I read another article the other day that referred to an "organization’s DNA". The context was that the organizational DNA couldn’t be changed and that if something was part of that DNA it was considered a permanent part of how the organization functioned. It seems that we as individuals and businesses are blaming more and more of our choices on genetics. There may be some truth to that as individuals, but let’s be clear, businesses don’t have genes.
Organizations are made up of the collective choices made by the people that lead them and the people that make them up. The so-called DNA is simply a result of who you hired, how you trained and coached them, and the culture you created by how you went about building and leading the business.
There’s no question that organizations fall into patterns in terms of the kind of people they hire, the approach they bring to the marketplace and the strengths and weaknesses they develop. What’s important to remember though, is that with the right efforts and a well-defined approach, all of that can be changed.
There are many examples in the marketplace. You could look at IBM’s transformation from mainframe hardware supplier to e-business consulting firm or Target’s shift from a me-too discount store to an upscale low-cost retail chain.
Staying where we are is easy and there are plenty of excuses to keep us there if we don’t want to do the hard work of creating new possibilities. There are too many examples out there however, for any of us to feel like yesterday dictates tomorrow. Whether is a small business, a huge corporation or even us as individuals, change is possible.
Businesses can adopt entirely new strategies, shift their culture, change their collective skill sets and enter new markets, all it takes is a plan and leaders who are willing and able to make it happen.
On an individual level, more and more research is teaching us that we are not “hard wired”. Our brains continue to adapt, look for new patterns and new solutions, and we are capable of changing how we think and how we operate. Change isn’t just a young person’s game either; some recent research even indicates that our brains may be more capable of adapting during middle age than they are in earlier years due to the increased information and experience that we possess.
The first step for an organization to create a needed shift is to stop thinking that it’s a result of some kind of company DNA. Knowing where we want to go and believing we can get there are critical to causing change. The belief that we are destined to remain where we are is the single biggest enemy of change we could possible create for our business or ourselves.
DNA causes brown hair or blue eyes and your height but it doesn’t control your attitude, your ideas, or your success and it definitely doesn’t control the future of your business. Pick a better path and lead yourself or your business down it. Maybe then you will come to believe that leadership is just in your DNA.