Around the middle of October, The Walking Dead will make its return to the small screens for another season of zombie killing hijinks. When the show first came on the air, I was pretty dismissive of it and never really paid attention to it. My wife wasn’t really interested either so we didn’t end up watching the first four seasons when they aired originally.
Then about two years ago we’d kind of run out of TV to watch and our cable provider had the first four seasons available to be streamed so we figured we’d give it a shot. After the first two or three episodes, we were hooked. We binged the first four seasons and just as we were finishing the fifth season was kicking off.
Now we wouldn’t miss it.
Around midway through the second season, I came to this realization that the “walking dead” that the show’s title refers to aren’t the zombies at all, it’s the survivors. They are just lurching around from catastrophe to catastrophe barely surviving. Then in the mid-season finale of season six, the show’s lead character says the same thing, that his party are actually the real dead.
It was a pretty exciting moment for me because I am a simple individual who takes great pleasure in figuring out stuff like that in advance.
None of that’s the point though, so let’s move on.
One thing about the show that I find most interesting is the constant battle that all the characters face with altruism, mutual best interest and selfish motivations. In one episode you’ll find out heroes taking unbelievable personal risks to help out someone else then in the next episode they go to extreme lengths to exact selfish punishment.
Even the lead character, Rick Grimes is constantly conflicted. He is the leader of his group and he does everything he can to assure their mutual best interest. He does however occasionally put the entire group at risk to lash out at people not part of his group for revenge. At the same time, in the TV show at least (not in the comics) he is taking care of his dead wife’s baby, Judith who is probably not his biological daughter – the ultimate act of altruism.
The show is nuanced like that which is why I like it.
Interestingly, what made me think about this today was this morning I was explaining to my wife something that was happening with a business online that we partner with. There was a bit of a blowup about some actions they’ve taken that has really upset some of their long-term and best partners – the type of partners who always operate in a state of mutual best interest with this company.
My wife made the comment that this company behaves like they’re characters on The Walking Dead, just focusing purely on their own self-interest at all times.
It was so true!
When characters in the show make decisions that are purely selfish and could have a negative impact on other groups, there is always a point where they rationalize their decision and end up saying, “We have to do what’s best for us.” They put themselves at peace by justifying that what they are about to do is for the greater good and that really, this is the best possible situation.
But you can’t operate your business like that! Your business is not operating in the aftermath of a zombie apocalypse. Justifying outright self-interest and rationalizing your actions is not an appropriate way of behaving.
In fact, when everything in your business is motivated by pure self-interest you end up making terrible mistakes and you destroy trust with important external stakeholders.
What you don’t want to do is start by saying, “This is what I want. It’s good for my customers because it makes my business stronger and my partners will be better off if my business is more successful.” That’s selfish and often entire untrue – in fact, it’s staggering how often lacking in basic self-awareness businesses are. They think that what’s good for them is good for everyone around them BECAUSE it’s good for them.
They have no ability to differentiate between their best interest and everyone else’s.
The key to being successful in your business is to be customer-centric and considerate of your business partners. When you make decisions, you do so through the lens of, “Does this help or hurt my customer? Do my partners end up better or worse off out of this?”
Nobody is saying that you should be utterly altruistic and lose money so that your partners and customers are infinitely better off at your expense. The point I’m trying to make is that you need to ground your business in the idea of mutual best interest. Find ways to do things that work for everyone involved as much as possible.
You’re not in The Walking Dead… Be a good human first and foremost so that you can run a healthy, sustainable, ethical and successful business.