How can we help you today?

Fill in the form below so we can explore ways to reach your goals or call us at 1800 577 346.

1 / 2
How can we help you?
One last step

Leave your details below and we'll be in touch.

2 / 2
Next step
Thanks! We have received your form submission, I'll get back to you shortly!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form

The Curious Case of Cargo Cults and Corporate Innovation

The Curious Case of Cargo Cults and Corporate Innovation
What's new: K-Startup Grand Challenge 2020 for Australian/New Zealand Startups! More information here.

The term cargo was first used to describe a range of practices carried out by a group of people that occurs in the wake of contact with more technologically advanced societies.

For example:

“The cargo cults of Melanesia, in attempts to get cargo to fall by parachute or land in planes or ships again, imitated the same practices they had seen the soldiers, sailors, and airmen use. Cult behaviors usually involved mimicking the day-to-day activities and dress styles of US soldiers, such as performing parade ground drills with wooden or salvaged rifles. The islanders carved headphones from wood and wore them while sitting in fabricated control towers. They waved the landing signals while standing on the runways. They lit signal fires and torches to light up runways and lighthouses... many built life-size replicas of airplanes out of straw and cut new military-style landing strips out of the jungle, hoping to attract more airplanes.”

The cargo cults were clearly guilty of trying to copy the behavioural by-products of the advanced societies that visited them instead of what made those societies advanced in the first place. I might want to strike a football as elegantly as David Beckham in his prime, but all of the sleeve tattoos, fauxhawk hair stylings and pop-star pursuing in the world isn’t going to help my cause.

The modern day equivalent of a cargo cult in the corporate arena would have to be that of the innovation cargo cult, where mimicking the day-to-day activities, dress styles and characteristics of the tech startup ecosystem is practiced in place of the genuine application of effort to address an organisation’s inhibiting processes, values and systems. The aforementioned passage could just as well read:

“The cargo cults of the corporate world, in attempts to generate and commercialise breakthrough ideas, imitated the same practices they had seen the hackers, hustlers and hipsters use. Cult behaviors usually involved mimicking the day-to-day activities and dress styles of startup founders, such as littering the office with bean bags, ping pong and foosball tables, performing daily stand-ups and wearing hoodies and sneakers to the office. Cult members eat pizza and drink beers on Fridays. They often hang out at coworking spaces and hip inner city cafes, hoping it will result in an increase in market capitalisation.”

Organisations that are serious about transforming the way they do things look beyond surface level manifestations to what makes modern companies such as Amazon, Netflix or Slack successful today. This goes beyond the exterior to things such as creating an environment that truly supports experimentation, that is empowering rather than micromanaging, that is built upon foundational behaviours such as radical transparency and extreme ownership, that is cross-functional and does away with silos, that is open instead of closed, adaptable and measures outcomes not inputs.Like human beings, organisations often default to whatever is simpler. We default to views that can be explained by a simple narrative, as opposed to views that take more complex details into account and are generally more accurate, realistic, and balanced.While it might be more challenging to do the latter, it is the most rewarding, and if organisations are serious about staying relevant beyond delivering short-term shareholder returns, then they need to get beyond the cargo cult of today. For more insights like these visit

Workflow Podcast

The WorkFlow podcast is hosted by Steve Glaveski with a mission to help you unlock your potential to do more great work in far less time, whether you're working as part of a team or flying solo, and to set you up for a richer life.

No items found.


To help you avoid stepping into these all too common pitfalls, we’ve reflected on our five years as an organization working on corporate innovation programs across the globe, and have prepared 100 DOs and DON’Ts.

No items found.


Unlock new opportunities and markets by taking your brand into the brave new world.

Thanks for your submission. We will be in touch shortly!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

Steve Glaveski

Steve Glaveski is the co-founder of Collective Campus, author of Time Rich, Employee to Entrepreneur and host of the Future Squared podcast. He’s a chronic autodidact, and he’s into everything from 80s metal and high-intensity workouts to attempting to surf and do standup comedy.

Ask me a question!