Posts Tagged ‘mystical’

How do you cross thresholds in business life? This can be a daunting question. Boiling everything down to key components and making a balanced, constructive decision is the goal of a good leader. There is a drawing on both personal and group mythology to arrive at a sustainable goal.

So what’s this “mythology” stuff about? Sounds touchy-feely, fuzzy, and far removed from business. It is anything but that. It is about surviving, thriving, and protecting your business especially if social networking is important. How so?

Time to dive in and take a look

The previous blog mentioned four aspects to mythology:

  • Mystical
  • Physical
  • Sociological
  • Psychological

Here we will tackle the first one – mystical – and look at a form it commonly takes in business – Co-opetition.

Is It Really So Mystical?

The mystical really isn’t so…well…mystical, as in transcendental. It actually is very practical – close to the ground. The word “mystical” is used to describe both the awe felt and stance taken with regards to business life. This stance is based on simultaneously accepting the rough and tumble aspects of an environment that also provides opportunity to not just survive but to grow and thrive. Finding a way to balance cooperation and competition, co-opetition, is a good example.


In their classic book, Co-opetition, Brandenburger and Nalebuff apply game theory and view the business world in terms of PARTS (Players, Added value, Rules, Tactics, and Scope).  First there is a collective effort to add value and build a bigger pie (cooperate). At the same time, as the pie grows and benefits to all increase we might work to control the pie and get as much as possible (competition) without driving out needed stakeholders. Sustaining this environment is co-opetition.

Another radical idea Brandenburger and Nalebuff introduced was the concept of a complementor.  A player is a complementor when a customer values your product more when in the presence of that player’s product. Think hot dogs and mustard at a baseball game. One promotes the other.

But can a complementor also be a competitor? (Here’s where you give the classic project management answer, “It depends.”) Go beyond hot dogs and mustard and think of Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, Apple, Intel, etc., and their relationships.

Is there a version of Office for the Mac? Does QuickTime run on PCs? What about Adobe and Apple regarding Flash?

Imagine describing all this to the uninitiated at a party. It is a bit awe-inspiring and finding a fundamental view for explaining everything consistently can be a big challenge… OR you might even say, It’s mystical!

Have Some Fun!

Can you see how important the mystical is? You can have some fun with this. Have a discussion with a group of friends based on the following. Imagine three people. One believes is cooperation-only. Another believes in competition-only. The third believes in co-opetition. Now, ask the question, “What paths could their businesses take?” Watch and see what you show each other about your fundamental beliefs.

Share you comments! I’d like to know what you think. In addition to commenting on this blog you can also send a response via e-mail to or visit

Leadership and Mythology#1: Purpose of myth

by Gary Monti on May 11, 2010

An earlier Change Leadership blog asked if you have an internal compass.  Later, a Leadership Cancer blog asked you to list your tribes and associated role in each. These are part of a broader, critical question, “What is your personal mythology?” This new series will explore this question and how various answers impact us, people around us, and our business.

The importance of this question in everyday life was explored by the American mythologist, Joseph Campbell, who saw 4 distinct aspects to it:

  • The mystical
  • The physical
  • The sociological
  • The psychological

Mythology – What It Is And Isn’t

Before jumping into the 4 levels, lets try to understand what mythology is. We all go through dramatic, catastrophic periods in life, e.g., birth, death, marriage, parenting, establishing careers, etc., and have a desire to make sense of it all. This is what myth is – sense-making. We enter the world of mythology when we develop stories about our experiences. When there is a collective, tribal effort to develop one story combining all the truths presented the mythology takes shape by transcending the individual story.

So, mythology is simultaneously personal and communal. Teams work well when they share a common mythology and can tell stories that have powerful, emotional truth. Leaders excel when they can tap into these myths and awaken the team into seeing how moving forward with the project is in the individual and collective interest.

As used here mythology is a desire to find a simple narrative in the chaos of life. This is in contrast to “myth” being used negatively as a way to spin a situation, which is essentially distorting the context for personal gain (lying). Even at that, though, by looking beneath the spin a leader can see the mythology that provoked the distortion. This is very valuable information to have in capitalizing on opportunity, holding a team together, dealing with conflict, and responding to adversaries. When we understand the myth behind a statement we give ourselves a chance to let go of emotional reactivity and moral judgments and can respond in our best interest.

Mythology – Who Needs It? Why Bother?

Let’s bring this down to earth. Try this. Ask someone, “Would you give me an update on your project (or work)?” Sit back and listen. Later, come back and ask the same person, “Would you describe the best day you’ve ever had on this project (or at work)?” When they have finished ask, “Would you describe the worst day you ever had on this project (or at work)?”

Contrast the two methods: the progress report versus best/worst narrative. Which has more information? Which has more meaning? Which will convey a richer context? Which will give you a better sense of how the project is faring and what it is really about?

Don’t get me wrong. I am a huge believer in earned value and other methods that provide succinct accurate information. I also believe, though, that those reporting methods get meaning from the mythology that underpins them. That is why risk management is so important. It gets the story out. But I digress.

In the next blog we will start looking at those 4 levels of myth and why they are important to a businessman or -woman.

Share you comments! I’d like to know what you think. In addition to commenting on this blog you can also send a response via e-mail to or visit