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Is “Insider-itis” Hurting Your Organization?

By Jeff Henderson | October 12, 2023
Is “Insider-itis” Hurting Your Organization?

This blog post has been adapted from Jeff Henderson’s bestselling personal and professional growth resource, Know What You’re FOR. Jeff’s marketing expertise has contributed to the success of the Atlanta Braves, Callaway Gardens, Lake Lanier Islands, and Chick-fil-A, Inc. Know What You’re FOR provides an effective growth strategy for work and for life. And as our book of the week, it’s on sale now for just $15. Get your copy here.

Back in the summer of 2018, International House of Pancakes decided they wanted to be known for something else. Instead of pancakes, they would now be known as International House of Burgers. They had a really clever logo change by simply turning the p upside down, and they received an extraordinary amount of publicity over this. It trended #1 on Twitter for quite a while.

That’s the good news.

The bad news is that much of the response could be accurately summed up with a tweet from Wendy’s: “Can’t wait to try a burger from the place that decided pancakes were too hard.”

I’m sure there were a lot of great reasons for the change. Customers just didn’t buy it.

My hunch is that the impetus for this name change was generated from a boardroom instead of the dining room. For example, has anyone ever said to you, “If you want a great hamburger, you’ve got to go to International House of Pancakes”? Yeah, me either. As a result, an announcement like this lacks credibility. And when you hurt your brand’s credibility, you hurt your brand.

The better play would have been to let customers announce the change. “I always just thought of IHOP for breakfast,” Bob says, “but one day, I went there for lunch and had the hamburger. That’s when I thought, I think this might be the greatest hamburger in the world!

Multiply Bob by hundreds, and you might be onto something. If there are no Bobs, then it comes off as a marketing gimmick. And marketing gimmicks don’t last. Brands that chase after them often don’t either.

Keep the Main Thing the Main Thing

The future is going to reward businesses and organizations that are designed to see the world from the customer’s perspective. It sounds easy. It’s far from it.

In our organizations, there are gaps we don’t often see because it’s hidden within the confines of our own knowledge and experience. I call it insider-itis. It’s dangerous because we see the business from a place the customer never sees it. As a result, we make decisions that are logical to us but perhaps not logical to the customer.

Keeping the main thing the main thing is an antidote to insider-itis. You must proactively push against this malady. To do this, I want to provide you with four strategies that will help you lead your team in the fight against insider-itis:


Don’t just say it. Show it.

Words are powerful, but research tells us over and over again that words plus images are more powerful. The walls of your organization should be dripping visually with vision. And yes, this can happen for virtual organizations as well.

One of the ways we push against insider-itis at Gwinnett Church is to repeat over and over again, “Every Sunday is someone’s first Sunday.” This isn’t just a mantra. It’s true. However, we can lull ourselves to sleep, thinking everyone knows where to park, where to go, and how long the service will be. We can talk as if they’ve been here from the very beginning. We will drift there if we aren’t intentional and if we only rely on words. 

It’s why we created signs at strategic places for our Guest Services volunteers to see. We picked up this idea from the Notre Dame football team. On the way out to the stadium before the game, the players tap a sign that reads, “Play Like a

Champion Today.”

Our team does the same thing by tapping this sign – “Every Sunday Is Someone’s First Sunday” – before they go out to serve. Visually showing the vision and creating a literal touchpoint is a powerful way to keep the main thing the main thing.

Bottom line – keep the vision visible.


A business hero of mine is Jimmy Collins, the former president of Chick-fil-A. Along with Truett Cathy, Jimmy helped build Chick-fil-A into what it is today. I learned so much from Jimmy, but one of the top lessons was “catch people doing right.”

For many employees, they hear more from their boss about what’s going wrong than what’s going right. In fact, the first thing many employees think when the boss is calling is, Oh no. What did I do?

Sure, we don’t need to shy away from correction and instruction. We also need to realize that celebration is a far better instructor. Jimmy was really good at correcting, but he was equally good at celebrating.

He’d walk back to the kitchen and ask, “Who made this pie?” He’d say it in a rather demanding tone. After a few moments of silence, someone in the kitchen timidly raised their hand, realizing perhaps that they had messed up in front of the boss. Jimmy walked over, put his hand on their shoulder, and announced to everyone in the kitchen,

“This is an excellent pie. Exactly how it should be made!”

Do you think that employee remembered that day? Do you think it enhanced their passion for making the best pie possible, day in and day out?

This is the power of celebration. It helps reinforce the main thing.


I could be wrong, but my guess is that most of your meetings happen at “the office.” And with all due respect to Michael Scott, the office is fairly bland when it comes to real life. I’m not suggesting you shouldn’t meet there. I am suggesting you shouldn’t meet there all the time. Get outside of the four walls. It’s where the best insights live. For those of you who work virtually, you can do the same. Don’t always settle for a quiet home location. Get outside. Where you meet is a key strategy in the battle against insider-itis.

Rarely, if ever, have these words been said from a cubicle: “I have a breakthrough idea!” The reason is that cubicles shield us from the real world. Out there in the real world are problems – where great ideas go and hide, waiting for you to find them. It’s what Greg Hale did in 1999 at Disney World. He began his career as an electrical engineer, but like any great team member, Greg had a passion for the company that went far beyond his

job description.

As Greg walked around the park, he saw a problem. The success of Disney was creating more and more long lines, negatively impacting the guest experience. As he personally observed, listened to, and interacted with guests, the problem of long lines gave him an idea. What if guests could wait in line but not physically be in line? Thus, the idea of Fast Pass was born.

That’s the good news. The challenging news is, why did it take Disney from 1955 to 1999 to figure out a solution to the problem? Often, it’s because we aren’t up close and personal enough with our guests to hear and see real-time problems. It’s why I believe one of the most important mantras to increase innovation and creativity is “get out of the office.”


Most meetings deal with the sustainability of the organization – sales, data, and projections, which are all very important and worthwhile. It’s also why many organizations eventually fail. The sustainability of the organization unknowingly becomes the goal, and customers are a means to that end.

In your meetings, talk as much about the customer as you talk about the organization. Ask this question: “How is this helping the person we are trying to serve!” This will help you stay focused on the ones who will ultimately bring about your success – the customers.

Wondering how your organization can do more for your customers – and the world?

Your organization flourishes when it finds its identity. And its identity is rooted in two questions: What are we known for? And what do we want to be known for? Discover the powerful bottom-line impact of knowing what your organization is for as you read our book of the week, marketing expert Jeff Henderson’s Know What You’re FOR: A Growth Strategy for Work, An Even Better Strategy for Life. Get your copy here for only $15.

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