Updated: Oct 21, 2019
In ancient times, stories of Gods and Goddesses -- heroes, villains and monsters – were an important part of cultures across the globe. More than fanciful stories, these Myths have been said to have had two functions; the first was to answer awkward questions that children might ask (who made the world? How will it end? How did life begin?). The second function, then, was to justify an existing system and account for traditional rites and customs.
The corporate world is no different. Companies, too, are often steeped in myth. There are heroes and villains… the recounting of incredible quests and journeys… epic tales of incredible battles against impossible foes. Layered around this oral history, then, is an ethos which explains “how things work” and “why things are”.
So, why not celebrate these traditions? Simply put, Corporate Mythology gives rise to a fixed mindset. The byproduct of these myths becomes nearly-immutable “facts” enveloped in tradition and stories, explaining the awkward questions of how, while further hardening today’s system, culture and beliefs. With more and more givens – culturally accepted stories for why things are, how things work, and what matters most –there become fewer and fewer opportunities to challenge the status quo. Change, innovation and true improvement are rendered all but impossible.
This is especially true with companies fresh from a meteoric run – what I refer to as a part of the curse of good times. What is most often true is that the thinking responsible for the last wave of success is not the same thinking which is needed to parlay success to even greater heights. The corporate fixed mindset, however, makes this an even steeper hill to climb.
How can you move beyond your Company’s mythology?
Recognize that it might be real. Cognitive biases exist everywhere – your Organization is no different.
Seek first to understand the Customer, their motivations and their journey; identify what matters most to them, and set the Organization’s North Star at achieving delight in these domains. Understand, then, that your goal for all other interactions with the Customer is ensuring things are simply “good enough”. The ROI on Customer delight is highly elastic; investing wisely and executing well yields great results… pick poorly and execute well – little to no meaningful lift.
Create a reference model and vocabulary for your Company, depicting what it is that is done in running your business. This often takes the shape of a business capability model. Use it to both assess the current state, and understand how your strategy and value proposition(s) actually manifest.
Celebrate not the myths that rationalize today’s world, but the drive and curiosity to better understand. Better understanding begets the ability to ask better questions.
Hire an objective guide. Alternate truths are unlikely to be found within today’s system.
We can help.