why won’t they take on our initiative

September 9, 2011

A jotting while listening to a group bemoan the indifference they had encountered in taking a new approach into a business. I wrote down a quick typology of the environments I had encountered when faced with the same challenge. It’s a singularly unscientific observation!

Sorry, no research validation – just a thought starter. What kind of culture was it that chose not to move to action? Even one that is resistant to fad-ism has some good things to be said of it.

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2 Responses to “why won’t they take on our initiative”


  1. David,

    Your comment, “Even one that is resistant to fad-ism has some good things to be said of it” begs the question, “What about one which is open to fad-ism but has a diminished sense of identity?”

    I can see that a business with an active sense of identity that resists action is at least addressing the question of identity (in some sense). But what sort of identity is it choosing? Perhaps one that is guilt-and-fear-driven?

    How hard is this to shift?

    A business that rolls from one fad to another has its own identity issues (as you point out). Somewhere along the way its identity has been subsumed in someone else’s — enough to enact only the visions held out by others.

    How hard is it to get this sort of business into a bold enough space to name itself?

    They are like extreme personalities … I can think of people I have known who look like both ‘corners’.

    What does your experience tell you about how hard it is to open either to a new sort of engagement? It seems to me that to some extent both ‘corners’ are prisoners to fear …


    • Your phrase “identity that resists action” triggered my memory of a business that was in that space. And perhaps “prisoners to fear” was true for the business owner. But to his credit I think what he was seeing was that the business lacked a strong enough naming for what was possible and so he was resisting a preliminary closure in the identity of the news and business by rushing to action. It was a sort of fear – a fear of being less than was possible.

      I think that the lack of understanding that was displayed in that case is that it is in action that we learn. I would have recommended that he chose those behaviours that furthered the exploration, and resisted those that closed it down. But be explicit about it. Make that your interim identity.

      I have certainly heard a statement like this about another business: “they’re are strange mob… It’s like they’re all afraid of succeeding…”

      Whatever the context, “how hard is this to shift”? Terribly hard. I have met(paradoxical) consultants who will say culture change is impossible. This is a species of that obduracy


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