A few weeks ago I read some news about a change in the board of a famous and very big company. In order to face this new “era of change” in which the organisation was going to “promote innovation more than ever”, it was decided to go clearly for the old guard, giving even more power to the insiders that had been in the management since the good old times. The same day I was reading this news, a friend of mine who is in the midst of a professional transition told me that, when it came to the final interview for a C-level position in a given company, they chose a candidate from “the circle of trust of the president”, to ensure that “there was no cultural mismatch”. And this is how, little by little, certain organisations become so inbred that they completely lose connection with the outside world (which is where their end customers are).
There is a big difference between inbreeding and an internal promotion, which is the result of having a good development plan in the organisation. In fact, the star metrics that I always recommend to check if a development plan is successful or to know if the investment on a specific Learning Management System is worth it is not the trainings attendance rate, but the internal promotions (or, in other words, the savings in external recruitment costs). In the end, the internal customer community (the people who make up the company) is the first talent pool, that’s for sure.
Inbreeding is something quite different. It is means that, with the excuse of culture and trust, a company will always choose the same people or people from the same environment, especially for specific positions. And this is where the system starts to become perverted, as something as meaningful as the culture of an organisation becomes a trap. In other words, the authenticity of a company becomes tangible in its culture (which is something that is forged organically and spontaneously throughout the organisation, not just on the executive floors). Culture is intrinsic, yes, but it does not have to be cryptic. In other words, if the culture of an organisation is something that no one from the outside can understand and that you have to be an insider to comprehend, that organisation has a problem. An impermeable culture is a culture doomed to inbreeding, a loop where the same people will be giving the same solutions in a context that is no longer the same, which will put the organisation in danger. The danger may not be perceived as immediate. Large companies have a lot of inertia, and this can hide the fact that the countdown has begun. But our current troubled environment will accelerate the process. Only innovation, which comes from diversity, is what allows an organisation to evolve with the situation, with what is happening out there (something that no board can control, no matter how much it wants to). So here is our choice as organisation: either embrace what is diverse, what is different, or continue to use culture as a pretext to cover up the deliberate desire not to evolve. What do you think will work best for you?