Around two weeks ago, we had a business planning session and my colleague used the wonderful word ‘Institutionalize’ in the context of setting up processes in his work area. Though this word we use quite often, however it triggered a thought process in me. Though on a broad level we all know what it means. I thought I will dig deeper. According to Wiki, the meaning says as - The process of embedding some conception (for example a belief, norm, social role, particular value or mode of behavior) within an organization, social system, or society as a whole.
I think there is more to it. Let me ask you a question. Which animal do you think will outlive all other forms of life on the earth? Do you know the answer? Let me ask this question a little differently. Which animal on earth, do you think will survive the nuclear holocaust? Did you get it? If not, let me tell you the answer. The answer is ‘cockroach’. Some of you will laugh at me, however it is true. Now how can such a lowly life, outlive all other animals or survive holocaust?
The answer to that question is ‘Institutionalization’.
Do you know these cockroaches have a typical property? Whenever they face extreme adverse conditions, many of them die. Some of them survive. These cockroaches who face this extreme adverse situation and survive learn a lesson from their survival efforts and pass it on to their genes or DNA. This gets embedded in the DNA of a cockroach, never to be forgotten and passed on to the next generations. Cockroaches over millions of years have mastered this technique and passed on their learnings to the next generations. Thus, they have survived in all these difficult times and are likely to survive till the end of the earth.
What is a takeaway from this story? We human beings at the very top of the food chain, intelligent and very advanced form of life should do this for ourselves and our organizations. Instead of creating pockets of excellence, this knowledge learned in facing adverse as well as favorable situations should be embedded in the organization’s DNA. Next-generation of employees should be injected with this DNA, whenever they join the organization.
How can one pass it on to organizational DNA? What is the organization's DNA after all? It is nothing but philosophy (culture), Mindset of people, systems and daily activities based on them. Learnings gathered from addressing good or bad issues must be captured in the processes (systems) of the organizations. This knowledge must be widely dispersed to all existing and new relevant employees. This will only happen if the organization has a supportive philosophy and mindset.
One can have a question here? Why cockroaches have not evolved to a better form of life when they have this superb capability to pass on knowledge to their next generation. There is only one answer in my mind, which I have shown pictorially as well.
In my opinion, cockroaches passed on bare enough knowledge to their next generations for their survival (Graph 1). Only getting out of bad issues. We human beings, being intelligent, must pass on knowledge learned from facing both, good and bad issues (Both the graphs). Passing the learnings from addressing good situations paves the way for evolution. That tells us how and what to improve in our business systems. Addressing bad issues tells us where and what are the gaps in our business systems, plugging them will stop us from making the same mistakes again.
Thanks Phil (my colleague who talked about institutionalization in our business meeting) for broaching up this topic. It provoked my thought process. This is what I mean by the word – Institutionalization.