Yellow Anaconda

A few months ago, a friend of mine suggested we should take over our tennis club. Since we’re often complaining nothing ever happens there, we should take the power and do them Written on a napkin after a good meal, it sounded like a wonderful and easy to achieve business plan.

I refused.

I don’t believe in napkins written business plans, only people who have never launched a company do. If starting a company is about addressing a problem, mine would be kicking out and replacing every single person currently involved in that club, eventually losing all the contacts at the town hall, hence the town subsidiaries.

My club is slowly dying because no one tries to move it anymore. In the past 5 years, they’ve stopped all the week-end events, discontinued the kids tournament, and every people who joined to move the lines have been facing a wall.

A while ago, I suggested we should start a championship tour with a bunch of kids interested in competition. I was ready to take a week off to manage the schedule and drive the kids around the district in my own car for free if it could develop their taste for playing more games. They refused because « clubs in other towns may do it, but that’s not how we consider tennis ».

People involved in the club have been there for 10-15 years, and it’s been ages since they did not put themselves at risk trying something new, this including ensuring the club financial health by earning more cash than they spend.

From my experience, we’ve always done this and not invented here are the 2 cardinal sins of a company that stops innovating from the inside. People inside the company stop questioning what they’ve been doing. After a while, they end considering things that work for them as sacred.

This happens as people have been working at the same place for a while. There’s a risk as doing the same thing for too long: getting too comfortable at what you are doing.

It gets even worse when it comes to knowledge transmission. They teach newcomers how they work and establish it as a dogma. They end reproducing the same scheme as their Great Old Ones so no one gets out of their comfort and knowledge zone. I’ve seen it in large corporations, where it happens a lot, and in less than 10 years companies as well.

That’s a real problem. On the one hand, companies tend to like people who’ve been there for a while: they have a deep knowledge of the company’s history and are considered as trustful people. On the other hand, those people need to move, or be moved from their comfort zone often enough to avoid corrupting the whole company from the inside with a we’ve always done this culture. That’s where the manager needs to be smart enough to foresee the problem before it gets real.

From the employee point of view, there’s something paradoxical here. It takes time and energy to make yourself really comfortable in a new job. But as soon as you’re installed in your comfort zone, you should put yourself back at risk.

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