The Homeostatic Principle At Work

Homeostatis is the biological principal which suggests that living organisms will maintain a stable, constant condition.  And we humans do this well.

We see this principle at work in easily-recognized statements such as, “we’ve always done it this way.”  Or, “I’m going to do what I’ve always done and let someone else worry about it.”

However, homeostatis can rear its ugly head in other ways as well.  Think about how we compare our organization to others.  Typically, we will find a set of “peer” and/or “aspirant” organizations by which we will judge our progress.  All of these comparison organizations will be similar in some fundamental way to ours.

But what if we decided to compare ourselves to organizations distinctly different from our own?  Very rarely do we do this.  We don’t reach out beyond our “industry-type” (i.e. education, healthcare, social non-profit) to compare and learn from organizations different from ours.

The development leaders of an education institution don’t have a regularized method to learn from the development leaders in healthcare.   Similarly, the small community non-profit typically assumes there isn’t much value in hearing how the large national organization organizes and manages its major gift process.

In my  work as a consultant I am often asked to include “references from organizations similar to ours” when I submit a proposal.  This is another example of a homeostatic mistake.

When we limit our comparisons to those who look like us, talk like us, and serve like us, we run the very real risk of losing our creative edge and becoming typical and average.  In order to learn we must stretch beyond what is known, comfortable, and typical.

Homeostatis encourages us to stay the same and to mitigate the effects of our environment.  But it is only when we do the opposite that we give ourselves the chance to do something really special.


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