means resistance to learning.
"The significant problems we face
cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created
them." Albert Einstein
A boat sails out to sea, reaches the
horizon, and never returns. Our minds become crowded with assumptions. The
"truth" boils down to a few perfectly clear observations: this boat reached the
horizon, an obvious straight line, fell out of sight and never returned. Beset
with loss and fear, the seaside fishing village begins to draw the "only"
logical conclusion: the boat fell off the edge of the world.
This conclusion, widely held for
centuries, produced limiting effects: people fished only within sight of the
shore. This made perfect sense. It mitigated danger and reduced loss. Soon,
people forgot the original incident, as the belief in a flat world became
Processes and Reduced Innovation
Understanding inflexibility is a key to
preparing people for spontaneous learning, innovation and empowerment. The same
processes that resulted in a flat world for whole societies affect smaller
teams and individuals today. Learning requires the ability to perceive a
diversity of viewpoints before concluding. Prejudicial conclusions undermine
conclusions differ from intelligent conclusions largely through emotion.
Prejudicial conclusions often invite fear and contain potential loss (the
fishing boat contained loved ones; we need the fish to survive). The natural
tendencya critical survival mechanismis to avoid similar dangers.
This is perfectly workable, given access to the emotions. Getting burned by a
hot stove usually results in avoiding hot stoves. But if the emotions are not
understood, we may end up avoiding the whole kitchen; and feel threatened if
someone suggests a change in our behavior!
Real examples of limiting beliefs exist
in every working team. For example, if reward has accompanied a long-term
pyramid mentality, then hidden assumptions and conclusions can cause resistance
to empowerment. If a tried and true product orientation has been successful
without conscious learning revitalization, then unrecognized conclusions may
reduce responsiveness. If individuals feel they've worked hard and have earned
their success, this same belief may result in "safe" thinking and impede
spontaneous learning. When the conclusions are prematureforced and
assumptivethe results are usually limiting.
The emotions of change are the strong
ones: loss, anger and fear. Each change, each continuous learning opportunity,
contains these emotions. One key is to recognize what really is at stake: are
we threatened with a loss of value or with a loss of a limitation disguised as
value? Can our risk in innovating be analyzed for action or are we paralyzing
ourselves with self-fulfilling mind process?
We have within us remarkable
capabilities for change and learning, and for helping each other make the
process continuous. The approach is simple, but does require some
concentration, an exchange of help and a lot of application.
Inflexibility can be converted to
new learning through a 5-step process.
Recognize The Belief
The first step in managing change is to
recognize inflexibility and its source. To begin, recall an event of heightened
emotion or perceived threat, perhaps an event of abrupt disappointment.
Remember how you felt and what you concluded. Among these conclusions, select
one which has had strong effect in your work life. Note why it might have
seemed an appropriate conclusion at the time. But note also whether it has any
Analyze The Effects
List the effects of this conclusion (or
this erosion of an existing trust). A good way to analyze present effects is
through discussion, particularly with a good listener (as opposed to a good
If the larger
team is affected, manage the communications rather than let rumor and
assumption reign. What might others have concluded, with what
open "no consequences" discussion. Listen to understand, not to agree or
disagree. Appreciate diversity in views. Help get the information on the table
to facilitate consciously selecting options.
specific, discrete examples to create a base of desired effects. To what extent
do the desired effects match your list of actual effects?
Your options are to keep, change, or
revitalize the conclusion. If the best fit is to revitalize, how can you
augment its positive effects? What phrase would best communicate this change to
say in its analysis your group decided that members should be less directive in
its management style and listen more. How will people model that? How will it
empower others? Solidify your vision of what positive effects will look like
Pick a good starting point in your
plan, again a specific application that will yield visible effects. How will
you get buy-in? How will you share the risk with others? What is your plan for
communicating the plan? If your Option involves a group, meet periodically.
Give feedback tactfully and receive input gracefully. Most of the learning
results from good listening.
concentrate on desired effects and adjust as needed. What new learning emerges?
What new applications? How can you build? What indicators are you using to
monitor progress in the revitalization?
Intelligence is a product of continuous and spontaneous learning.
Learning requires diversity of viewpoints and the ability to change viewpoints.
The major obstacle to both is inflexibility. In a changing environment, the
factors of danger, risk and potential loss can engender assumption and rumor.
These are the ingredients to inflexibility and diminished innovation.
Inflexibility can be understood and converted through a relatively simple 5
step process. This process is greatly augmented through mutual recognition,
honest discussion and an aligned effort.
The result is an environment which,
independent of top down manipulation, encourages learning, innovation and
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