What are your business myths?
What are your business myths?
From one disappointing experience, a faulty dogma can form that shapes the whole business.

Could the myths in your business be blocking success?

As someone who’ll always salute a magpie, but hold back the gesture if there are two, it’s fair to say that the myths I’ve taken on board have an almost automatic influence on my behaviour. The traditional purpose behind the magpie salute is to ward off bad luck; whether it does or not, I’ll never know. Perhaps the myth gives me a feeling of connection to the natural world, and to others who do the same thing (there’s nothing nicer than sharing a chuckle with a fellow observer). Regardless, it’s become a part of my everyday behaviour.

We’re all subject to influential myths, whether we like it or not. My example is a particularly visible one, but there are many more that we’re often unaware of.

Stories – and myths – are one of the oldest forms of communication, dating back centuries upon centuries. When we think of ‘telling stories’, we might imagine cosy evenings around a fireside, but of course, this is just one type of story. We actually tell stories all day, every day – to ourselves and to each other.

Myths typically evolve by word of mouth, as stories are passed on and embellished with each iteration. Historically, many myths have been helpful to our survival: cautionary tales such as “don’t go into the abandoned ruins, or a monster may get you” being dreamed up by protective adults. However, many myths are also directly unhelpful, and only serve to hold us back. For instance, “I never get a parking space there, so I won’t even try.”

It’s no different when we consider businesses. A classic example is, “Marketing doesn’t work here. We tried a flyer last year and got no new patients.” From one disappointing experience, a faulty dogma can form that shapes (and hamstrings) the whole business.

It’s easy to dismiss a business’s internal mythology as unimportant, or to accept small myths as individual foibles. However, if we never question them, we may be doing our companies and ourselves a huge disservice.

In Intellectuals and Society, Thomas Sowell uses the phrase “mundane knowledge” to describe a similar phenomenon. It is these invisible “mundane” influences that are missed by intellectuals with grand theories, and this is ultimately why many theories don’t succeed in reality. When working with a client, it’s quite possible to dazzle with clever-sounding strategies, but these won’t necessarily deliver results. If we don’t “do” the theory in action, we’ll never be aware of the vast amounts of other knowledge in the system.

A great example of this was when Coca Cola changed its recipe in the 1980s. At the time, Coke was losing market share to Pepsi, which was due to blind taste tests suggesting people preferred the Pepsi flavour. Coca Cola took this research at face value, and decided that the only way to compete was to reformulate. The “new Coke” was a famous flop because it was produced under the myth that people preferred Pepsi. What researchers didn’t factor in was that while a single sip of Pepsi was tastier because it was initially sweeter, buyers preferred Coca Cola if they had to sit and drink a whole glass.

To understand why things happen in an individual business, it’s vital to be aware of its story. When we work with a practice, we like to begin by looking at the basics: things like the ‘what’ (the end state), the ‘why’ (what’s driving you there), and – importantly ­– the how (the myths and mundane knowledge steering the narrative). From here, we can identify which are helpful – for instance, some tried-and-true methods are long-standing for a reason – and which are less so.

Myths aren’t necessarily bad, but if you don’t know what they are, you’re more likely to get the wrong outcomes, which in turn produces the next round of myths. Gaining an understanding of its objectives, drivers and mundane knowledge ultimately helps us to grow a business in the right way.

Our objective and insightful diagnostics can help uncover your own myths. Get in touch with our team if you’d like to find out more.

The information contained in this article is based on the opinion of Hive Business and does not constitute formal tax advice. Any tax outcomes will be based on individual circumstances, tax legislation and regulation, which are subject to change in the future. You should seek specific advice before embarking on any course of action. Hive Business does not provide regulated Financial Advice, including advice on investment, insurance or lending products or their suitability for you. This article is provided for information only and does not constitute, and should not be interpreted as, investment advice or a recommendation to buy, sell or otherwise transact, or not transact, in any investment including Bitcoin and other crypto. Any use you wish to make of any information contained within this article is, therefore, entirely at your own risk.

By Dan Fine Management Consultant
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