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Do you have a leaning to be negative?

At the BCS Business Change SIG last night in London, we had a great conversation. I expected we would, but I wasn't sure what turn it would take. But isn't that the way of all great conversations?

We were exploring the concept of Resilient Hope. In the discussion following my presentation, one person mentioned he'd be reading Daniel Kahneman's seminal work, Thinking Fast, Think Slow, and he referenced what Kahneman had identified as the Loss Aversion Bias, the tendency we all have for protecting our decisions and investments even if they might be wrong and we are losing, by investing, even more, to shore them up. We don't like losing. This works itself out in public, for example, by major projects and programmes, where clearly the business case is failing or has gone, but such is the investment that has gone into it, we pour good money after bad, because we don't to face the fact that we might have backed the wrong horse.

[shareable cite="Dr Dean Ornish"]Joy is a more powerful motivator than fear.[/shareable]
The conversation led on to talk about the climate of negativity in many of our work cultures and why that is.

I'm reminded of a great book by Dr Brené Brown, called Daring Greatly. Dr Brown is known for her research on shame, vulnerability and scarcity, but what emerges from her work, her interviews with parents and others is something transcendently positive. She is able to identify health through connecting with joy through gratitude.However, she has remarked that we find joy "terrifying." She has identified a mental narrative that most of us recognise called foreboding joy. Foreboding joy is where we catch ourselves in joy, and immediately fear that we will pay for it, or fear that something will come along to snatch it away.

However, she has remarked that we find joy "terrifying." She has identified a mental narrative that most of us recognise called foreboding joy. Foreboding joy` is where we catch ourselves in joy, and immediately fear that we will pay for it, or fear that something will come along to snatch it away.

This is perfectly irrational of course. People do prevail in joy. Look at this Oprah Winfrey interview with Brené Brown:

In my presentation, I quoted from Dr Dean Ornish, the leader of a breakthrough programme in leading behavioural change for chronically ill patients from lifestyle-induced illness. He said, "Joy is a more powerful motivator than fear." Indeed it was, as people soon began to see and feel health benefits from a radical and repeated regime. Rather than be motivated by "do this or you will die" sort of counsel, they connected with joy and through that resilient hope emerged.

Maybe we need to take more care of joy in our lives and not snuff it out too quickly.

Question:

What do you think?
Leave your thoughts below.

If you'd like to access my presentation from last night, plus other material around resilient hope, complete this form below.

You’re Not Crazy!

Sometimes it seems as if the whole world around you has gone mad. And then you begin to doubt that yourself. "Am I still sane?" you ask yourself. Sometimes that is what a dysfunctional culture can do to you. It makes you doubt what you thought you knew for certain.

I was talking with a client is who leading a major transformational change and she was beginning to see signs of it all unravelling. Even the people who were supposed to be taking the lead on certain aspects of the change were flipping between platitudes - “everything is fine” - and defensiveness. She needed to talk to someone sane, so she called me. In this example, our culture can be dangerous: it can blindside people to very real problems. If enough people agree, they can be denial until there is a disaster is inevitable. Culture can do that.

Sometimes culture can seduce us into acting like lemmings.

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Here are some common symptoms to watch out for:

  • Silo-working on a programme that would have a far-reaching impact.
  • Project teams being focused solely on the tasks and the technology.
  • Over-optimism about the results to justify their earlier case, the so-called optimism bias.
  • Under-resourced and over-extended managers who have just been given another 42 strategic goals.
  • Key early adopters in the change who still don’t know what’s going on only a few weeks from “go live.”

Another way of describing culture is a conspiracy of conceit. Culture can seduce us into acting like lemmings; we are about to rush over a cliff to our deaths and we all think we’re doing fine. We take false comfort in each other. An antidote is to listen to someone from outside, who is not in that culture. And that’s hard to do when your first reaction is to say, ”But you don’t know how we work here.”

I told my client, "You're not crazy!"

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I told my client, “You’re not crazy!” She needed to hear that, in the teeth of such huge cultural inertia. She is doing well but needs encouragement, support, and guidance, in that order.

Question: How do you support your colleagues when they are not going with the cultural flow? I’d like to hear how you do it.

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