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  • Britt Konnander

Should I stay or Should I Go? "The dead horse theory"

Uppdaterat: 9 juni 2020

The mindset with which we approach change is the main determining factor which decides whether we will fail or succeed.

Often we find it difficult to embrace change because we are so deeply immersed in the present. Being used to and feeling comfortable with the status quo can easily lead to a strategy of denial of a changing reality.

There are many reasons and factors that lead us to persist with an idea, a decision, a strategy beyond its use-by date. It can be that the organizations are unable to let go of what they´ve invested in so far, this phenomenon is called “sunk cost fallacy”, there could be political pressure, peer pressure and many other things.

Recently a colleague sent me the link to an internet blog which makes fun of our sector’s habit of denying changes in the reality that is surrounding us. The title ‘If the Horse is Dead, You Should Dismount’ witch refers to ‘ancient tribal wisdom’ that encourages us to accept rather than deny the changing realities around. Below you will find a couple of aexamples of how organizations may respond when finding that their horse is dead:

  • Appoint a committee to study the horse.

  • Blame the rider and hire outside contractors to ride the dead horse.

  • Buy a stronger whip.

  • Declare that since the horse is dead, we must now ride smarter, not harder.

  • Harness several dead horses together for increased speed.

  • Kill all the other horses, so this one will look the same.

  • Promote the horse to a supervisory position.

  • Shorten the track.

  • Threaten the horse with termination.

This is a funny way to describe a situation all of us will have experienced in some form before: rather than ‘accepting that realities have changed – our beloved horse is dead – we try to maintain an untenable situation, often by undertaking any possible effort to find a new meaning for an outdated tool or habit.

Accepting that the horse is dead, takes farsightedness and a lot of courage. So in order to keep yourself on the right track:

  • Don’t defend the dead horse (strategy, project, etc.).

  • Don’t keep doing things that aren’t delivering results or making the desired impact.

  • Don’t go from one dead horse to another.

  • Fix the things (people, processes, systems) that are broken. You know what they are. Stop talking about them.

  • Make a decision and fix them.

  • Make the change.

  • Don’t be afraid of change.

  • Do the right thing.

  • It is time to get a fresh horse.

"Some of us think holding on makes us strong, but sometimes it is letting go" – Herman Hesse

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