Active Inertia

If you spot active inertia in your competitors, find ways to preserve it.

It’s been a while since a post.

So here’s a quick one…

In late 1940, the Battle of Britain was coming to a close.

Nazi Germany was seemingly backing away from its assault on the RAF at a time when the RAF was down to just a handful of aircraft.

Instead, the Nazis diverted all resources to carry out bombing raids on British cities, now referred to as the Blitz.

Which was a vital error by Adolf Hitler and the Nazi regime as it allowed for the RAF to rebuild.

Who later opposed the Nazi bombing squads to a point where Hitler called off the invasion of Britain completely.

Operation Barbarossa began shortly after as the Nazis set their sights on the Soviet Union.

An operation opposed by Hiter’s generals and military intelligence.

Once again, the Nazis made progress early on, occupying important areas of the Soviet Union.

But were soon halted by a Soviet offensive in what was one the worst Russian winters ever recorded.

The full wrath of Germany’s armed forces couldn’t break down the Soviets and forced the ill-prepared Nazis into a war of attrition.

Which is a strategy of wearing down the enemy to the point of collapse.

Which was a crazy idea given the weather, not to mention Russia’s superiority in numbers and resources on home soil.

(A strategy that would have been a success a year earlier during the Battle of Britain against the RAF.)

WW2 is rife with other bad strategic decisions made by Hitler:

Such as his decisions during the battle of Stalingrad.

Or his decision to declare war on the US.

And just never listening to his generals about anything.

I think this is a case of active inertia.

Active inertia is when managers and leaders are inflexible and address new situations with dated responses.

Business Professor Donald Sull explains it as “management’s tendency to respond to the most disruptive changes by accelerating activities that succeeded in the past.”

Hitler took this to a new level.

It wasn’t because he didn’t act, he just didn’t act appropriately. Not one bit.

And his reluctance to operate on the sound recommendations of his generals and intelligence didn’t go unnoticed by the Allies.

Who had constructed assassination plans on Hitler’s life only to keep postponing them.

They even caught word of other assassination plans and deliberately sabotaged them.

All to keep Hitler in power to make more bad strategic decisions that would lead to the Nazis effectively weakening themselves.

Josef Stalin, the leader of the Soviet Union, used the same tactic.

This time for a different purpose.

The Soviets developed a plan to assassinate Hitler in his bunker in 1943.

An assassin had gained the trust of the Nazi leadership and was positioned close to Hitler to be able to carry out the assassination.

But Stalin, sensing active inertia stemming directly from the Nazi leader, chose to cancel.

A year later, a similar plan was developed for Stalin to again cancel.

It’s believed that Stalin blocked both assassination attempts to keep Hitler in power and at war to weaken the German and Western threat for its own agenda in Eastern Europe.

Any replacement to the regime’s leadership would have changed the course of the war.

Stalin believed a new Nazi leadership would seek to make peace with the allies.

Similarly, the Allies believed that a new Nazi leadership without Hitler would improve the Nazi’s war effort against them.

On numerous occasions, Generals within the Nazi regime even carried out assassination attempts on Hitler.

Which showcases the level of incompetence Hitler had reached.

There’s a huge advantage in competing against a rival or rival organisation (or even a colleague) that makes bad strategic decisions.

In the long term, the rival has no chance of succeeding.

Regardless of the level of seniority, if that person fails then everything in that person’s remit fails first.

And then the opposition will experience a monopoly for some time until that rival organisation is able to recover.

Look for poor strategic frameworks, processes, relationships and values.

If you spot active inertia in those you compete against, you’ll want to preserve it.

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26 thoughts on “Active Inertia

    1. Yes, I think so. Putting it into the context of this post…

      Although I can’t comment about the specifics (as I am from the UK), I’d imagine that someone like Vladimir Putin is quite happy to sit back and watch Donald Trump doing his thing at the moment. What do you think?

      This is certainly the case with Theresa May as she and our government are on course to destroy our economy to bits, with Putin more than likely looking on in amusement.

    1. Hi Eric. Thanks for reading.

      Your sense of regret is shared certainly when it comes to the sadness of WW2. But I, like you, also see the lessons learned as well as the strategic manoeuvres of those in charge.

      Appreciate you stopping by to comment.

  1. The greatness of the Past is that it can be analyzed from the relationship to the now. The Present is the spot from which great minds can only speculate without accountability.

  2. Gareth, I enjoyed how you used examples from failures in World War II leadership to illustrate your point about the existence and meaning of active inertia. It is a new term for me. I plan to check out more of your blog. Thanks for following mine.

  3. Buenos días Gareth Roberts
    Te informamos que tu blog ha sido nominado al premio virtual Liebster Award o Blogger Recognition Award o Sunshine Blogger Award porque nos agrada vuestros relatos y contenido. Animaos a seguir el reto y aceptar vuestra nominación al premio virtual, siguiendo las indicaciones en el enlace que te anexamos y contestando nuestras preguntas:
    Te deseamos muchos éxitos y felicidades en todas vuestras labores.
    Saludos cordiales,
    Jorge Enrique y Filippo
    Equipo bloguero y viajero de…
    Don Viajón, ¡viajando con pasión!

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