Gotham's Broken system

Last week I overheard a conversation between a managing director and the head of HR where the need to attract “superheroes to the business” was mentioned. While I totally get the fact that a business, in order to evolve requires internal champions of change and mavericks who are prepared to challenge the status quo, the moment your business feels it needs ‘superheroes’ to move forward is when you should really start to worry.  

Why? Well, think about it for a moment. By definition our comic book superhero is someone who is both larger than and smaller than the system he is confronting. Larger in terms of perceived persona, but smaller in the ability to affect lasting change. 

More than that. The moment a superhero comes along and becomes accepted as a solution, there is tacit admission that the system has gone wrong and the superhero is needed to fix it. To redress the balance, in some way. Yet there is nothing a superhero can do, alone. Sure their presence draws attention to a problem and yes, maybe they become part of a perceived solution but if the system itself does not change then the superhero becomes assimilated. They become a bandage that solves the symptom but not the cause. 

Even worse, a system that depends on the infusion of extraordinary resources to function properly becomes incapable of functioning without them. What is there to do? I hear you asking. How can we kickstart change and create disruption in a business that has settled into a deep pattern of comfortable repetition. 

The answer is as easy as it is surprising. Talk to your people. Find out what fires them up, what they want to achieve with their lives and how they can use their time on the planet to make a difference, however small that may be. Try to make them feel safe and feel happy. 

Happy, empowered people who are not always afraid of being downsized or being punished for making mistakes, look for ways to do things differently. They question established routines and try to optimize existing processes. They can become, in other words, the disruption within that saves your business from true disruption from without.

Helping your staff to become engaged in your business is actually way harder than trying to hire superheroes into your business. It is also a better way to achieve sustained long term development and it is a better strategy to help your business avoid being left behind. A successful, evolving business doesn’t need superheroes. It needs people it can depend on who will help it develop and grow, like its their own. 

Thank you for listening.