my experience, at least, what more often needs to be fixed is a lack of sufficient empathy on both sides of a conversation.

When I can’t see the world through your eyes … or, more significantly, when I see the world through my eyes and your understanding of the world is based on your nose … all the evidence and logic in the world aren’t going to paint a picture I can properly understand.

So if you want to become more persuasive, don’t start with evidence, logic, or emotion.

Start by understanding how the other person experiences the world.

I’ll start this week’s column where last week’s finished: “When we lose something or someone because they, like the kiwi, aren’t able to adapt, we’re as much the losers as they are.”

To which one Commenter replied, “Then how do you move into the future? Children miss their teddy bears when they grow up. Would you recommend keeping the factory line that makes buggy whips? There’s only room for so much stuff, whether it’s an economy or an ecosystem.”

And so, a question: Is a mainframe computer in any way comparable to a teddy bear? A kiwi? A tuna?

When I wrote about how sad it would be were the kiwi to lose its battle with extinction, I was thinking in terms of its intangible value for our sensibilities. I might just as easily, and just as accurately talked about the impact of the unescapable dominance of electric vehicles on drivers who love the sound of a muscle car revving its engine.

Or the impact of machine learning on the value we derive from the chess grandmaster archetype.

Or, let’s spin ourselves into the unavoidable future in which robotic football players replace their current-day human counterparts. Will Packer fans be as loyal and enthusiastic rooting for PX-6783-93-c as they now root for Aaron Rodgers?

That something is inevitable in no way makes it desirable.

But the kiwi’s plight, and that of the tuna, informs us in other ways more directly applicable to organizational strategy, tactics, and operations.

What’s important for business professionals to understand about the kiwi is that it’s a very well-designed bird. Well designed, that is, for an environment in which seeds, grubs, and worms are plentiful for them to eat, while nothing wants to eat them. In this situation, strong beaks and talons would be wasted — high-energy predation is pointless. The same is true for growing wings and the other adaptations necessary for flight.

If you’re in a parallel business situation — your company enjoys, say, a monopoly — there isn’t much point in developing the capabilities businesses develop to make them more competitive.

Contrast the kiwi with the tuna. Until very recently (in the context of evolutionary timescales), size gave tuna significant advantages: they could eat bigger prey; they could swim faster letting them catch bigger prey and escape from bigger predators.

As humans have become the most important tuna predator, size — because it’s what human commercial tuna piscators prize most — has become a disadvantage.

A business parallel? Try this: In a stable marketplace, businesses should grow. Size confers increased throughput and economies of scale throughout, whether the subject is raw materials, manufacturing, or distribution.

But in an unstable marketplace, a corporate behemoth can find itself suffering from too much capacity, while at the same time lacking what it needs to rapidly adapt to changing circumstances: research-and-development facilities to develop the products and services customers now want; the marketing capabilities needed to sell to unfamiliar markets; and skill at intentional business change so the whole organization knows how to operate in the new situation.

This is, by the way, where many Digital advocates get into trouble: Digital strategies, business capabilities, and underlying technologies are presented as universal requirements, or as panacea-level solutions all businesses must adopt or else die.

But there are no universal requirements or panaceas. As pointed out in the KJR Manifesto, there are no best practices, only practices that fit best.

The reverse also matters: Success can be an organization’s worst enemy, because success can blind business leaders to emerging threats, not to mention opportunities.

We can imagine members of the Kiwi Evolution Planning Committee debating priorities shortly after the first Rattus norvegicus appeared on New Zealand’s shores. Would its members have recognized the severity of the threat, or minimized it so as to rationalize the importance of respecting budgetary “realities”?

Would they have been willing to abandon the kiwi way of life — of flightlessness, grubbing in the underbrush for food, growing feathers that look like hair, and lacking any anatomical features useful for defense?

Or would they have told each other that rats would never make it in New Zealand because their teeth were too sharp, their pace too fast, and fecundity way too high compared to kiwi best practices?

Because we like kiwis more than we like rats (we all do, don’t we?) we’d all surely hope the KEPC would have chosen an evolutionary path that would have given them the upper hand … uh … wing.

And we’d forgive them if, as they figured it all out, they paused to regret having to lose some of what makes a kiwi a kiwi in the first place.