The Contemporary Conundrum; how to get a different result by mindless repetition…
“You can’t right? Everyone knows that. We instinctively know that. What is it about large structured groups of people (otherwise known as corporations or businesses) that dulls the individual’s innate instinct to evolve; to excel; to adapt and thrive?
We are all aware of the ‘bystander effect’. Tests have proven that the more people that are present in a room when something disturbing happens, the less likely it is that any one of them will intervene to stop the disturbance. Well in my world, there are multiple rooms and each room is a company. Each of them is filled with great people who are capable of awesome and inspiring things – that is until the door closes behind them and they’re in the room. When they’re in the room they immediately start to worry about what others might think; their “let’s give it a go” attitude to risk becomes an obsessive pursuit of guarantees; their fleet of foot spontaneity is ousted by leaden footed conservatism; they avoid risk – period. They find solace in process, framework and procedure and doing things in a particular way; the company way again and again and again….
As a solutions provider with experience of being in lots of rooms I get increasingly frustrated at watching people becoming desensitised to the disturbing things going on around them. Poor service, misinformation, irresponsible behaviour and bad practice, consistently leads to the wrong outcomes.
In today’s society, we are often witness to disturbing and unfortunate events and those who are personally involved in them experience the ‘bystander effect’ first hand. Those exceptional individuals who act selflessly to intervene and do the right thing are often viewed as heroes in society and quite rightly so. But what of business? There are not enough business heroes out there. People who instinctively do what they believe to be morally and ethically right for their business regardless of what current practice or corporate protocol dictates; regardless of what everyone else in the room is doing.
Is business an inhibitor of heroic tendencies? Does it desensitise our innate compulsion to do what is right? I don’t think so, not intentionally anyway. But I do not believe that all businesses value heroism and they certainly don’t nurture it. Epic brands such as Apple and Google are carried upon the shoulders of their business heroes whilst everyone else is left shuffling around in the room. To become an epic brand, you need heroes. And you can’t get a quick fix by buying heroes. Instead, some fundamental changes need to be made.
Firstly, values need to be evident in the room leader. Secondly, you only want to invite people to the room who are or have the potential to be a hero. It isn’t an exercise to simply fill the room. Otherwise you are just settling for an environment that fosters mediocrity. Lastly, you need to nurture those in the room. Is it possible to do this just by making them feel empowered and trusting them to do what’s right? I’m afraid it isn’t as simple as this. Typically, there is still something that holds even the most empowered people back. If you consider your business successful by way of having multiple processes in place, then it is possible, without intention that you are preventing your heroes from fighting their way through the homogenous crowd. The desire for rigid processes strengthens while debilitating at the same time.
Let’s stop this mindless repetition. Break down barriers to clear a pathway for our heroes to emerge.