Most individuals, organizations, and companies underperform to their potential. Others miraculously live up to or exceed their potential.
Each tells a story every day and validates it with their actions. Their audience either likes that story (and repeats it) or they don’t.
Take the example of Wal-Mart. Here’s their mission statement:
“Wal-Mart’s mission is to help people save money so they can live better.“
They are the largest retailer in the world. They are the largest private employer in the United States. Why do they continue to grow? Because people understand their mission and like the narrative that Wal-Mart tells. Even when Frontline did their infamous expose`, “Is Wal-Mart Good For America?” all the film did was validate the company’s narrative. Lowest prices, guaranteed.
People like the narrative, it works for them, and it’s profitable for Wal-Mart. So they keep feeding their narrative with everything they do and their customers keep feeding their cash registers.
A new product idea or a new narrative?
When people struggle they tend to swing the pendulum. They drastically change things about themselves or spin their wheels creating a new initiative. Unfortunately, what they are often doing is validating a story that is spinning things further out of control.
They take the pig that nobody wants, put some different clothes on it, and try to sell it as a different pig. But the world knows its the same stinking pig!
Take the example of the Big 3 auto makers:
Through the 1990s and early 2000s they made cars the market didn’t really want but was willing to buy because of brand loyalty. As market share dipped further and they ran out of working capital, a mantra went around that they needed new designs, new models, and they could engineer their way out of the problem. That just validated the story that they made cars people didn’t want.
Their narrative became outsourcing and layoffs. They hid from their Detroit roots. And when people thought Ford, Chrysler, and GM they thought about out-of-control overhead, plant closings, and unions.
In truth, they are making the same cars with the same people they always have. (And the same problems.) But they are telling a new story that people like. (and are repeating)