What icebergs can teach us about real and lasting change in business

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The identity iceberg, your customer service, your brand and you

In a recent post Build authority and trust with your customers by talking about your industry ‘Warts and all’, I talked about how being open and transparent, particularly about the ‘warts’ or fears that exist in most industries, can be a great way of building trust, confidence and authority in your brand and in the eyes of your customers.

In the comments part of the post, Bill Park of mpoweru added that trust and confidence in others is a subjective thing when he said:

People observe the world through their vantage point: they select data (could be anything) that appeals to them, they add meaning to that data, they make assumptions about the data, they draw conclusions, and filter all that through their belief system.

I replied that his comment reminded me of a concept called the identity iceberg. He replied that he was not familiar with this idea so I said that I’d write something about it. Hence this post.

The idea of an identity iceberg is a metaphor for our identities, whether they be personal or business. Our identities are like icebergs floating on the sea, where they only have their tip ‘exposed’. As individuals or organisations we are complex beings and like the iceberg we only have a little ‘exposed’ to observation by others (see diagram below).

Understanding this can help us understand or, at least give us clues, to how we and others see and react to the world around us. Why some people trust more than others, why others are willing to lead, why others are better with people than others, for example.

Taking the metaphor further, if we imagine the iceberg floating on the sea then what happens is that part of the iceberg is immediately visible (our behaviour, appearance and actions), part of it emerges and submerges with the tides (our attitude, skills and motivations), and its foundations go deep beneath the surface and are mostly hidden (our prejudices, beliefs, principles, values and DNA).

The identity iceberg, your customer service, your brand and youThe deeper it is the harder it is to change.

What has all this got to do with business growth, customers and people? Well, if we want to create change in ourselves or our businesses that is sustainable and not just skin deep then it’s not good enough to just try and motivate or train for better skills or attitude we have to think deeper than that and address what we really believe in and value.

Don’t get me wrong, to motivate and train yourself and your team to improve skills and help build a better attitude are good things to do. But, don’t be deluded into thinking that just because you motivate or train someone to be better that that automatically means that they will stay better forever. There’s no guarantee that that will happen. To make lasting change you will have to go deeper than that.

Why don’t more people and businesses do this? Because, it’s hard and takes time and commitment.

However, it is worth it.

Most high performing people, teams and businesses are very clear on what they value, believe in and stand for because they know that that is their core and shared foundation and that is the thing that stands them apart, binds them together and makes them stronger.

Bill, I hope this answers your question and helps.

Thanks to helveticaneue for the image.

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