The Bell Rock Lighthouse: 3 Lessons in Company Culture

The Bell Rock Lighthouse, located off the north coast of Scotland has stood for over 200 years. The masonry work has been said to have been built to such a high standard that the lighthouse has not needed maintenance or repair work in that time on its foundation, but has continued to fulfil its purpose despite being located in some of the roughest seas on earth.
The circumstances around the building of the lighthouse are even more incredible than the fact that it still stands. The lighthouse itself is built upon Bell Rock, a small island that remains submerged for the better half of a year, as well as being submerged through high tide. As the Bell Rock was such a small island, no dynamite could be used in the building process, meaning the island had to be chiselled flat by hand.

The question remains as to how the Bell Rock Tower still stands?

The foundation of why the Bell Rock lighthouse still stands is that ultimately not the rock upon which it stands, but the team of dedicated and motivated individuals that built it. The purported culture between the builders, architects, stonemasons and investors created a lighthouse that still stands to this day.
Here are the lessons from this that can be shared to improve your company culture:

It starts with the mission

The Bell Rock Lighthouse started with why. Not only did it start with why, but it painted a specific picture as to the reason behind the lighthouses existence that was so compelling to the team members involved that they felt compelled to work every day. From the start, the absence of a lighthouse had claimed countless lives through shipwrecks. The worst of these rocks was Bell Rock, which claimed 6 shipwrecks a year single handedly. You could even say this is worst than the Titanic iceberg.
Starting with the mission means being able to say why it is so important that you should turn up to work every day. For these builders, their why was dictated by a simple catch cry, that to not do this would lead to more sailor deaths.

Acceleration matters more than speed

The biggest issue that most companies face in their culture is growing anxious when projects aren’t moving forward. From the outside, it looks like no code has been written, or not a single sale has been made, but that doesn’t really matter. What matters a lot more is that people are building momentum.
In the construction of the lighthouse, 2 years were spent on building the foundation. To an outsider, this may seem like 2 years spent on doing nothing. But to an insider, these are 2 years spent doing very little. But to the insider, the foundation is what counts.
The real challenge in most organisations is recognising and redefining what work is, and what work isn’t. If you can redefine what work is, you can start to see how projects build momentum. Hitting the ground running isn’t always a good thing, but accelerating up to the point almost certainly is.

The only goal is in the process

For the lighthouse to be constructed, the end result was not that the lighthouse was profitable. In fact, to profit from the lighthouse would take a number of years. However, the key was not in building a profitable lighthouse, but a sustainable one. The fact that the lighthouse still stands long after those that built it have left us suggests that ultmately, the interim goal of profit is not outweighed by the goal of achieving new processes. The construction of the lighthouse itself presented a new way for sailors to sail off the coast of Scotland. It is not just a structure, it’s a new way of doing things. That’s a process.
For the organisation that is focused on sales and profits misses out on the bigger picture. You aren’t trying to build something to make money. You’re trying to change the way people do things. Money is the outcome.

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