Your Company Is Insane – Overcoming Active Inertia

Why Your Organization Has Developed Bad Habits and How You Can Break Them

They say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting a different outcome. If this is true, you might be thinking, “The company I work for is insane!”

Organizations have a tendency to follow established patterns of behavior—even in response to dramatic shifts in their industry. As humans, we like to stick to what is “tried and true” and will usually wait until it’s too late to realize a need for innovative change. This is why many of today’s most successful companies are looking for ways to adapt their employees’ mindsets to become more agile.

Proof of Our Fixed Mindsets

  • Experts claim that 90% of all purchasing decisions are not made consciously. This means we follow established patterns of routine when we make buying decisions, and fail to acknowledge the potential of better options or substitutes.
  • Only 6% of bank customers switched accounts in the past 12 months despite the availability of better rates and terms.[2]
  • Seventy-one percent of people say their social and political ideology is about the same as their mom and dad’s.[3]
  • Of 1,053 Americans polled, 85% of those surveyed said they are inclined to vacation somewhere they’ve already visited. [4]

So why do we tend to follow these same patterns of decision making?

Why do you make repeat decisions?

For many of us, when we are satisfied with an experience, those buying patterns then become habitual. It’s part of the way our body is wired. This saves our brain energy and we can then use that energy on what we deem as more challenging decisions down the road.

We learn that we like Dove deodorant, Nike running shoes, Pantene shampoo, vacationing in Fort Myers, Florida, and buying Ford trucks. We will likely repeat these decisions our whole lives without much thought into why we are making that decision. Even if the most recent time that we went to Fort Meyers, the ocean was infected with red tide and it was cloudy the whole time, we will chalk it up to bad luck and still plan a vacation there next summer.

While these decisions might seem minor in the grand scheme of things, these types of patterns of thinking can be detrimental and even harmful to an organization.

Companies Develop “Active Inertia”

These human biases that we have developed might be energy-savers for our brain in the short term, but they get in the way of us seeing new opportunities. They hinder us from seeing why the old solution can no longer suffice as the new solution. We get so caught up in – “well this worked in the past so it should work now!” This pattern of thinking is what caused the death of many once prominent companies including: Blockbuster, Compaq, and Pan American Airways, to name a few.

For many companies today, the issue is not that they simply just stand still and fail to act when competition is making ground on them. The problem resides in the inability to take appropriate or pre-meditated action. Because of this, many companies today suffer from “active inertia”. Physicists use the term inertia to describe the tendency for a moving object to persist in its current trajectory. According to an HBR article, “Active inertia is an organization’s tendency to follow established patterns of behavior—even in response to dramatic environmental shifts. Stuck in the modes of thinking and working that brought success in the past, market leaders simply accelerate all their tried-and-true activities. In trying to dig themselves out of a hole, they just deepen it.”

Building your Organization’s Agility Muscles

The companies that have survived the hard times and continued to thrive are those who have learned to embrace and foster change. They are forward-thinkers, always on their toes, willing to try and fail rather than to not try at all. They create change where their competition didn’t recognize the ability to do so. Although they’re usually trying to beat their competition to the punch, when change is afoot they do not ignore it, but instead, jump on the opportunity to interject in a new way.

When companies fail to change their trajectory, and look for new ways to add value, they are already sliding down a slippery slope. The best way for a company to remain relevant is to change, and change often. Create change, don’t wait for it to change you. Fearing failure or change only gets in the way of innovation. But since many of us are wired this way, training in Personal and Organizational Agility is essential.

Realizing the immense impact that agility training has on an organization, TRACOM developed a program to unleash peoples’ agile capabilities. By becoming aware of our biases that get in the way of proactive thinking, and focusing on applicable strategies that can spur creative ideas, organizations can supply the knowledge their employees need to create positive transformations.

Learn more about Agility Training here.

Learn more about the Model behind Agility Training – The IDEA Model

View Agility Programs and Products here.



[2] Bank Account Research

[3] Gallup Study on Political Preference

[4] Travel Preferences Story


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