Slaying our Inner Dinosaur

By Restoring the Soul of Business Archives
Cover image for  article: Slaying our Inner Dinosaur

Many, if not all of us suffer from IDD. Inner Dinosaur DiseaseThe cause of the disease is change.

It is all around us. We all talk about it. We are buffeted by it. We participate in conferences about it. We hand down edicts and issue press releases about change initiatives.

But individually we abhor it. Change sucks. Particularly for decision makers.

Change exposes us to vulnerability and loss: of control, of clout, of turf and of face. It demeans the very currency of expertise, seniority, networks, and image we spend decades building. How dare some pompous young pup, some fresh idea, some innovative technology, some fearless startup, or bossy consumer challenge us?

The two-phase inner dinosaur shuffle.

We let our inner dinosaur roar and roam unleashed against these threatening changes to our ecosystem by indulging in a two-step shuffle.

First, we justify our refusal to change via the Deflection Dance!

  1. Blame our myopic bosses who are approaching retirement or the organization that has too much money riding on status quo.
  2. Attribute inaction to the profit pressures and business realities we carry on our shoulders.
  3. Suggest the Client or Customer gave only lip service to change readiness.
  4. Rebuke the employees.  They are not trained or motivated for this stuff.
  5. Exhume specimens from the when-things-went-wrong. Remember when?
  6. Wait for others to find the landmines.

The second step is Change Botox -- little injections of temporary surface embellishments to distract from real change.  Common manifestations:

  1. Announce the retention of a Consulting firm who, over the next X months, will benchmark and develop a plan of action.
  2. Launch a Vision or Change 202X task force to “get out in front” of change.
  3. Hire a talent agency, next generation modern marketing firm, or niche agency, then issue a press release.
  4. Re-launch a quiet, unsupported brand or initiative with a small budget dedicated to a new way so there is something to point to.

Five weapons slay our inner dinosaurs (and dragons!)

Here are five ways of slaying inner dinosaur disease: a) own change, b) empower the iconoclasts, c) cross the line, d) leverage organizational inertia, e) act to change or change your act.

1. Own change. If you change, others will follow. If they do not, change your partners, or your options.

It cannot be achieved via delegation, outsourcing or by committee.

Change would be easy if there were no people or organizations to get in the way. This draws a laugh, among leaders and often a pensive "so true."

Less comfortable for the leaders who run organizations is that we are often the people who get in the way. Appointing a change agent, hiring some boutique agency with a hip name, securing a powered consultant to affect change, or just embracing cool and different behavior might be part of an answer. But it is our organization, and it is us who must eventually be the doer of new things.

2. Empower the iconoclasts. There are many talented revolutionaries within your corporate environment, but they are often dismissed as "too junior" to add value.  Seek out your best thinkers at any level or age. Listen to them, give them a platform and the support they need to achieve their goals. Encourage them to attack your ideas, your company. Too many of us get delusional surrounded by sycophants who either fear them or lust for the dollars we control.  

While organizations can clearly promote a culture that is conducive to innovation, it is ultimately the individual that matters -- the passionate, risk-taking, caution-to-the-wind individual. Not some group think, an organizational grope or some socialistic, homogenized, outward bound team.

3. Cross the line. We all cower within self-drawn boundaries. Too often we self-edit ourselves, fearful of crossing a line. Or we wait for permission.

Remember you do not know where the line is until you cross it. Let ethics guide you and start changing things. Now. You will be surprised to find that people will not stop you but most likely will follow you.

Cross the line. Often you will notice the line was in your imagination. You might learn that those who once prevented you from crossing this were not aware of a line at all.

4. Leverage organizational inertia. It is possible to get "The Company" to do what we want if we simply start doing it.

If getting approval requires lots of forms, presentations, and justification, it means your organization may suffer from so much inertia it might not actually know how to say no. This is a real opportunity for the daring. Instead of asking for approval to start something, why not take the initiative and see if the company stops you? No harm done, right? Key is that the idea or initiative is ethical and legal. 

Most important, in today’s fast moving and ever increasingly digital world, the lines we draw around our categories are disappearing. So are the barriers and lines that once controlled competition in our industries. Did any phone company executive a few years ago predict competition from Skype? Or Whats App? New competitors appear all the time, as do new threats, but so do new potential partners and opportunities.

Crossing the line is a lonely job. It is you who must eventually be the doer of new things.

If you are successful, why not be willing to take a risk? Are you not amazed at how many admired, world class organizations are overly cautious? If they cannot grasp the opportunity to fail at some greater thing, are they not already in the process of ossification?

5. Act to change or change your act.

You might be a highly talented individual cowering within some imagined or real constraint. If your company is repressing you and you are good, risk taking can only beget one of two outcomes. You will succeed or you will be asked to leave. If you are asked to leave and you are good, many companies will be ready to hire you, or you could go into business for yourself. But staying put and becoming some bureaucratic czar will eventually lead to you resenting yourself and reducing your market value.

Do yourself a favor. Cross the line. Most times no one will stop you.

Challenge yourself to fail once you have succeeded. Seize bigger opportunities!

Photo at top by Huang Yingone / Unsplash.

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