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Axis POV


Orthodoxies are deeply held and widely shared beliefs. They may not be true, for example the earth turned out not to be flat.

In business, orthodoxies can be a source of strength. But they can also be a weakness when they constrain innovation. Given accelerating pace of change, orthodoxies can very quickly flip from being a strength to a weakness. In some cases, orthodoxies can be fatal. For Blockbuster, their orthodoxies prevented them from understanding the implications of Netflix on their existing business model.

The challenge is that orthodoxies are hidden as they are not actively chosen. Instead they emerge from the collective consciousness. And they are hard to challenge as most people are going strongly disagree (by definition!).

Yet, it is by challenging orthodoxies that a business remains innovative and relevant.

Challenging Orthodoxies

So how do you go about identifying and then challenging orthodoxies?

  1. Ask ‘what if’ questions that imagine a world where the orthodoxies don’t hold
  2. Work as a team to identify the most significant orthodoxies and rank them in terms of their impact upon ability to change and innovate
  3. Look back at historical successes – the big wins that made the business what it is today – and think through what become hard-wired as an organisational orthodoxy due to that success
  4. Promote a culture or openness and challenge, use anonymous collaboration techniques and bring in people from outside and listen to them

At Axis we believe that identifying orthodoxies that act as a barrier to innovation and change is a key part of the collaborative process. Orthodoxies is one of our favourite methods in the frame phase of a workshop. Try it out today and get challenging you organisational orthodoxies.

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