By Sakshi Shetty
Corporate ego can have extremely detrimental effects on a company’s sales, reach, reputation, and progress. Most times, a company may not even be aware of the existence of its collective ego. The first step to eliminating corporate ego is having a precise understanding of what ego is, both personally and within corporate culture, and the ability to recognize its presence within one’s organization.
Psychology 101: What is Ego?
According to Freud’s Personality Theory, ego is the component of our personality that is responsible for dealing with reality; it internalizes the information the world tells us about ourselves, becoming a part of who we are – for the better or worse.
In more modern times, ego simply means a person’s sense of self-esteem or self-importance. A person’s ego can grow or be diminished by feedback from others, making it one of the most fragile parts of an individual’s personality. Breaking down Freud’s theory to simple terms, an individual’s ego seeks to please the self-identity’s drive that will benefit the individual in the long term than bring grief.
In a corporate environment context, a collective ego can exist within a corporation and its members. When ego is deeply engrained in a company’s corporate culture, individuals across all parts of the structure begin to neglect honest feedback. This is because the honest feedback can potentially be damaging to how the organization sees itself, indicating that the ego only likes positive, over-inflated feedback.
Although Ego sounds like this crazy, greedy villain that dooms its owner for failure – it is not necessarily a bad thing! Our sense of self is what drives us, gives us definitions to rally around, and forms our belief systems. However, egos get complicated when we’re unable to consider other options, refuse to admit we could be wrong, and operate with close minds. Basically, our egos block us from exploring options that are contrary to our beliefs.
Bringing it back to the corporate context: the more complex the inter-relationships in a company, the more complex the corporate ego. The more order a system has, the more it will need to protect itself, especially the underlying order.
Eliminating the collective corporate ego through Market Research
We all hate to be wrong, whether it’s on an individual level or an organizational level. But obviously we cannot always be right. When we refuse to consider other solutions that may be contrary to ours, this can lead to costly mistakes in business and on a personal level.
In business, companies create narratives around their brand, making sure with each step they take they are staying true to this narrative. For instance, Apple’s culture is to create products that are superior in user-experience design and style. Let’s say, hypothetically, that the Apple engineers create a new iPhone feature that sticks to their philosophy, and meets their regular standards of design, simplicity, and functionality. In this situation, their corporate ego says they cannot be wrong with the new feature because this philosophy has always worked to their advantage. Fast forward a few months. The feature has been released, it’s reviews are unpleasant, and the general response is bad. Now the sales are down, and the shareholders are putting pressure on the company to pull up their socks.
In this hypothetical example, had the Apple engineers put aside their corporate egos, challenged their assumptions, done market research – they could have avoided this situation altogether. In reality, all companies, including ours, are guilty of doing this unknowingly or knowingly.
The purest cure for eliminating corporate ego is honesty and listening. This is where market research comes into the picture.
Although opening up ourselves to outside opinions, criticisms, and testing is hard – it is worth it. With market research, one can test the product before its launch, and iterate designs based on what customers think. This can sometimes validate a product, pushing the company forward with confidence towards a successful launch. Or it may require for them to go back to the drawing board and re-strategize. Either way, market research will always provide insights that will help improve the product. Success is guaranteed if these research findings are taken into consideration, keeping the corporate ego aside. In the long run, this will help the company save a lot of money since they will not have to pivot later on, and it will greatly increase customer loyalty.
Thus when it comes to tackling that corporate ego, market research is most definitely the recipe for success!