Article: Conformity is the enemy of growth


Conformity is the enemy of growth

Lessons for the business leaders, from the battlefield
Conformity is the enemy of growth

Business is not war. But if you are operating in a fierce and competitive market then you can feel that you are at war. In addition to the traditional function of defending territory, present-day defence forces have to face fully armed, trained and motivated small group of terrorist capable of springing surprises and causing great damage. They have quickly adapted to this change successfully due to inbuilt organisational flexibility, discipline and creativity. Similarly, the reality of the global marketplace has brought with it an unanticipated, strange and painful consequence. Small but agile competitors can emerge from nowhere, move with blinding speed, and subvert industry incumbents because incumbents can't respond quickly and effectively. 

To survive in this climate requires creating and continually renewing a spirit of disciplined innovation and entrepreneurship. This combination of discipline and creativity is the source for new products and services that alter the rules of the competitive landscape in your favour. It ensures rapid, effective response to evolving customer needs. It's the source of employee passion, creativity and commitment. Creating disciplined entrepreneurship and innovation is clearly a challenge.

Building capability for ongoing self-renewal is possible but demands significant changes in how we build, lead and manage companies. Corporate cultures are often burdened with deep, institutionalised resistance to change and innovation. Organisations are inherently oriented toward maintenance of the status quo. They detest innovation and change. Installing the solutions outlined below without a significant change to the social system is a bit like trying to cultivate rice in Rajasthan Desert.

So what lessons can business leaders today learn from the battlefield?  Here are some that seem particularly relevant:-

Discipline and Creativity (Lesson from Parliament Attack, Kargil Operation and Mumbai Taj Attack)

Change is a mixture of two substantially different core capabilities:

1. Efficient Implementation: To deliver excellent performance against current goals. 

2. Creative Rejuvenation: To ensure future survival and growth through continuous innovation and adaptation to rapid, turbulent changes in markets and technologies. 

Efficient Implementation:

Discipline is crucial for successful execution of any business model and strategy. Critical organisational success factors for disciplined execution include:

1. A clear, well-deployed business model and strategy — tightly aligned with current marketplace needs 

2. Products and services — tightly aligned with current customer needs 

3. Effective, efficient, flexible, core business processes

4. Clear roles, responsibilities, goals and measures for teams and individuals, coupled with a clear structure of freedom, empowerment and accountability

5. A high-performance culture and effective performance management and reward system. 

A New Leadership Paradigm needed for efficient implementation:

The basic principle of disciplined execution is alignment — getting everyone "on the same page." The old-school leadership paradigm in defence forces used the tools of control, compliance, and conformity to gain alignment. The old paradigm serves only to perpetuate an increasingly entrenched status quo; on top of that, it devastates commitment, creativity, and diversity. The new leadership paradigm replaces the commitment-driven model, based on mutual respect, accountability, negotiation and experience-based trust. This model fosters engaged commitment, high performance and creativity.

To enact the new paradigm, leaders will need to grow toward intellectual, emotional, and spiritual wholeness, so they can balance and integrate the polarities between discipline and creativity.

How do you do this? 

1. Work on building up own emotional/ spiritual centre. This enabled leaders to remain balanced through several major storms and battles, and to deal directly, non-anxiously, and even-handedly with some very powerful resentments to change within the organisation. 

2. Develop individual, adult-to-adult relationships with each member of his team founded on mutual freedom and mutual accountability. 

3. Build a climate of profound respect and appreciation for each individual's separate talents. 

4. Encourage/ challenge each team member to grow, and to push back on him to grow, too. 

5. Hold fast your accountabilities to the team, and to their accountabilities to you. 

6. Exceptionally deep personal integrity, coupled with an unshakable faith in the ultimate goodness and giftedness of most human beings. 

Creative Rejuvenation

Clearly, Efficient Implementation is critical for winning the business game in today's marketplace — for however long it lasts. But in a turbulent marketplace, that game may have a fairly short shelf-life. So, to stay on top over the long haul in an ultra-competitive global marketplace, the complementary core capability is creative rejuvenation: the ability to continually redirect and reinvent the enterprise. Creative rejuvenation has three facets:

Tactics Modernization: a creative business growth strategy for continually leapfrogging the competition with innovative new business concepts and models. 

Value Modernization: continuous innovation around new products and services. 

Functional Modernization: The capability to continually redesign and realign the organisation and operations to suit the latest business model and strategy. 

Corporate Creativity through social diversity

The ultimate wellspring of corporate renewal is organisational creativity, and the ultimate wellspring of organisational creativity is social diversity. The more diversity, the more potential for creativity. Companies need to increase their levels of diversity —  nonconformists, immigrants, and other minorities — in order to remain competitive. 

In a culture that truly embraces profound diversity, people are free to speak their mind without fear of reprisal; they can be their authentic selves; and, they can take genuine risks without fear of blame and punishment. It's like the old saying goes: "no risk, no reward."

In a renewable organisation, the business, the organisation and the workforce are in a state of continual change. 

Phases of Change

To keep the workforce engaged and vital, retain the entrepreneurial spirit, and remain competitive, senior executives must lead the workforce through following phases of change on an ongoing basis:

Execution: Disciplined execution of the current business model and strategy. 

Alertness: Intellectual alertness that change or reinvention is necessary to create, or respond to, a new, rule-changing business innovation. 

Recognition: Emotional and political readiness to let go of the old and move on to the new. 

Focal Point: Creative exploration of alternative business models, strategies, products and services, 

Assemble: Design and implementation of changes required to support organisational structures and systems. 

Execution: The cycle begins anew! 


Each move for the change of conformity should lead to some part or parts of the enterprise business model, like long-held strategy, products, or culture — to reborn. The deeper the change, the more profound and deeply embedded the resistance. Managing change requires a full-engagement involving the entire organisation — including senior leadership — in all phases of the cycle. It involves engaging your people on deep emotional, creative, intuitive and spiritual levels. Without widespread engagement or openly addressing the painful emotional issues, each move creates negative emotional baggage that gets dumped in the organisational cellar. As baggage accumulates underground, organisational resistance grows, and the entrepreneurial flame dims. On the contrary, the full engagement process builds incremental improvements in enterprise resilience, competence, creativity, resourcefulness, wisdom and maturity. 

To sum up one can say that “Discipline is the brains and brawn of change; creativity is its heart and soul.”

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Topics: Leadership, Strategic HR

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