I was at a coffee shop when I saw a father valiantly trying to get his young children to eat their apples. Trouble was that the staff had helpfully given them samples of chocolate chip cookies. The kids were predictably perplexed (and anguished) that they could not have a cookie. The apples never stood a chance.

In organizations, passing over apples for the cookies is common too. We have to be careful about what is unconsciously incentivized. Too much internal competition can incentivize lack of sharing of resources or knowledge. Reward structures can incentivize decisions in the current quarter over more rational long-term decisions or investments. A business unit might make decisions at the expense of the larger organization’s benefit.

Not getting what you want in your organization? Take a fresh look around. The crumbs may tell the tale.