“A higher rate of urgency does not imply ever-present panic, anxiety, or fear. It means a state in which complacency is virtually absent.”–John Kotter
Military analogies, anecdotes, and terminology prodigiously worm their way into business texts. Rarely do these loosely based parallels address the greatest lesson to be learned from armed conflict – vision. Historical examples abound of generals fighting the last battle in a current conflict. None better exemplify this than the World War One’s British General Douglas Haig’s statement:
“I believe that the value of the horse and the opportunity for the horse in the future are likely to be as great as ever. Aeroplanes and tanks are only accessories to the men and the horse.”
Commissioned as a cavalry officer, Haig served in the Sudan and Boer War, where cavalry units often turned the tide of a skirmish. Haig’s comfort zone was with cavalry, and there he stayed. During the 1916 Somme Offensive, Haig called for a full-frontal assault. His plan was to have infantry punch a hole in German lines and then send cavalry through the middle to envelop the enemy’s flanks. The four-month offensive cost the British 420,000 lives and Haig’s forces captured only six miles of German-held ground.
Holding on to outmoded techniques and failing to envision any tool’s potential is a trap we, like Haig, can easily fall into. The coziness of the familiar is a lullaby that sucks us into the belief that relevance can be co-opted easily by old methods. If you’re satisfied with what was, there’s no need to look for inspiration. You’re already where you want to be. If you’re not at that place, ask yourself with every change how General Haig would view that innovation and do the exact opposite.
When Comfort Kills: Accelerators
- Give deep consideration for a moment or two about the degree of complacency that exists in your life and work right now.
- In what areas of your work, business, or organization is complacency obvious?
- Identify three specific areas where complacency is a problem and develop a plan to shake things up a bit.
Dr. Jeff D. Standridge is the best-selling author of “The Innovator’s Field Guide” and “The Top Performer’s Field Guide.” He serves as Managing Director for the Conductor and Innovation Junkie, and teaches in the College of Business at the University of Central Arkansas. Jeff helps organizations and their leaders generate sustained results in the areas of innovation, strategy, profit growth, organizational effectiveness and leadership. Learn more at InnovationJunkie.com.