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…or a great opportunity for growth and development?

One of the biggest problems suffered by drug addicts is having to work so much harder than everybody else. In order to hide their problem, they often have to tell a lot of lies and half-truths. Addicts often find that their expensive habits push them towards the murky world of some of society’s shadier characters too, with all the hard work and danger that entails. It must be exhausting always covering one’s tracks, remembering what one has said and to whom, getting the story straight, staying under the radar of public attention and trying to look innocent to everyone all the time.

The important thing to remember here is that addiction is an illness. It is a problem in the system-at-large. And some individuals are more susceptible than others; and some individuals are more exposed to the conditions in which the illness is contracted. The most practical response is not one of blame, resentment or recrimination but one of understanding and activating the solution.

The same is true on all scales. When organisations have become victim to the illness of out-of-control growth-at-any-price, they find themselves in the downward spiral of the addict. They need ever-larger doses of the drug and their lives begin to unravel. Not only do their standards become corroded, they find themselves working increasingly hard just to present the appearance of healthy normality – to shareholders, to customers, to staff, to the media, sometimes even to the law.

The result of this, just as with the individual addict, is that massive amounts of time, cash, energy and other resources are wasted – resources that could have been put to use developing and growing healthily.

All of the above might be said of what was going on in the early-21st-century economic bubble. Many companies were sucked into the vortex of this relentless, drug-crazed party and lost sight of normal life. As the fight for market share forced them to climb to ever-higher excesses in an “ever-expanding market” some found themselves irretrievably hooked; their moral codes inevitably suffered. In order to sustain the costly addictive habits they had acquired, they were forced to stoop to behaviours that once might have appalled them. A number – like Lehman Brothers – overdosed and died. Others – like Lloyds and RBS – survived but got into serious trouble and had to be bailed out and sent to rehab.

One or two, like Barclays, realised the errors of their ways, ditched their more disreputable friends, got into a programme of addiction recovery and began to make amends.

I predict that these sober, recovering addicts will be the most successful and prosperous. Watch this space.

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