The Power of Funerals

Josh Linkner
February 11, 2018

Josh Linkner

Five-time tech entrepreneur, hyper-growth CEO, NY Times bestselling author and venture capitalist.

For most of us, the idea of a funeral is rather morbid. The somber gathering reminds us of our own mortality and vividly frames the notion that 'nothing lasts forever.' As compassionate human beings, we do whatever's possible to extend human life, a core tenant of a civilized society.

But in the business world, I think we need more funerals.

How many times have we clung to a failing initiative, only to look back years later wishing we pulled the plug much earlier? What about a stale product or service that is no longer optimally serving customer needs? In some cases, there are people that stay around too long, damaging corporate culture and refusing to change with the times.

If we think of a company as a living organism, the organization's ability to flourish is based on its capacity to discharge detrimental components. In the same way our immune system helps rid us of disease, a company only remains healthy by removing unproductive, antiquated, or poisonous systems, beliefs, and products. Instead of an endless collection that never gets purged, we must be willing to let go of what was in favor of what can be. Set free instead of hoard.

I'd suggest that most of our organizations could use a funeral or two. It could be an unprofitable customer, an outdated process, or a complacent supplier. Instead of allowing toxic situations to linger, let's have the courage to kill off that special project that's going nowhere, the archaic assumption that stints progress, or even an underperforming team or office.

Instead of viewing a funeral as something that should be avoided at all costs, we must realize that ending one chapter is the only way to begin the next. Instead of a melancholy moment, our business funerals can be an energizing gateway to the future. Applaud the wins of the past, mark a clear ending-point, and ring in a new era.

In some cultures, funerals are uplifting instead of sad. The celebration of life rather than the mourning of death. While we certainly want to preserve human life at all costs, we should have the courage to terminate various aspects in our professional lives so that we can move forward and soar.

What funerals need to happen in your business? I challenge you to find a dying approach and give it a proper burial. Host a ceremony, provide a eulogy, conduct an autopsy to learn from the loss, and most importantly, move on. While sad in some cases, each funeral becomes a new beginning. The circle of life (and business).

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