By Renae Sanders
A paradigm is the set of beliefs, assumptions, values, and processes that determine perceptions of reality in communities and organizations. Organizational paradigms may be so deeply ingrained; leaders are unable to perceive when changes to organization design or the business model are necessary. Tschmuck (2003) explained the power of paradigm and the delayed recognition of innovative change, suggesting when radical change so upsets the certainty experienced in the market, the ensuing uncertainty and chaos which follows creates an immediate rejection of the new. When innovation (or the need for innovation) emerges outside the boundaries of traditional thinking, at first it is ignored; and precious time is lost as the new normal takes root and forces organizations to adopt a new way of thinking about the newly changed environment (Tschmuck, 2003). This perspective might broadly explain the delayed response by large financial organizations charged with stimulating the economy through lending.
Large organizations are most susceptible to the dinosaur syndrome, where the historical success of organizations lulls them into a static state; unable to respond to rapid environmental changes. Several characteristics exists to help determine if organizations are at risk of becoming a dinosaur: (a) arrogance due to past success; (b) mammoth size; (c) centralized control and decision making; (d) limited or uncommitted contact with customers, employees and environment; (e) internally focused human resource management policy; (f) functional organizational structure; (g) measures of success are internally focused; (h) strict hierarchy of decision making; and (i) keeps doing what has always been done (Lawler & Gailbraith, 1994). Don’t be fooled, new companies where principals espouse out dated management practices are also susceptible to dinosaur tendencies.
Avoiding the syndrome involves supporting innovation; redesigning the organization to more rapidly transfer information and knowledge among workers and leaders; moving decision making and accountability down into the organization; and instituting a culture of excellence, where listening and operating outside leaders’ comfort zones spur new ideas (Lawler & Gailbraith, 1994). Organizations must establish performance improvement processes, information inputs, and set indicators and measures to improve as well as challenge current practices. In short, beliefs drive organizational design. As leaders, we must find new ways to challenge our modes of thinking which allow us the ability to more successfully manage in a dynamic environment.
Lawler, E. E., & Gailbraith, J.R. (1994). Avoiding the corporate dinosaur syndrome. Organization, al Dynamics. 23(2), 4-17.
Tschmuck, P. (2003). How creative are the creative industries? A case for the music industry. Journal of Arts Management, Law, and Society. 33(2), 127.