Our friends at Armada Corporate Intelligence featured an article in their weekly "Inside the Executive Suite" feature recently about creating a path toward organizational humility.

AEIB-GraphicThis Inside the Executive Suite edition used a comment in a Wall Street Journal story about how Cirque du Soleil, the well-known entertainment company, had a big dose of humility thrust upon it. This was as a result of both business setbacks and, more specifically, a performer’s death on-stage during a 2013 performance.

A Path toward Organizational Humility

Armada Corporate Intelligence used a four-step strategy for cultivating personal humility as the basis of its strategic thinking.

They extended the personal strategy to business situations, recommending businesses pursue these steps on a path toward organizational humility:

  1. Don’t Allow Extraordinary or Phony Measures to Mask Challenges
  2. Create a Culture that Prizes Honest Exploration and Evaluation
  3. Learn from Small Mistakes Before They Become Tragedies
  4. Become Adept and Agile at Change

What struck me about the topic was a famous quote on humility attributed to both C.S. Lewis and Pastor Rick Warren (although as I shared on Facebook, I'm guessing C.S. Lewis said it first!): “True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.”

Strategic Thinking on Humility and Strategy


If you consider organizational humility relative to the C.S. Lewis quote, it implies placing something other than organizational self-interest and success as the sole focus of its values and corporate strategy.

Two natural alternative areas on which to focus that came to mind right away are employees and customers.

If an organization were to focus first on making sure its employees are satisfied and loyal, one might assume they will be more inclined to deliver greater quality and value to customers. That, in turn, should lead to more satisfied and loyal customers. And a greater degree of customer continuity should result in superior business results.

As you may recognize, this sequence of events is a generalized description of the ideas of the Service-Profit chain, popularly-articulated at Harvard.

So maybe a business which is on the path toward organizational humility really CAN wind up ensuring it is focused on its own success, but it does so by focusing on others first. – Mike Brown


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