As Neil Blumenthal says, "A startup is a company working to solve a problem where the solution is not obvious and success is not guaranteed." A startup can be a standalone organization, or an organization within an organization. Your key to success as a startup is maintaining an upward trajectory in responsible profitability, productivity, innovation, and competitiveness. Sometimes startups seem to hum along and coast over obstacles with ease. This ability to coast along in a seemingly effortless way has to do with the high amount of positive energy that exists when embarking on a new and exciting journey, especially if you're having success. Eventually, inevitable change, complexity, and ambiguity begin to take a toll, and some startups find themselves caught flatfooted when the momentum stalls and the mood dampens. This is a natural stage of maturation in organizational growth. This phenomenon isn't the problem. The problem arises if the organization has not developed the capacity to deal with change, complexity, and ambiguity. The objective isn't to create an organization free of these states, but to develop a culture aligned with positive values, behaviors, and mindfulness so that change, complexity, and ambiguity are opportunities and not collision points. When an organization lacks the ability to productively deal with change, complexity, and ambiguity, a four-stage process unfolds that can lead to organizational atrophy. First, low morale will develop. Low morale gives way to the cultural poison of cynicism. In order to cope with the unpleasantness of low morale and cynicism, people start to disengage. Once disengagement happens, the stage is set for the final phase: attrition. But even if people don't leave, if those who stay have low morale or are cynical or disengaged, the cost to the organization is immense and the risk of failure increases significantly.
Why do low morale, cynicism, disengagement, and attrition matter? The most valuable resource any organization has, especially startups, is human capital. The amount of value within the collective knowledge and wisdom of an organization's people is vast and not easily transferable. Some amount of attrition is healthy. But startups in particular require the collective knowledge, wisdom, and dedication of their people in order to create a culture of stable values, competency, and capability. An unhealthy culture filled with collision points leading to low morale, cynicism, disengagement, and attrition can sometimes take years to become fully apparent.
Identifying values, understanding behavior, creating alignment, and developing mindfulness prevent or reverse organizational low morale, cynicism, disengagement, and attrition. Eliminating complexity, change, and ambiguity is not the goal. On the contrary, often complexity, change, and ambiguity can be productive, so long as they are seen as opportunities, rather than resulting in collision points. If you create a culture where people are constantly colliding with complexity, change, and ambiguity due to limiting values, not knowing self and others well, misalignment, and lack of mindfulness, why would you expect anything other than low morale, cynicism, disengagement, and attrition? But creating healthy cultures isn't easy. That's why Mind Atlas™is here to support startups with specialized expertise combined with world-class tools. Once a culture is developed on the foundation of positive values, knowing of self and others, mindfulness, and alignment, the powers are unleashed in an organization to use complexity, change, and ambiguity to its advantage. Every startup faces a fork in the road: Will the organization wither in the face of complexity, change, and ambiguity by trying to remove them through force, control, and avoidance, causing collisions resulting in organizational atrophy, or will it develop a culture on the basis of positive values, knowing self and others, mindfulness, and alignment, leading to sustainable high performance—profitability, productivity, innovation, and competitiveness?