Don’t Make a Shrine of Your Success

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by Michael Graber

Don’t Make a Shrine of Your Success

Remember the scene in the black and white section of the Wizard of Oz when one of the farmers (who later transforms into the Tin Man) tells Auntie Mae, “They’re going to make a statue of me one day!” Her response handled the ego inflation with a dose of pragmatic farm wisdom. As she pointed to his next chore, she retorts, “Don’t start posing for it now.”

The egotistical position of some brands (products, services, and organizations) that have made it put them in a dangerous mindset, a rigid alabaster-like shrine that sets into a predictable formula, loses its growth drive, and becomes an imitation of its once-great self.

Lost are the best attributes: genuine curiosity about the market and customers, an infusion of fresh thinking about every aspect of the business, and real insight on competitors. Gone are the intrinsic brand-propelled moves that once were a palpable force of culture. Now, experiments are shunned as they don’t fit into the “core business” or “mission” even if the core business or mission are getting copied by private label, me-too companies, or fast-growing start ups that popped on the scene out of nowhere.

Innocence has been lost. Experiences have reached operation excellence and optimized to a pinnacle, a predictable outcome. It worked like gangbusters until market trends changed. Then, you are a defensive, rigid shrine, ready to be smashed or put in a closet. You’ve lost your flexibility and native instincts. It’s hell—just ask Dante, for whom the Devil was frozen in a lake of ice.

For many of our Innovation clients, they must reframe, and then retool how they make money. What propelled them in the market has been calcified into a safe, robotic set of responses: “this is what we do” and “this is how we do it.”

The business matures into a fixed set of overly managed short-term outcomes—and are tied to each individuals metrics and performance-based bonuses. This limits true growth and innovation. A death knell that attracts the timid.

The antidote is to invest—both financially and energetically—in recapturing a fresh, fluid perspective on your core business, culture, business model and getting to know your customers again, as if for the first time. As well, you have to tie longer-term metrics to the innovation pipeline, welcome new business models, and reward insight generation.

The key lesson: don’t make a shrine of yourself—and if you do, smash it and start working on the next thing, then the next.  Evolve.

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Michael GraberMichael Graber is the co-founder and managing partner at Southern Growth Studio, a Memphis, Tennessee-based firm that specializes in growth strategy and innovation. A published poet and musician, Graber is the creative force that complements the analytical side of the house. He speaks and publishes frequently on best practices in design thinking, business strategy, and innovation and earned an MFA from the University of Memphis. Follow Michael @SouthernGrowth