10 ways you can avoid corporate mediocrity

10 ways to avoid corporate mediocrity

One of my favourite blog posts is by Richard Sauerman, titled ‘The Recipe for Corporate Mediocrity’. It details a scenario involving 5 monkeys in a cage as they each climb a staircase to attain a shiny yellow banana hanging from the roof by a piece of string. Through the ongoing negative reinforcement of positive behaviours amongst existing and new monkeys to the group, they eventually turn on each other because ‘that’s the way it’s always been done around here’.

I’m sure many of you can relate to the scenario. Perhaps you work somewhere where this is the norm, or you’ve seen glimpses of it. Hopefully you’re in an organisation where you and your team’s efforts to climb the ladder are supported and encouraged. Most recently I discussed this experiment with a new-ish team who are part of an organisation undergoing significant amounts of change within a culture that, for many reasons, can appear to be rooted in a (albeit changing) cycle of blocking/rejecting a different lens through which to view the business. Why? Because ‘that’s the way it’s always been done around here’.

So imagine you’re a new employee with this organisation. Unlike the monkeys, you’re not so much sprayed with ice cold water, but rather become immersed in an environment and culture where challenging the establishment, the way things are done and how business is viewed can often have unconventional ramifications. Your ability, vision, ideas, enthusiasm, determination, standards and professionalism are your currency and must be protected if you are to succeed. But how do you keep yourself safe from falling foul to the other monkeys in the cage as you try to reach that elusive yellow banana dangling from the ceiling?

Here are my top 10 for keeping the integrity with which you started.
  1. Never lose sight of the big picture
  2. Keep the end goal in sight
  3. Remind yourself why you were employed in the first place
  4. Compromise, but only if you truly believe it’s the right solution
  5. Don’t accept mediocrity
  6. With difficult colleagues, address their behaviour, not them personally
  7. Take the time to normalise your situation – speak to others in business and share your experiences
  8. Find a way to measure the small wins – you will feel better knowing things are moving ahead
  9. Retain your status as ‘Switzerland’ – be the person people feel they can talk to confidentially
  10. Constantly reevaluate your situation and retain your integrity, good humour and sense of self


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