The 5 Myths of business: How they invisibly drive our thinking


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Strategy and Business Magazine has just published an excellent in-depth article “The Dueling Myths of Business” based on the work of scenario planning expert Betty Sue Flowers who worked with Royal Dutch Shell PLC and the world of big government where she helped draft many influential scenario planning reports.

In the article Flowers defines a Myth as:

“a view of the nature of reality, so prevalent that it goes unseen. Although myths are conceived by people, they can feel like they are the only reality, and they can become the context in which events are framed. The frame people follow then affects the judgments they make.”

Flowers identifies five dominant Myths:

  1. The Economic Myth – seeking growth;
  2. The Ecological Myth – seeking the health of a larger, interrelated system
  3. The Heroic Myth – seeking to win
  4. The Religious Myth – seeking goodness
  5. The Scientific Myth – seeking truth through reason

Flowers gives a real example from 1995 where Shell was applying for the right to let an old oil platform sink into the North Sea which ran into serious opposition from Greenpeace.

In terms of myths Shell was perceived as following the economic myth – growth at all costs. Greenpeace, meanwhile, was motivated by a more religious myth: Don’t pollute the ocean, period. And to complicate everything the media was doing was being driven by the heroic myth, because that myth produces the best stories. To them, Greenpeace was David versus Shell’s Goliath.

In this kind of a scenario you can see how easy it is to get into extended unproductive conflict where all sides find it very difficult to see beyond the myths to listen to each others actual positions.

The concept of a Myth resonates with my meta-dilemmas/golden rules and and also the biases of bounded rationalism coming out of the theory of Behavioral Economics.

One of the best ways to uncover the invisible myths, meta-dilemmas and biases which might be driving teams and individuals in different directions is through simulations and (serious) game playing.

Read The Dueling Myths of Business

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Ken Thompson
Ken Thompson specialises in four key business areas: 1. Creating High Performing Teams in enterprises including Virtual and Mobile Teams, 2. Establishing effective Collaborative Business Networks, 3. Development of graphical on-line interactive Business Dashboards and 4. What-if Simulators for organisations to support Performance Improvement, Strategy Development and Executive Team Development.


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