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Lesson on balancing tradition with change

Daniel Saunders

Chief Executive Officer

Photo by Roberto Catarinicchia on Unsplash

Tradition in an Age of Rapid Change

King Charles III’s ascent to the throne heralds a new era for the British Royal Family. An institution that skillfully strikes a balance between long-standing customs and the demands of the modern world. 

The similarities between the monarchy and businesses that are fighting to remain relevant has captivated me since I met Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in 2016. In light of this, I have compiled some of the most important lessons the monarchy can impart on business executives trying to balance old and new.

Preserving traditions while embracing change 

Traditions and symbolic behaviour are thought to have been used by humans as early as 500,000 years ago. They are now recognised as a valuable social construct for fostering harmony among large populations.

So even though many royal customs may seem like pomp and circumstance, they have the power to unite whole countries. And although royal traditions are crucial for preserving national identity, they must coexist with new concepts and modernisation. 

It’s the same story for businesses. Take Lloyd’s of London, an insurance marketplace founded in a cafe on the Thames 335 years ago. At its corporate offices, centuries-old customs continue to be practised today. The liveried personnel are still referred to as “waiters” (a nod to the company’s coffee shop roots), the Lutine Bell is still tolled, and the “Loss Book” is still filled out with a quill pen. 

But alongside such customs, Lloyd’s established the “Lloyd’s Lab,” an Innovation Lab that helps them discover and implement new innovations, technologies, and working methods. Because of this strategy, they continue to set the standard for their industry by launching the first IVF insurance policy and creating ways to supply COVID-19 vaccinations to developing nations.

Systematically evaluate emerging technology

No matter your heritage, you must stay current with technological advancements to remain relevant. I don’t advocate that firms jump on every trend “just because,” but rather, they develop a systematic process for monitoring current developments and assessing the potential impact on the business.

Despite having a reputation for conservatism, Queen Elizabeth II was a pioneer in embracing modern technologies, being one of the first heads of state to send an email in 1976. Recognising early on that technology could help her engage with more people, she insisted that her coronation ceremony be broadcast on television. 

The 122-year-old BSI Group is the UK’s national agency for creating technical standards and certifying enterprises. For BSI keeping abreast of the latest technologies is business critical. For example, they needed to lead in setting the standards for AI usage. Given the pace and scope of emerging AI technology, this objective was a considerable undertaking. 

To address this, BSI used an unconventional approach in the form of an accelerator program to identify businesses using cutting-edge auditing technologies. They collaborated with Citadel AI, a Japanese company focusing on automated monitoring and testing for AI. This alliance will support BSI’s goal of monitoring the legal and responsible use of potentially risky AI technology.

Maintain your long-term vision

Queen Elizabeth II’s unshakeable sense of responsibility was one of her defining qualities. She performed her public duties well into her nineties because she believed her life’s purpose was to serve people. While this goal remained the same throughout her life, the methods used to realise it changed. For instance, later in life, the Queen made humorous appearances with Paddington Bear to connect with a younger generation. 

King Charles has always had a long-term goal of preserving the environment for future generations. This has motivated him throughout his life, and it extends beyond any four-year political cycle and even his lifetime.

Such goals serve as the compass for every organisation, providing direction and allowing for course correction as necessary. A long-term vision shouldn’t be revised each time a new CEO joins the business. Otherwise, you’ll bounce around between numerous goals without making progress. However, you should update the methods used for achieving your long-term vision. The mistake leaders (or monarchs) make is assuming that what has always worked will continue to work. 


It will be fascinating to see how King Charles III navigates between tradition and modernity. Which customs will be upheld, and what innovations will be introduced into proceedings? 

In any case, we can learn much from the royal family about embracing change while maintaining the customs that provide a sense of unity and belonging within our organisations.  

Business executives in heritage brands should consider how the royal family has used long-term goals to maintain a feeling of duty and purpose. Still, the approaches to carrying out those duties have changed over time. Moreover, the monarchy provides a case study in striking a balance between adopting modern technology and maintaining historical customs. Businesses striving to preserve their history while staying relevant in today’s fast-paced environment should learn from these lessons.