It stands to reason that if the Medieval Church decided that there were seven sins that people found so compelling and distracting from their spiritual journey, then these must be very powerful human motivators. They were seen as barriers which would limit self and societal improvement. These seem an ideal candidate for a rethink. Like any set of rules they have developed over time, been refined, and then embedded. What if we were to flip them, deftly redefine them and harness their power as motivators for innovation?
Sin 1 – Wrath: ‘Intense anger (usually on an epic scale)’
‘Modern psychologists view anger as a primary, natural and mature emotion experienced by all human beings at times’. Are you truly satisfied with where you or your organisation is right now? No? Well why not get ‘angry’ about it? Anger can mobilize psychological resources for corrective action. Why just accept ‘the way things are’, just because others have a vested interest in things remaining the same? What’s really in the best interests of us, our business, our customers, our employees and the like?
Sin 2 – Greed: ‘The desire to possess more than one needs or deserves.’
Is it wrong to believe there could be more? We don’t necessarily have to focus on personal attainment but why not focus on the users of your service? Or greedily consuming ideas from blogs or conferences or being greedy for developing skills or education.
Sin 3 – Sloth: ‘Aversion to work or exertion; laziness; indolence’
Taking the time to do ‘sloth’ for one day a week has been shown to enable people to recharge their batteries and repair the damage done by stress. What nonsense we hear from people who claim to work hard and play hard all the time. This only means they are constantly knackered, stressed, burned out and of little use when it comes to spotting great ideas and innovation. Are they fit for work?
Sin 4 – Pride: ‘A sense of one’s own proper dignity or value; self-respect’
If an organisation could say that all the people involved had a love for their own excellence wouldn’t that be brilliant? Each taking a personal responsibility to be the best they could be.
Sin 5 – Envy: ‘A feeling of discontent and resentment aroused by and in conjunction with desire for the possessions or qualities of another’
Having attended many awards ceremonies in my time, I am always surprised by the attitudes of some of the runners-up. They’re envious alright, but this is manifested in ‘sulking’ and malcontent, rather than in direct and constructive action. They should be rubbing shoulders with the very best and eliciting inspiration and ideas from them. ‘Let’s get envious’ should be our motto, but as a driver of positive action towards achieving excellence.
Sin 6 – Gluttony: ‘Habitual and excessive over-indulgence’
Hang on a minute! What if the excess was good for you? ‘It works, so let’s have some more.’ If changing something improves the situation, ‘let’s have some more’. You’ve given your customer a great experience, ‘let’s have some more’. If you’ve praised someone for giving you a great customer experience, ‘do it some more’.
Sin 7 – Lust: ‘An intense desire or craving’
Let’s get passionate about what we are doing. Eagerness, enthusiasm, and energy are needed by the bucketful if we are to embrace innovation. Amazingly they are also addictive; when you meet passionate people you can’t help but feed off their energy and commitment.
Taking these primary drivers of moral depravity and making them a force for innovation is a great example of changing ancient truly embedded rules. I’m looking forward to finding an organisation which has adopted them as their corporate values! Now wouldn’t that be fun?