Ever notice that some things just don’t go together? Until they do, that is. For instance, two things that will never go together — certainly in my house — are brussels sprouts and ice cream. That’s a personal worldview.
Yet one of our favorite summer refreshers is a wonderful piece of invention that combines shiraz with gin.
I’m not kidding.
There are probably weirder examples I could have picked, like ketchup and pizza, cottage cheese and mayonnaise, pickles and orange juice, or mango and panini; but I’ll stick with my provocations on brussels sprouts and ice cream, shiraz and gin.
In full disclosure, I utterly hate brussels sprouts. So they don’t go with anything as far as I’m concerned. Whereas I like both shiraz and gin, so I guess that wasn’t such a stretch. Oh, and for all the haters of the word hate (see what I did there?), “hate” (I did it again) is not too strong a word.
It is no irony that the acronym for brussels sprouts is BS.
They are a horrid, feral form of dinner-time abuse, born in fields of evil. Despot dictators from the most oppressed corners of the world could harness these little horrors to tyrannize vast swathes of people. They are an abhorrent strain of vegetable warfare, a grotesque and unholy science experiment gone badly, badly wrong. Humanity has been harmed.
Brussels sprouts are to the culinary experience, is what Sharknado is to the cinematic art form.
By the way, before I got sidetracked by my loathing of those nasty green balls of death, (there I go again), what I’m supposed to be doing right now is establishing the premise of this piece, that being, that sometimes we see weird combinations come along.
Man, that was a winding road. And now I’m 290 words in and need to get a move on.
So here’s what I was theoretically bridging to:
One such challenged combination playing out in high def right now, are our complex and change-resistant worldviews, with the sheer velocity of our rollercoaster ride through COVID19.
Yeah, I know. I went from nasty veges to the humanities and a pandemic. Stay with me.
Worldviews & Metaphors
Worldviews get formed very early in our lives, and while they evolve through sociological forces they do so slowly, almost glacially. By contrast, the society we live in has been changing so fast that it resembles more of a rollercoaster: Fierce and fast, changing direction violently and often, leaving us bruised and breathless.
Well, make no mistake COVID is a rollercoaster on steroids, and the sheer acceleration of societal change is taking our usually oh-so-slow-moving worldviews, on one heck of a wild ride.
So many of our ways of thinking have hit their expiration date.
An obvious example is the old, “you must be lazy if you want to work from home” corporate mantra, now exposed as the myth it always was.
On the contrary, Work From Home Syndrome is now a commonly accepted monster, one to ward off lest you find yourself in front of the screen for 15 hours a day.
Yes, we are adapting, re-adapting, and adapting again.
New Frontiers. Old Headlines. Dated Systems.
For leaders and brand owners this poses questions like never before. It requires us to think more deeply, more precisely, and more “humanly”.
But many are struggling to see past existing “headlines” and “systems”.
For instance, we realized that we need to enable communication across detached teams (that’s the headline), so we now all live on Zoom, Skype, Hangouts, or Teams — and we do so 24/7 (that’s the system).
That all stems from a worldview based on productivity. The underlying metaphor? “If we don’t work, we die”.
But when we change that metaphor to, “My people are my lifeblood”, then suddenly we shift our focus to the humans from which we derive that productivity.
We appreciate that they are both finite, and infinitely valuable, and we realize that caring for this resource offers the best long-term strategy anyway.
Only then do we change the system.
We move on from perpetual Zooms. Instead, we use company calendar invites that do nothing but protect time in the day for folks to breathe…. Take a walk, eat something, connect with your Dad, or play with the pets.
The Growth Equation
The key issue here is sustainability. You can’t sustain the system change if the underlying worldview hasn’t been modified. And only after the system has changed, will you start to get a more sustained change in human behavior.
So it’s linear: Worldview drives System. System drives culture (behavior).
Yet, leaders everywhere are scrambling around in their systems, never realizing that they are just looking at a symptom. They have to start at the beginning of the equation, not in the middle.
This is the key to harnessing our new and emerging world, and when you understand this, you start to understand growth strategy in general.
Think about this. Microsoft jumped in value by USD$80bn in 2019. And to do so, all it did was change its worldview. I’m serious.
When CEO Satya Nadella was asked by the WSJ what was behind the spike, he described a very deliberate and fundamental change he made to the company’s internal metaphor.
From: “Mr. know it all”
To: “Mr. learn it all”.
Remember. This is one of the world’s biggest and most complex companies.
Consider the challenge that this posed across that organization, including at the most senior levels. Think of the system changes that it demanded, from hiring and firing to processes and reporting. Plus, he had to take on the most guarded and traditional tranches of the business.
To do so, Nadella used a spoken metaphor to evolve their worldview. Only then could he modify the system and drive the cultural and behavioral shift. He clearly understood the approach to get it right.
And in the case of Microsoft, that was 80bn worth of right.
Your Worldview, Your Funeral
We all know that culture eats strategy for breakfast. Many of us have used the quote. But the truth is that this demands very personal reflection. It starts with you. It starts with me.
So in business-as-usual (whatever that is), or in times of change (which is pretty much all the time), as you plot a path you have to constantly ask yourself:
“What is constraining my thinking?”
Dated worldviews and systems simply don’t age well in a rapidly changing society, and there are plenty of sad stories of companies that learned this the hard way. Say it with me…. “Kodak”.
Here amid COVID19, the roller coaster is in full flight. Tomorrow’s world just arrived, and guess what? Tomorrow’s tomorrow is knocking on the door.
This ride is a long way from over. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to challenge your most sacred of cows. To learn is useful. To re-learn, is enlightened.
And yeah, profitable too.
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In the spirit of editorial balance, the author acknowledges that some of his own worldviews will in fact, never change. Specifically, not in a million years will it be a good time to eat brussels sprouts.