“You can cut all the flowers but you cannot keep spring from coming.”Pablo Neruda
The title of Aristotle’s “Politics” literally means “the things concerning the city”. It is the origin of the modern English word politics. In the book, he tells the story of a 7th century BC tyrant named Thrasybulus. Thrasybulus asked his fellow oppressor, Periander of Corinth for advice on how he should govern his people. Without uttering a word, Periander walked over to a grove of poppies and lopped off their flowering heads. The message was clear “do away with eminent citizens” and “don’t let them grow above their station.” This is (one of) the origins of the term Tall Poppy Syndrome. Tall Poppy Syndrome refers to the mindset where those people who stick their head above the parapet are resented, criticized, and cut down.
This Thursday Thought is a message of support for those who are driving change, those people who orchestrate change in their organization, their team, their life. Every one of us who drives change meets obstacles. When action meets inertia there is a clash of opposing energy. This is why the static, the status quo clashes with the dynamic, the changemaker. It is a natural occurrence, it has happened throughout history for humankind and in nature. In my book, “Undisruptable, a Mindset of Permanent Reinvention”, I suggest we reframe this resistance as a milestone, rather than a millstone. When we meet this resistance, it is a signal that we are making progress.
Restricting Growth is a Slow Death
“[We live] in a dynamic, constantly changing universe; plants and animals grow and disappear; moons wax and wane. There is no static point in nature or man.”Edmond B. Szekely
I have always been fascinated to understand why some people resist growth and attack those who champion it. When I think about what influenced this fascination, my earliest memory is a movie I saw in my childhood, in which a young Chinese girl had her feet bound to restrict their growth. I later discovered this was the Chinese custom of foot binding. Elders would break and tightly bind the feet of young girls in order to change their shape and size. Feet altered by foot-binding were known as lotus feet and lotus was a symbol of status and a mark of feminine beauty. Of course, the restriction of natural growth led to disease and disorder. Common problems with bound feet were infection, poor circulation, and gangrene.
In a similar vein, restricting organizational, personal or natural growth leads to dis-ease, decline, and death. Corporate changemakers can be forgiven when they denounce their legacy organizations and colleagues as “stuck in their ways”. While it is understandable that those who drive change become frustrated with those who resist it, we must recognize the source of that resistance. Resistance is a manifestation of fear. The bigger (and nastier) the resistance, the bigger the fear. This can absolutely come from the top of an organization. Remember, those who got there often did so based on the way things used to be, so it is understandable that they are not going to easily welcome change.
On this week’s Innovation Show, we welcome the multi-award-winning scientist who “fundamentally changed the way we look at everyday life.” Elliot Aronson developed the concept of cognitive dissonance. Cognitive dissonance is the mental discomfort that results from holding two conflicting beliefs, values, or attitudes. For example, “I know smoking is bad for me, but there are way worse things, I could do for my health.” or “I know I shouldn’t cheat in exams, but it isn’t hurting anyone, I could do a lot worse things.” In organizations, “I know I should invest in the future of the organization, but I will choose to focus on milking the cash cow and return shareholder value over the next 2 years until I retire (and get a handsome bonus too).
Such denial of growth is the denial of life.
As Visa founder, Dee Hock wrote in the foreword of “Undisruptable“, “Whether we recognize it or not, whether we will it or not, whether we welcome it or not, we are caught up in the most profound change in the history of civilization. If you think to perpetuate the old ways, try to recall the last time evolution rang your number to ask your consent.”
Thanks for Reading