Last weekend the European Parliament elections were held across the European Union. I was struck by the results in Germany. The map, below, shows the leading party in each voting district. The grey colour shows where the centre-right CSU party won the most votes, while the blue represents those districts where the far-right AfD party won the most votes.

2024 European Election Results 2024 (Source: Wikipedia)

The resulting map shows an almost perfect fit between the old states of West Germany and East Germany. In other words, despite 35 years of integration, there is still a clear socio-political divide between the two halves of Germany. Inertia, it seems, has defeated integration.

The hidden power of inertia is everywhere. The nearest main road to our village, for example, sits directly above the Fosse Way, built by the Romans between Exeter and Lincoln 2,000 years ago. And the global standard width of rail tracks of 1,435mm – or 4 ft 8½ in! – dates back to the width used in the coalfields of Northern England in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and derives from the width needed to fit a carthorse between the rails.

In business, particularly for large successful organisations, inertia can be deadly. Kodak, Nokia, Blockbuster, Blackberry and Olivetti are all high-profile examples of companies that failed to escape their own inertia and were unable to change as quickly as their markets.

A key job of organisational leaders is to kill the organisation’s inertia before the inertia kills the organisation. Driving for innovation, encouraging faster, more agile action and continuously investing in the next wave of growth are all essential leadership tasks. Even more importantly, you must eradicate the attitudes and culture of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” and the “that’s not the way we do it around here.” It can be extremely difficult and painful to achieve, but is essential to your ongoing success.

Where are the pockets of inertia in your organisation? And what steps are you taking to kill the inertia before the inertia kills you?

Off The Record: Hungry Heart by Bruce Springsteen

Got a wife and kids in Baltimore, Jack –

I went out for a ride and I never went back

Like a river that don’t know where it’s flowing

I took a wrong turn and I just kept going.