It's the single biggest error firms make in times of crisis: repeating the past. When the world around you is undergoing discontinuous change, repeating yesterday's mistakes is the quickest path to decay and dissolution.I doubt it's anyone's intention to "repeat yesterday's mistakes". I got to wondering what we are seeing, thinking and responding to whenever it appears to others we are failing to learn from prior mistakes. Here's what I came up with as I reflected on that question:
- We are seeing ongoing successes and that's no mistake. We tell ourselves we cannot argue with results. We're thinking "it's not over until it's over". We're grateful that customers still show up and money is still coming in. The rivals have not put us out of business yet. We take pride in continuing to deliver a quality product as well as attract and retain our quality staff. As far as we can tell, we're still on a roll that has not come to a stop yet.
- We thinking about getting the work out the door. There are meetings to attend, schedules to meet and tasks to get accomplished. The performance pressures we're facing are best met with our trusted binary thinking: "The work is done or it isn't; the approach worked or failed; the answer is right or wrong; the completion was on schedule or late". So long as we're getting the work done on time, we're convinced that we're right about what we're doing. Those that say we're wrong, mistaken or misguided don't share our inside perspective.
- We're confident that we're doing what others expect of us. We're conforming with what we've always done. We're not letting those down who have relied on us before. We sticking with what has always given us our reputation, earned us respect and gotten us admired for our commitment. We're thinking "so long as we don't let people down, they won't let us down by abandoning us in any way".
- We're convinced that it has to be this way. We know not to question which direction we're headed in because that would undermine the entire operation and others' morale. We steer clear of thinking we've been deluded, over-confident or reckless because that would stir up uncontrollable feelings of regret, guilt and depression. We stick with our defensive rationalizations and worn-out justifications that reliably convince us we're headed in the right direction.