Legends keep the past alive in our world.
Legends are handed down from generation to generation. As they are passed along, they gather strength. In many cultures – legends act as guidelines for behavior.
We have corporate legends as well, rules and ‘knowns’ that we accept as truth. If you’re wondering what legends I’m talking about, here are some examples.
• Our product is just too cool.
• We can’t win in that market, so why bother trying.
• Our sales cycle is unpredictable, but that’s just our business.
• We have to discount to beat that competitor.
• Changing plans will just disrupt our business.
• We’ll just have to cut expenses to keep profit margins.
• We can’t grow in a down economy, everybody is hurting.
Often we can’t even remember the source of those legends. Some come from our own internal beliefs, some from external sources – like those business school truths handed down from mentor to student.
We tend to hang onto those legends, the knowns about our businesses. They become ingrained in our business cultures – just as the legends of King Arthur and more are ingrained in our personal stories.
But what if those legends are just plain wrong?
That’s why they are dangerous. What happened in the past isn’t necessarily a reliable truth today. Our world is moving too fast. Our ‘wow’ value from six months ago may already be ‘ho hum’ in today’s market. Certainly the rules of business from a decade ago are ancient history for today – but perhaps even our beliefs from last year are already past their prime.
When corporate legends live long – we don’t prosper.
Our success depends on our full attention to today – and tomorrow. Letting the past decide our future is a sure step down a slippery slope. Legends hold us on the wrong course, blind us to opportunities and give us a false sense of security. Sometimes – they help us avoid the change we fear.
The key to success in our dynamic world is to focus forward – leveraging the lessons learned in our past, while questioning everything in light of today’s reality. Great leaders do just that – asking for the logic behind every legend and known, taking nothing for granted as a given. Great leaders plan their course for today based on what they see ahead of them, not what they’ve already passed.
What are some of your legends? How can you evolve beyond them?