I struggled with the title of this post, wanting something more eye catching, provocative, perhaps a little less negative.  Complacency is an ugly word.  No one likes to be accused of being complacent.

Complacency is sometimes associated with laziness, though some of the most complacent organizations I encounter are far from “lazy,” but “crazy-busy” with activity.

Reflecting for a few moments, I don’t think any individual or company sets out to be complacent.  Instead, we are seduced into complacency.

Ironically, the greatest seductress for complacency is success!  When we are successful, we want to keep going.  We keep doing what caused us to be successful.  For a while, we continue to grow and achieve our goals, but slowly things change, what worked in the past, isn’t working as well.  We ratchet up our activities, doing more of what we’ve always done, more rapidly.  We fall behind, we wring our hands, but keep ratcheting up our activities, because that’s the way we have always done things.

Tied with our success, there is sometimes arrogance.  Complacency can become an outcome of arrogance.  We think we can do no wrong, therefore we don’t recognize the need to change, when everything else is changing.

Often, complacency is the result of inattentiveness.  We simply aren’t paying attention–we don’t see the signals, we don’t recognize the changes in our customers, markets, competition.  We are somehow on “autopilot,”  busy going through the same motions day after day, week after week, month after month, not really paying attention to what’s happening–or not happening.

At the end of the quarter, we see results are off–we attribute that to bad luck, or some other excuse.  We convince ourselves next quarter will be better, and then the next, until we can no longer ignore the fact that something’s happening, we aren’t producing results.

Complacency is often an unconscious coping mechanism to overwhelm and complexity.  Things just become too much, in order to deal with it, we start shutting down–we filter out, we ignore, we try to make things simpler–usually that’s through going back to what’s worked in the past–which is what got us into the current position in the first place.

Complacency can be masked by efficiency.  We work to become as efficient in our activities, operations as possible.  Soon we are doing activities for activity sake, not paying attention to the fact they aren’t producing the results.

There’s a funny circularity about complacency.

And, of course, there’s laziness.  Those that simple don’t care and couldn’t be bothered—but none of those people are reading this (why, because they are lazy).  I can’t and won’t help the lazy.

Complacency doesn’t happen overnight.  Complacency is patient.  It plays the long game, sucking individuals and organizations into its web over years.

Complacency is seductive because it’s about being comfortable, settling for the status quo.

In our worlds of constant change and disruption, complacency is the enemy.  It cause us to fail!

Everyone can become victims of complacency.  It happens to our customers.  We can create great value for our customers by helping them recognize (though perhaps not point out) complacency.  We can disrupt their thinking, their normal patterns, help them recognize the need to change.

Our organizations become complacent, and none are immune.  It happens in the biggest organizations as well as high flying start ups.

Our people become victims of complacency, falling into routines, on autopilot through their days, not thinking about what they are doing.

We can become victims of complacency.

What’s the antidote?

Growth mindsets are the antidote.  Never being satisfied with where things are, always looking to learn and improve.  Always challenging yourself, your people, your organization, your customers to think differently.

What are you doing to fight the seduction of complacency?

A version of this was first posted on

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