In the movie Lawrence of Arabia, Captain T. E. Lawrence has to shoot someone he had once saved.  One of his Arabian allies slaps him on the back and says “It was written.”  Lawrence promptly responds with “Nothing is written. “  Both men had a strong conviction.  One believed in destiny, the other in choice.

Belief systems powerfully shape your culture, impacting your business strategies:  how products and services are manufactured, designed, marketed, and delivered.  How successfully you implement these strategies will determine business performance.  And, how successfully your business performs may decide whether your enterprise is a golden goose or a dead duck.

In your own business, as well as in your own family, there are going to be different beliefs about which is more important:  choice or chance.  Research indicates that about 45% of the population believes they can influence or control the cultural environment.  About 55% believe that they are influenced or controlled by the cultural environment.  Henry Ford would have said either way, you’re right.

Behavior is constantly reinforced by what is around us, people and circumstances.  Some people, the best and brightest, push the ethical envelope because they believe certain market conditions will go on forever and they won’t get caught in the middle of a market meltdown.  Conversely, there is the other point of view that thinks, how can anyone possibly believe this would go on forever?  

Belief systems can be irrational.  In fact, many belief systems are more rationalizing than rational.  Most of us generally look for facts that support decisions we have already made rather than for information that leads us to a “wise” decision.  This tendency toward “gut instinct” can literally get people killed.  In the early days of flight, many pilots found themselves “flying by the seat of their pants.”  When this happened, they generally became disoriented and experienced a hard and often fatal landing.  As a result, avionics were designed and built to avoid the crash and burn syndrome.

Still, some of us just do not like to rely on instruments and gauges of any type.  As a result, some messengers “get shot”; and soon news that runs counter to cultural expectations and desires get filed away.  

Your response to the “control the environment” or “it is written” approach can be offset somewhat by making sure that you have the right people, working with you and on your behalf.  Reward them for telling what they consider to be the truth, even when you may not want to hear it, and especially when you do not want to hear it.  

Remember, only the emperor believed he was wearing a beautiful set of clothes.

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