Beware the monoculture of Inertia

Otaskmasternce upon a time, a long, long time ago, there was a large multinational corporation we’ll call Inertia Corp.


Due to the internet, Inertia Corp’s business model was dead. However, thanks to a large volume of legacy sales, senior management didn’t realise just yet.


Suffice to say, “we’re coasting along, with Inertia” was used as the company slogan without a hint of irony.


Somehow overcoming the magnetic bureaucratic force of the corporate bubble that is Inertia Towers, a pair of middle managers grasped that the old-fashioned widgets Inertia sold would have no use to people in this brave new world.


There was, however, a chance for a very different kind of product to save the company – the “market opportunity widget” – if only Inertia cut down its bureaucratic bloat.


Well, the middle managers wrote a report on the market opportunity widget and presented it to a senior manager, who bore an uncanny resemblance to a grumpy Mr Potato Head doll.


“Everyone knows this internet thing is a passing fad! Who needs these new fan-dangled ‘market opportunity widget’ contraptions anyway! But if you ever dare mention that there won’t be a market for our old-fashioned widgets in five years, we’ll bury your career so deeply it will start sending us postcards from the antipodes!” shouted the manager.


“Sorry, that’s not how the industry works!” said another manager.


With all copies of the market opportunity widget plan securely filed by senior management in a hierarchy of nearby rubbish bins, the middle managers decided to claim their redundancies and launch the Market Opportunity Widget Company.


By the end of that year, five or six former Intertia Corp staff jumped ship to the Widget start-up.


This soon led to a problem. All of the staff came from the Inertia Corp bubble and bought along with them their old, bureaucratic work habits and procedures.

Instead of having staff from a number of different businesses and backgrounds with different ways of solving problems in the office, the default answer in this monoculture was to do things exactly as they were done at Inertia Corp. There was never a clash of ideas.


Before long, the Market Opportunity Widget Company began to look and feel like a miniature scale model of Inertia Corp.


The phrase “sorry, our industry just doesn’t work like that” was heard in the corridors. The dynamism of being a start-up was quickly being lost to the stultifying bureaucracy that usually comes with being a decades-old multinational; the kind that throws plans for a market-opportunity widget in the garbage.


Does this situation sound similar to your business?


Well, the captains of the Market Opportunity Widget Company changed course by hiring outside the organisation, and in some cases outside their industry. Soon, the dynamism returned to the company, with the company picking up institutional first-hand knowledge of how issues are handled elsewhere.


Soon, the most bureaucratically backwards company policies inherited from Inertia were thrown in the garbage, while for better and worse, new ideas were tried at the company.


And then they all lived happily ever after. (shareholders and Mr. Potato head lookalikes of Inertia Corp not included.) The End.


So do you have a corporate monoculture at your start-up? Is everyone there originally from the same company? Perhaps it’s time to look outside your industry or your former employers the next time you hire.


Get it done – the next time you hire!


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