(Just Like) Starting Over. How Reliving the Past Can Change Your Future

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If you had it to do all over again, what would you change? It sounds like the ultimate idle question. Because you can’t turn back the clock, right? But what if it is not? What if you can?

At some point in the life of a successful organization it becomes an “institution.” It is a blessing and a curse. “Institution” implies power, prosperity, prestige. It also means sluggish, staid, and stuck. Yet every institution was once a wild idea. A mission in search of a plan and a team driven to do something important. The mission does not change. Over time, the institution does not either.

What if you could do it all over? With the mission front and center, knowing everything you know today, what would you change? What if the answer is “everything”?

The word “disruption” is, well, disruptive. Uncomfortable. Destructive, even. It means shaking things up. Changing the rules. Breaking some dishes. Disruption for the sake of disruption is a tantrum. Disruption in the service of a vision is progress. The enemy of progress is all the things that “simply are not done.” Ancestral wisdom about the way things have to be smothers new ideas before they even fully form on the lips. The seeming futility of changing just one thing when so much needs to be changed saps the will to transform of even the most resolute leader.

The exercise of embracing the mission and imagining a new organization around it can trigger powerful transformation if the vision is taken to heart. One insurance trade association (er, institution) did just that. Hemmed in by age-old paradigms, systems, and processes, they closed their eyes and pretended they had nothing. Out of that came a picture where they served the industry in completely new ways by doing nearly everything differently. They bought their own story and have set to work bringing it to life for the last seven years, including two patent applications for groundbreaking new systems using the latest blockchain technology. Where once there were walls, now there are doors — to serve entirely new industries, spawn new organizations, and monetize their inventions, all in pursuit of their mission. Their wild-eyed ancient founders would be proud.

Not every organization can break everything and rebuild it. But every organization should pretend they can, at least for a while, and take seriously what they see when they do. Nothing is possible until you let yourself think it is.

Learn more about how Sequence has helped clients embrace their mission and transform their institutions.

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