This is the third in a series of blogs about virtuous organizations — businesses where employees model the highest aspirations of human kind. In this series, authors Graham Williams and Gerald Wagner draw on examples and insights from around the world — Brazil, USA, India, Netherlands, New Zealand, Pakistan, Thailand, and Turkey. Readers may be pleasantly surprised by how many virtuous companies already exist! The series addresses what makes these virtuous organizations tick and what practices they have in common, telling compelling stories about the power of positivity. While everyone is likely to enjoy these case studies, organizational leaders in a position to affect culture change are likely to benefit most.
In business, there’s a prevailing belief amongst leaders that “doing more and more” is the only way to increase sales and profit. It is an easy notion to nod to because inherent in the assumption is a paradigm – the belief that additional activity such as new brand introductions or entry into a new markets or geographies bring incremental rewards. And, in many cases this is true. But there’s a downside, a nasty one. “Doing more and more” can create cultures of complexity, and left unchecked, complexity stifles, stagnates, and eventually brings organizations to their knees.
All cultures have their blind spots, those commonly-held beliefs that become so ingrained no one bothers to challenge their truth. One of the most common blind spots I see in my work might be called the meritocratic presumption. For many senior executives, their own success confirms the essentially meritocratic nature of their enterprises, proof positive that cream rises to the top.
Organizations are communities of people, and when those communities become upset, the organization is in serious trouble.
All organizations face problems from time to time; what matters is whether there is a collective will to solve those problems, or whether the culture of the organization has broken down in some way: when one group of people feels that another group is trying to impose its vision without any real consensus or agreement, for example, or – especially – feels that one group is not acting in the best interests of the organization’s core purpose.