Blog Archives

The Fallacies of Control & the Quick Fix: On Culture and the Complexity of Organizations

Anyone seeking to change an organization has known the pitfalls of trying to control behavior and motivation. Setting goals and expectations is not so hard. One-off wins tied to an event or a compelling speech can move the needle. But execution over the long-term .. including any lasting, sustainable change in thinking .. is another matter.

Ask Lou Gerstner, the man who moved IBM from hardware to services in the 1990’s, who said:

Culture is not just one aspect of the game, it IS the game.

I’ve always seen this as a fundamental breakthrough, a wake-up call for change the modern organization. Yet leaders will routinely, if not obsessively, plod through short-term ideas for long-term results, without ever seeing the fallacy. What’s missing is an understanding of how people in groups behave, and the implications that complexity has on an organization.

I won’t try to unpack all that here.  Frankly, it’s enough to fill a book (or two), and the subject of some in-depth posts. But for the sake of discussion, let’s establish a premise:  people in organizations are driven more by a need for belonging and conformity with group aspirations, and less by draconian measures to direct, incentivize or otherwise control it’s members. In this light, culture can be defined (if loosely) as a set of groundrules for survival, based on what has worked in the past.  New leaders and programs come and go.  But the memory of groups runs long and deep.

Try changing the minds of an organization on how things work. Ask Lou Gerstner.

For our #orgdna chat on MON 9/21/15 from 9:30 to 11:00pm ET, let’s tee up the conversation like this:

  • Q1. If we can’t control behavior or results, what CAN we influence? Does environment play a key role?
  • Q2. Why do organic ways of thinking (forests, ecosystems, viruses) provide rich metaphors for understanding people in groups, and org culture in general? 
  • Q3. What can leaders try to do in the near-term to impact the long-term?
  • Q4. Can a culture be changed?

The #cdna community of thinkers became the #orgdna community last month, to better describe and focus our dialog.  I think we’re off to a great start. Evidence?  When one chat among a few of us creates enough ideas for 2-3 more chats, imagine what can happen if we keep going, learning as we go, even as we expand and diversify our group?

Please join us. The conversation gets more lively with more ideas in play. And lord knows we enjoy a lively conversation.

As always, thanks for stopping in.

Chris (aka @sourcepov)


Deeper in the Flow: What are the Traditional Sources of Critical Thinking?

Making Waves, Silver Turbulence (c) 2014 Amberwood Media Group, all rights reserved

Critical Thinking: Deeper in the Flow | cc3 ncu ar 2014 Amberwood Media Group

In the rapid stream of ideas rushing past us each day, there is scant time or energy to capture and distill them all.

The current runs fast.

Sometimes we’re able to break free of the digital frenzy of information, able (if only briefly) to pull against the current of our social media stream to reflect in deeper waters. Once there, though, are we ready? Do we still have the skills to discern real events from fiction? Opinion from fact? Symptoms from causes? What of the core skills required for critical thinking to take hold, and what are their sources?

This is the line of questioning we’ll bring into focus this summer, and I think we might be best served looking at these matters across a time horizon: What were traditional sources? Where do these skills come from today? And where will we get them in the future?

We’ll start with a look back, to traditional sources. Certainly public education and higher education provide fertile ground. Do we go all the way back to classic influences, like Aristotle or Socrates? From my not so long ago memory of grade school days, forms of the Socratic inquiry (marked by it’s bedeviling “..and why is THAT?”) have remained alive and well on elementary playgrounds. But to what degree does classic inquiry still infuse the learning horizon? To what desgree does it need to? Let’s find out.

  • Q1. What role did the early greek classics play in establishing critical thinking?
  • Q2. How central have the liberal arts been in teaching critical thinking at the college level, and in which domains?
  • Q3. Has public education attempted to introduce critical thinking in primary, and with what success?
  • Q4. Let’s establish a common thread: how did past learners become comfortable with ambiguity?

I look forward to an interesting conversation. This current is likely to run particularly fast. I’ll be sure to bring extra paddles.

Chris aka @sourcepov


Learning in the Fast Lane: Winning the Battle for Focus and Attention

I was recently inspired by a tweet from KQED in N. California under the brand “Mind Shift” .. and my re-tweet is shown below. Not ironically, the visual of the various aspects listed caught my attention. Many of the elements shown hail from the realm of design thinking or critical thinking. Virtually all of them are worth some reflection.

As we think about the implications, let’s focus on 4 specific examples of content triggers that seem to be in contrast with traditional education/learning norms. Perhaps we might derive some insights.

  • Q1. Brevity – in stark contrast with textbooks and 100-slide PowerPoints; can we be more succinct?
  • Q2. Controversy – it’s out of place in an orderly classroom, but don’t our best teachers challenge our thinking?
  • Q3. Contrast – a strong visual impact can garnish attention, at least for a short while; but what about contrasting ideas?
  • Q4. Emotion/Story. A great story is packed with emotional content and triggers. Can more stories drive deeper learning?

Much is changing in education and our awareness of how we learn. Is there some new thinking in this diagram. Let’s mull these points in our next #cdna.

Tuck in the little ones, and top off your beverage of choice.
We’re hoping to start MON 5.18 at 10pm.

As always, I’m looking forward !

Chris (aka @sourcepov)