Why do organizations stay addicted to being themselves and struggle to break free?

Srikanth Ramanujam
3 min readApr 30, 2018

I want to propose a hypothesis. When people struggle with any form of addiction, they have a propensity to become addicted again even when they change and break free of that addiction. There is a saying “Once an addict, always an addict”. I wonder whether this is true with organizations as well. And is that the reason why they struggle to break free of who they are and are unable to re-innovate and metamorpihize themselves, which is a key ingredient for survival?

I am an avid reader of thought provoking content and one of the sites that I read regularly is https://aeon.co/. In a recent article on addiction called “The addiction habit” proposes that addiction changes the brain but it’s not a disease that can be cured with medicine. In fact, it’s learned — like a habit.

If you relate this to organizations, you see that organizations are who they are and got to be what they are today by learning this habit over a long period of time. The longer the time that they have established these behaviours the more difficult it is going to be for them to wean themselves away from these learnt habits.

Source: https://thesystemsthinker.com/from-hero-as-leader-to-servant-as-leader/

At the cost of over simplifying and trivializing, I propose the same solution that is proposed in the above mentioned article. For organizations to be cured off their addictions to their habits, they use the 12 Steps as defined by Alcoholics Anonymous and adapted to organizations so that they have a chance to recover:

We admit we were powerless over who we are and we have become unmanageable.

Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to care and extreme respect for the people who work in our organization and through them our clients and the market.

Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

Admitted to our clients and our employees, and to ourselves the leaders and to our clients, our shareholders and our employees the exact nature of our wrongs.

Were entirely ready to through leadership self-reflection remove all these defects of character

Humbly work on our principles and values to remove our shortcomings

Made a list of clients and employees we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.

Made direct amends to clients and employees wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

Continued to as leaders, take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admit it.

Sought through introspection and action to improve our conscious contact with our clients and our employees, praying only for building knowledge in our learning organization and the power to carry out strategies that continuously build learning and humility in us.

Having had a spiritual awakening in our Leaders as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to all our Leadership and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

If none of these help, then there is perhaps no salvation…