Two men were walking through the woods when a large bear walked out into the clearing no more than 50 feet in front of them.
The first man dropped his backpack and dug out a pair of running shoes, then began to furiously attempt to lace them up as the bear slowly approached them.
The second man looked at the first, confused, and said, “What are you doing? Running shoes aren’t going to help, you can’t out run that bear.”
“I don’t need to. I just need to out run you.”
[Author unknown, but greatly appreciated! If you or anyone you know has a proprietary interest in this story please authenticate and I will be happy to credit, or remove, as appropriate.]
Think of your co-workers, or your circle of friends.
Would you take off and leave them for bear food?
Would they take off and leave you for bear food?
In the organizations we work in, if we see this kind of behavior on an isolated, every now and then basis, we would likely be safe to attribute it to unbridled ambition, to competitive spirit run amuck.
But if we see this consistently, broader …
Have you ever worked in a culture where there were ever present threats, where there was a palpable feeling that to survive you needed to, well, look out for yourself at every turn? Every man for himself?
Not exactly a culture, one would think, that drives cooperation, communication, collaboration… and not exactly a culture that we would predict would produce stellar results.
But here’s something we can predict: embedded in these cultures we will find organizational policies and/or management practices that pit one associate against another … we will find policies and/or practices that recognize and reward individual achievement without also recognizing and rewarding teamwork and team results … and we will find organizational initiatives that at best only temporarily solves problems (because they only address symptoms) without real and substantial effort and action to fundamentally address the root causes of problems.
In other words, we will find the bear.