John Mahoney, the wonderful actor who played Martin Crane, the cantankerous but lovable father of the insufferably snobby Frasier and Niles Crane on the series Frasier, died February 4.
I watched Frasier when it aired in the 1990s, and I watch reruns these days on Netflix when I need a dose of humor (which is often). It’s a great television series that has stood the test of time.
It is Mahoney’s character, Marty, from whom Joel Steckel, co-author with me of Shift Ahead, drew two business lessons for our book, which is about the struggle that companies face to stay relevant in today’s hyper-fast market.
Keeper of the chair.
The first lesson is actually about Marty’s chair, a bilious green, duct-taped recliner which he brings with him when he moves in with Frasier. As we write in our book, this chair, and Marty’s attachment to it, are emblematic of why some companies can’t shift ahead of exponential changes in order to stay current.
Like Marty, they’re creatures of habit. They want to hang onto things that are in their comfort zone, that are familiar, especially as the world spins faster.
This is human nature, of course, the tendency to hold tight to what’s comfortable. In our research, after interviewing over 100 executives and experts in the field, we found that a key barrier to organizational change is an inability to get out of Marty Crane’s chair.
Related: 5 Tips to Avoid Creating Change Spectators
Prisoner of the comfort zone.
Companies, brands, organizations and people -- including Marty Crane -- are all challenged by the currents of change. This, however, is complicated by the challenge of not losing what makes them what and who they are. Which brings me to the second lesson inspired by Marty.
Just as it is critical for companies to be able to get out of their comfort zone in order to successfully shift ahead, it is also critical for companies to maintain their authenticity. Martin Crane is who he is -- a straight-talking, retired police detective who just happens to move in with his pompous, smarty-pants son.
From one episode to the next, Martin Crane never veers from his true character. He is the television show’s moral center, at times cranky and at times showing great love and compassion for his sons.