The Peril of Fire-Brigade Approach in Business

The Peril of Fire-Brigade Approach in Business

By Ajayji Joel

There’s something called fire-brigade approach in business. It’s an un-scalable way to build a business. But it’s also a fast approach to save lives.

Here’s what I mean.

In trying to reduce hunger in the world, the fire-brigade approach is to keep supplying food to the poor. Supply food to the poor is good though. It works temporarily.

However, has that addressed hunger issues? No!

Can you build your business around this particular problem? Yes!! Will it scale? Well, yes, but not until someone addresses the root problem. If someone solves the root problem, you no longer have a business. Until then, you can keep making money.

If your goal is to attain a hunger-free world, then overlook results of the Hunger, and go for the cause: business thinking…design thinking.

It’s quite simple and critical thinking in approach.

It’s like this.

First, list out the possible results of hunger; malnutrition, death, crime, economic devastation, global warming.. When there’s hunger, these are few of what we’d expect to happen.

I wish I could draw this but I cannot right here because they are interconnected. Something like:

Hunger >> Malnutrition >> Crime >>Economic devastation >> etc.

You can draw in different ways

Remember. Hunger is not the only cause of crime, so you cannot try to fix crime here as the solution but you can tackle crime by trying to fix hunger, you can fix malnutrition by fixing hunger. The best way to address the results is by addressing the root cause.

Now look at all those results you listed, note them down.

So try to also come up with possible causes of hunger. What are the things that cause hunger?

Deforestation, lack of love, no storage, no agricultural consideration, wastage and for the spirituals; the devil!!! What else?

Remember, we want to build a business that addresses hunger right? I had to quickly mention that so you will know why we are doing this.

If you say lack of agricultural consideration is the only problem, you might be missing it. What if we plant enough food and we didn’t consider storage or the greed of humans? We cannot still achieve zero hunger as a business. Note: I said business. I didn’t say community service.

You will end up building a business that will not achieve its goal, and if your revenue is dependent on your goal, it means you’d generate no revenue.

Do you understand?

If you go with the fire-brigade approach which is “combating the problem based on its prominent cause” more like, you will fail. Yes, supplying food to refugee camp because they have no food. It has only addressed hunger issue

It hasn’t solved it. People will not go hungry for 1 day, 2 days, 1 week, 1 month, 5 years but that doesn’t mean the food wouldn’t run out of stock.

But if you focus on solving the root cause, you win!! How? Now pay attention!

If Mr A builds a business on the Hunger issue by selling food at a cheaper rate, he has built a good business, although using a fire-brigade approach which can be successful until someone builds a business on the root cause.

Mr B on the other hand discovers that agriculture is one of the key factors that determine food supply, which leads to hunger if not supplied; he also discovers that there are no storage systems in place and that humans lack love and waste food.

Mr B will build a solid system that will throw Mr A away if he takes all these into consideration. Let’s say he starts a farm, a huge one, build storage devices, works with the government to enforce policies against food wastage and awareness towards sharing food.

If Mr B successfully does this, he would win and soon throw Mr A off the market because he already owns all the supply chains, channels and all.

Well, there are many problems starting all these at once but this post is not about if there will be challenges faced. It’s just about the fact that there are many fire-brigade approaches to business in Nigeria and most are not scalable.

What business do you have? Does it have a design on ground? Check if you have a fire-brigade business model problem. It is a business model that looks at effects instead of causes, working to fix temporary issues under knee- jack emergencies and missing great opportunities.

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