“I can’t help thinking that if we could accept emotionally intelligent animals as strange and wonderful extensions of ourselves, we might be more compassionate toward other animal societies. After all, we share a common ancestor. In turn, this may also inspire us to embrace different societies within our own species with a more generous spirit.”Caitlin O’Connell (EP 254 Innovation Show)
We believe the human handshake has evolved from the human showing that they were not bearing arms. Today it signals that each party means no harm because they are expressing vulnerability by not carrying a weapon, it bonds the participants of the ritual. While the ritual does not serve a physical purpose, it still serves a psychological and ceremonial one.The Blue-Footed Booby (bird) has evolved a similar ritual the handshake. It is ceremonial and serves no practical purpose.
Blue-footed boobies are aptly named, and males take great pride in their flamboyant feet. During mating rituals, male boobies show off their feet to prospective mates with a high-stepping strut. The bluer the feet, the more attractive the mate. Their mating strut communicates important information to prospective mates, a good dance signals great coordination and emphasises good genes and a healthy bird.
As part of this courtship ritual, it is customary for a male Booby to offer his potential partner a twig. Should she accept the twig, the courtship is finished and the two will Fascinating as that might be, this twig offering is purely ceremonial. This nuptial offering suggests it is a symbol of building a nest together. However, the Booby has evolved to no longer build a nest in which to lay their eggs. The modern Booby lays eggs on the ground. Therefore, this ritual is decorative, it serves no practical purpose, it is a remnant of an evolutionary ancestor.
So what has this got to do with corporate culture and corporate innovation? Quite a lot, I believe.
Following Corporate Rituals
Corporate change makers are wired very differently than most of their colleagues. These people question rituals, they seek to improve them, they want to discard them if they serve no obvious purpose.
However, I propose in this Thursday Thought (inspired by our guest on EP 264 of the Innovation Show Caitlin O’Connell), that we should respect rituals even when we believe they are ceremonial, even when we know they serve no purpose.
Sometimes – despite our feelings to the contrary – we must adhere to rituals as a means to an end. When we partake in some corporate rituals, they can unlock a corporate gateway and help us secure a win. They can create the psychological conditions for change to propagate. The old me dismissed some corporate rituals as nonsense and I tried to circumnavigate them, but I lost small battles. The scar tissue of wisdom tells me that I was wrong. Today, I will bring a bundle of sticks if it helps grease the wheels of change.
Often our willingness to perform or partake in a corporate ritual helps us to bond together. For the changemaker this can be the long-winded buy-in rituals and hoops you have to jump through in order to get a relatively simple task done. This is what I call “The Compromise Conundrum” or “The Rube Goldberg Effect”.
Rube (Reuben) Goldberg was an American cartoonist, sculptor, author, engineer, and inventor, best known for a series of popular cartoons depicting unnecessarily complicated gadgets that perform simple tasks in indirect, convoluted ways. This is what it feels like in corporate change sometimes. The rhythm of corporate systems does not match the rhythm of innovators. As a corporate intrapreneur, we sometimes have to partake in the ritual even when we don’t want to.
THANKS FOR READING
How can you help make sure your team doesn’t get stuck in a rut?
How can you encourage people to discover new things, even those that seem to be disconnected to their day jobs?
How can you awaken to opportunities and threats that sneak up on even the most successful of us?
These questions inspired me to create this workshop.
“The Permanent Reinvention” virtual workshop is now available, based on my forthcoming book, “Undisruptable: A Mindset of Permanent Reinvention for Individuals, Organisations and Life.”
It is a workshop that explores the biases and cognitive traps that prevent us from making our best decisions in business and every other aspect of life.
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