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What is a powerful phrase to describe the failure of a person or organization to react to a large change in the environment?

Three examples:

  • Mapquest continued to use static pages even after the bandwidth and browsers were available to allow interactive mapping. This failure allowed Google maps to overtake Mapquest.
  • Mr. Incredible continued performing hero-work in secret even when the world demanded that he stop, almost resulting in Buddy/Syndrome killing Mr. Incredible.
  • The Human Genome Project failed to adopt the shotgun sequencing approach immediately when it was demonstrated to be superior. Instead, Celera genomics, a much smaller and less well-funded effort used shotgun sequencing and produced the first human genome.

"No adjustment" is has the right basic meaning, but doesn't fully capture the severity of these examples.

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3 Answers 3

Probably

  • failure to adapt

would be idiomatic, but note: the severity you require doesn't really attach to the (lack of) adaptation itself, but to its consequences.

Hence, the effect you're asking for usually comes from describing the (potential) consequence of that failure, eg.

  • a near-terminal failure to adapt
  • a catastrophic failure to adapt
  • a lethal inability to adapt

etc.

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If you want to draw attention to a failure that could have been avoided, then

  • Failure to adjust
  • Failure to change
  • Failure to react

might fit the bill. Or maybe

  • External changes ignored
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3  
Or failure to adapt. –  cornbread ninja 麵包忍者 Apr 26 '12 at 15:04
    
Overlooked Adjustment Factors, Overlooked Opportunities For Adjustment –  Jim Apr 26 '12 at 15:22

How about oblivious? Not aware of or not concerned about what is happening around one.

  • Mapquest appeared to be oblivious to the improved bandwidth and browsers that were available to allow interactive mapping, and continued to use static pages. This failure allowed Google maps to overtake Mapquest.
  • Mr. Incredible continued performing hero-work in secret, oblivious to demands that he stop, almost resulting in Buddy/Syndrome killing Mr. Incredible.
  • The Human Genome Project failed to adopt the shotgun sequencing approach immediately, remaining oblivious to demonstrations that it is superior. Instead, Celera genomics, a much smaller and less well-funded effort used shotgun sequencing and produced the first human genome.
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