"Ironically, the best way for any company to stave off disruption from startups and unforeseen competition is to approach its business as if it is the underdog rather than the incumbent — and to continually refresh and renew." Microscope status quos ...
Many organizations are over-relying on supposed best practices due to the mindset of "it's how we've always done things."
That's from Steve Goldbach, who with Geoff Tuff wrote "Detonate: Why — and How — Corporations Must Blow Up Best Practices (And Bring a Beginner's Mind) To Survive." Both authors are principals with professional services network giant Deloitte.
"We have recently entered into an era when lessons of the past seem no longer to provide effective guidance," Tuff said. Best practices in many companies have become "bad habits, and they may create blinders to impending disruption. To survive and thrive in a digital era, companies need to blow up the playbooks of the past in order to build something new and better."
Tips on knowing when and how to shake things up:
Trigger new perspectives. The average life span of a company listed in the S&P 500 in the early 1960s was about 60 years. Today, it's under 20.
This is partly because those once-successful companies clung on to their tried-and-true methods that worked well before. Instead they should have brought "a beginner's mind to the challenge," Tuff said. "Ironically, the best way for any company to stave off disruption from startups and unforeseen competition is to approach its business as if it is the underdog rather than the incumbent — and to continually refresh and renew."
Microscope status quos. Regularly ask: How does your company do things? How do you approach the competition?
"Then you need to figure out which orthodoxies are legit," Tuff said. "Some will need to exist: There are good regulatory and safety reasons that some playbooks need to remain sacrosanct. But not many will pass the test.
"When you have a hunch an orthodoxy might be challenged, ask: What would it look like if we didn't do things that way? Do we see evidence of companies — in our industry or elsewhere — that don't follow the same rule?"
Embrace differences. Whether in hiring or promotions, leaders often ask, "Does this person fit in?" This is the wrong question, says Francesca Gino, author of "Rebel Talent: Why It Pays to Break the Rules at Work and in Life." She's also a professor of business administration at Harvard Business School.
"Companies should hire people who poke holes in the status quo," she said. "When Catchafire founder and CEO Rachael Chong is deciding who to hire, she gives candidates problems the organization has struggled with or is currently facing. And then she looks for people who think differently from her and her team. She hires people who are going to challenge her and disagree with her thinking." Catchafire connects skilled volunteers to nonprofits.
Be nimble. Experience provides confidence to make quick decisions on the toughest problems, Gino says. "But a narrow focus on what we already know cuts us off from all we have left to learn, hindering creativity," she added.
An example she uses: In January 2009, Capt. Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger had 208 seconds to make a decision after his plane was disabled by a flock of geese. "Landing at the nearest airport was the most obvious answer," she said. "But he put aside more than 30,000 hours of flying experience and kept an open mind."
Sullenberger quickly determined he'd never make it to an airport and instead made a daring water landing in the Hudson River.
Shake things up. Stability can be overrated, Gino says.
Whether in leadership or work it's easy to fall into "comfortable, almost mindless routines," she added. "That pattern allows people to make predictions about the future — to know how work will look tomorrow."
People find more joy in work when they are allowed and encouraged to come up with better ways of getting things accomplished. As a result, they are engaged, and the data show "they are more than three times as creative as their disengaged counterparts, and perform 20% better than them," Gino said.
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