When Did We Stop Thinking?
Human evolution is a complex topic. Personal growth may be more perplexing even to the best psychologists. The theme that really defies reason is when a whole organization or market segment falls into the trap of formal rigidity, as in “it’s just the way it is.”
Accepting life as it is, accepting your job as it is, accepting the function of an organization as it exists today is not only lazy but dangerous.
Life, work cultures, the market and technology are too dynamic to be thought of in absolute and fixed terms. This unprecedented rate of change calls for humans to be wholly present, aware and adaptive.
Sure, it’s critically important to begin by deeply and critically understanding a snapshot of the mental model of today’s reality; however, that is just a first step. Exploring new models of work, new learning and new thinking are mandatory for shifting into a mode where people can flourish and thrive. Otherwise, a rut can quickly turn into a grave for a stubborn company.
At least once a week I run into a former associate who says, “Man, I don’t know what you’re into these days, but it’s fascinating. I read your articles, but only understand half of it.” Some of the new lexicon of innovation can come across as a threat to good-ol’-boy thinking.
The reaction I most often receive is a look of fear, as if I’m a prophet foretelling the end of days. What the articles seek to represent is a generative worldview, one that doesn’t settle for the axiomatic logic of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” From this perspective, everything in life can be optimized, designed better and carefully crafted to be more relevant.
A company that will not seek to change their business models, products and services with this sense of restless creativity and forensic exploration of possibility has frozen its growth, and fallen into an orthodoxy that will place it on life support and palliative care.
Much like the person who is on the sidelines interested in new ways of thinking but too fearing of learning something new, such companies have stopped encouraging, supporting and rewarding new thinking. Why?
We should demand that our institutions demand the best of our nature and produce goods and services that enhance and empower life. What percentage of people actualize this ideal? How many people long for it, but suppress their calling and compromise the ideal for some rationalized alternative? How many just don’t care, and have actually stopped learning, stopped new thoughts and are comfortable in the opiate of a fixed, absolute system?
Look at any example, even the most regulated and formal: the post office, banking or health care. Nothing stays the same – and if your company isn’t the one welcoming new thinking about your category and making actions to redefine the next iteration of its expression in the market, find the nearest exit.
Ask yourself, when did we stop allowing new thinking?
If you can pinpoint the era when the growth engine was put to rest inside an organization, there is a good chance you can revive it.
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Michael Graber is the cofounder and managing partner at Southern Growth Studio, a Memphis, Tennessee-based firm that specializes in growth strategy and innovation. A published poet and musician, Graber is the creative force that complements the analytical side of the house. He speaks and publishes frequently on best practices in design thinking, business strategy, and innovation,