When people stop learning, lose curiosity, ignore their professional community, and focus entirely on the weeds of day to day business, bad things happen. Formerly productive employees, even those who have been critical to the success of an organization, become impediments. Rather than helping with the next stage of a company’s evolution, they become entitled, tenured obstacles, simultaneously making life miserable for the people who still believe in the mission. Rules and bureaucracy become the norm and managers create fiefdoms. Stability is deified at the expense of productivity and meaning.
In the absence of an appetite for relevance, an employee’s relationship to change is one of pain and protecting a status quo that is usually based on a mythical ideal. They will not be able to see that the evolving needs of your customers should dictate what makes sense for your organization, not titles, rewards, habits, or preferred tasks.
The less demand there is for constantly renewed relevance, the harder a staff will work to set the “way we do things” in concrete. They will confuse how you do things with why you do them and fixate on maintaining their status as a good employee. You’ll know this is happening when essential progress is blocked by established players (and leaders) bemoaning erosion of the culture. Often, they appear to be afraid of losing power or position. But these are just surrogates for the fear of losing relevance. If you want to drive productivity and productive interaction, insist on relevance.