3 little pigs. Houses of straw, sticks, and bricks. You know the story. Even better if you know the Green Jelly song and corresponding video (“yo, wolf face…”). Picture either for a second. Let’s focus on the 3rd pig and the house made of brick.
– There’s little value in brick WITHOUT mortar. I’m no bricklayer, but I am certain that the quality of the mortar matters as well. The straw and stick houses both lacked that cohesive magic, which would allow the structure to survive all of the huffing and puffing. If the bricks were just stacked, they probably would have gone down as well, but as the story goes, they did not – thank you mortar.
– It’s easy to look at something and just see the bricks. Bricks are heavy, strong, and solid. You can pick one up. You can imagine the weight in a wall while you hold one in your hand. Mortar’s less familiar. You see it, but we don’t call it a brick and mortar wall, so it’s off of the average person’s radar. Yet without it, the sum-of-the-parts is never greater than its whole.
– In “Good to Great” by Jim Collins, he uses the mortar metaphor to highlight the often hidden and unnamed portions of a business that drive its surface level success. The 3rd pig knew it, the other two did not. You can absolutely build without it, just don’t be surprised when it comes crashing down.
– The next time you’re looking at some structure/business and admiring it, ask the question – what’s the mortar here? What’s actually keeping this thing standing despite all of the big, bad wolves running around?