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Creating Myth – Part 1

 In the world of politics and in most C-suites, those unwilling to brutalize will not last long because political survival demands nasty behavior. Those that know you will not or cannot engage in vicious behavior will replace you and do it happily. This is the fallout of the myth that life (parenting, business, love, etc.) is war. 

Men returning from the Vietnam War seemed to suffer most from the brutality they witnessed.  They saw what men will do to one another. Under “life is war” men must act viciously in order to remain in power.  Just because CEOs and first line supervisors aren’t carrying weapons of war does not mean that they do not seriously mistreat those in their organizations. Labor laws and unions resulted from such. Why do you imagine in this system only a minority of people in an organization classify themselves as engaged? I have not seen any statistics on a follow-up question like: “If you consider yourself engaged, then do you also consider yourself as part of the group of people which keeps your manager in power?” 

Some of the things which happen in business compare favorably to the actions of Genghis Khan or what happened at Jericho.  Territory is conquered.  Some of the “soldiers” survive and some do not. The “generals” survive and do not. Hostile takeovers comparable to Genghis’ occur.  The losing organization is gutted.  The desirable parts of the organization are looted. The entrails are sold or tossed.  Woe if you happen to be part of the unusable “entrails.” This happens as matter of course for political survival of the incumbent leadership. 

Loyalty is the name of the game for the underlings. Going AWOL or rogue or even appearing that you would do either of those is sufficient for elimination from the organization.  Of course, we give such things legal names like insubordination. In certain situations elimination means actual death in corporate environments it means firing or laying off. 

Thousands of books have been written from the point of view of this myth. I’m sure that thousands could be written regarding the deleterious effects of following it. You might have thought that my description was brutal. The issue at hand is not to castigate those organizations operating under it. After all, people have believed it for decades if not centuries. The point is to introduce the subject of creating a new myth under which you, your organization and investors may function. 

 

Who You Are 

The above should introduce the initial aspect of a need for a new myth – not only life is war. The start is holding up the mirror so that the leaders of the organization can understand the full ramifications of the myth that they now follow. Hopefully, the leaders look at what they see in the mirror and reflect on who they see versus who they want to be. 

It is vitally important not to look in the mirror and turn away quickly, see that you don’t want to be that anymore, and turn to a new paradigm/myth. Getting back into the “life is war” can happen all too quickly. Take the time for your team members to understand in detail the ramifications caused by acting as if life is war. You all will better remember the symptoms and what it feels like. Changing to a new myth is like weaning off the old one it takes some time to recognize who you were before you are ready figure out who you want to be. 

 

Who You Want to Be 

This is not necessarily the time to decide and then cast your decision in concrete. Don’t rush this. Just because you’ve decided that you need to close the gap between who you are and who you want to be doesn’t mean that you must find a new identity today. The new identity must fit. Anything less will come off as inauthentic, and that will run your customers on to the company and people that give the good feel. 

Experiment! You can put on the white shirt, burgundy tie, blue blazer, and gray slacks. Maybe the feel is James Bond in a tux. Whatever the choice it must fit you, and your customers and clients must find it comfortable, too. 

 

Summary 

If you read between the lines, then you should have realized that developing a new myth involves evaluation, and a likely realignment of yourself with regards to who you are and who you want to be. Each person and organization has a foundation for who they are. When (not if) the person or organization reaches the point where the old myths and beliefs no longer help, then its time to look at the foundation to identify the holes and cracks BEFORE beginning to build new things on it. Fix those things and you’ll find implementation of a new myth to be much easier. 

 

 

 

  • Ali Anani

    Jeff,
    This is a very thoughtful post. I like your way in approaching change of myth strategically. Know your current myth, know which myth you want to go to and take actions to experiment, err, learn and adapt.
    may be you want to consider the Blue Ocean Strategy of myth as well. Which myth to eliminate, reduce, raise and which new ones to create.
    Jeff, this is a sound post unquestionably.

    • COcowboy

      Ali,
      Were you reading my mind map regarding creating myth? :-)

      One could easily make this into a flowchart, but I sense the danger of oversimplification. We see many countries which have attempted democraatization. Russia is certainly one, but they seem to be reversing that transition. Adopting a new organizing myth is deep in complexity, so I tried to avoid turning this into a flowchart with accompanying formula.

      I have to admit a certin skepticism of popular things like Blue Ocean Strategy. At this point in time, I perceive a close relationship between strategy and “business is war.” B. H. Liddell-Hart wrote what seems to be a definitive book on the subject of strategy. All his case studies are military battles. The theme of his book, Strategy, is that objectives (military or not) are best achieved indirectly – John Kay in Obliquity would certainly agree. I agree, too.

      The direction of this post is aimed toward identifying and implementing those indirect means by adopting different myths – metaphors if you like – that move people to perform in ways that both achieve their personal objectives while also meeting business goals.

      Thanks for your comment which prompted me to explain purpose behind the last two posts.

      Jeff

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