There were times when experts believed that Aircraft are interesting toys but of no military value; There’s a world market for about five computers, and 640K ought to be enough for anybody.
Having the foresight that comes with the insight of hindsight, few people, if any, would use these assertions today. What happened in the interim? We changed our minds! Are we flip-floppers? No, we updated our beliefs and are now acting on new knowledge. But, how did that happen? What does it take for people to change their beliefs? Why would they do that? What’s In It For Them?
On the flip-side . . .
Why would people stick with what they know; what they believe to be valid and true, DESPITE overwhelming and pervasive evidence to the contrary? Why? I’m asking because I believe to observe this phenomenon in decisions by business leaders, even the ones from those with credentials from top-ranked institutions of business education.
During the 1940s, Cybernetics emerged as a new academic discipline that found its origin in exchanges between numerous fields such as anthropology, mathematics, neuroscience, psychology, and engineering. The core concept is circular causality or feedback—where the observed outcomes of actions are taken as inputs for further action in ways that support the pursuit and maintenance of particular conditions, or their disruption. It has been used as a way of exploring and developing effective action in complex contexts. Consequently, it was named after the steering of a ship, where the helmsperson maintains a steady course in a changing environment by adjusting their steering in continual response to the effect it is observed as having.
Similarly, systems thinking is a way of making sense of the complexity of the world by looking at it in terms of wholes and relationships. Changing one component of a system may affect other components or the whole system. It may be possible to predict these changes in patterns of behavior. For systems that learn and adapt, the growth and the degree of adaptation depend upon how well the system is engaged with its environment and other contexts influencing its organization. Some systems support other systems, maintaining the other system to prevent failure.
Yet, . . .
Decision makers―business leaders―persist in splitting business systems down into their component parts, and optimizing each silo of specialized knowledge separately and in isolation from their environment including all other silos, in order to cut cost and thereby to increase efficiency. This inward-looking approach to business is a proven recipe for entropy; the phenomenon where human energy is diverted from productivity and applied instead on uttering dissatisfaction with one’s job, frustration with poor leadership, griping about everything and anything, and looking for employment elsewhere.
Clearly, this dominant level of thinking is not working; it is and has been failing for a long time, DESPITE overwhelming and pervasive evidence of a better approach. Then, why would leaders persist being stuck in their ways; hostage to their beliefs? What’s In It For Them? What does it take for leaders to change their outdated beliefs?
Suppose the source of any business problem has nothing to do with efficiency, but with decision makers being overwhelmed by complexity, because they simply do not understand how a business functions as a singular, unique, integrated and open SYSTEM!!!
What do YOU think is the most effective remedy for being overwhelmed by complexity—being perplexed by the intricately interconnected nature of all activities, processes and functions that a business performs on a daily basis?
Question: . . .
How many executive development curricula, coaching or mentoring programs do you know that offer systems thinking, cybernetics, and root cause analyses to their high-paying executive clients? How much longer will they keep you hostage to outdated beliefs? What Is In It For THEM―those institutions that is???
Answer: . . .
People change their minds―perform a Mind-Shift―as the result of a proverbial two-by-four knock to the head. This happens either voluntarily, as the consequence of a failure or accident, by blundering into a new and unfamiliar situation, or when being lured outside one’s comfort zone.
A Mind-Shift is the purpose of the mythical Hero’s Journey as described by Joseph Campbell in his epic book The Hero with a Thousand Faces. This adventure, the story of human maturation, is the theme that ties together the two parts of my book The Root Cause. It was published in May 2022 by McGraw Hill and already received many accolades from respected thought leaders in our industry; Read them now.