The USA has been a world leader because of innovation. Yet, there is a constant struggle in Corporate America between organizational conformity and innovative thinking. This mixed messaging conveys: Think out-of-the-box, but behave like us! Well, thinking is a behavior. Therein lies the conundrum…How can we, as organizations, stay “great” when there is an expectation to “fit in”?
Below are some theoretical and organizational examples of how this struggle manifests itself.
Behavioral Theory in Art
Most of you may be able to see two cows in the above Rorschach. While there are several optical illusions to have fun with, determining whether you can see the image(s) or not, the point is what? The point is, perception on certain situations may be readily apparent to some of us, while others may deny or become frustrated at the prospect that there is anything to be seen, other than a mess.
The question, then, becomes: How can those of us who can see (“the forest through the trees”), assist those who are in denial?
Readiness and timing are critical. If those in denial are not ready to hear and listen to a topic, then a time has to be selected for when an analogous and/or related issue can be presented. The problem becomes when the number of those in denial are either sizeable in number (e.g. the majority of the population) or they bear a lot of influence (e.g. the C-Suite).
Take this excerpt from Pixar’s animated feature film, A Bug’s Life, for example:
[Hopper (the leader) has just drowned three dissenting grasshoppers in a pile of seeds]
Hopper: You let one ant stand up to us, then they all might stand up! Those puny little ants outnumber us a hundred to one and if they ever figure that out there goes our way of life! It’s not about food, it’s about keeping those ants in line. That’s why we’re going back! Does anybody else wanna stay?
[grasshoppers shocked – all the grasshoppers “rev up” their wings]
Molt: [motioning a fellow grasshopper] He’s quite the motivational speaker, isn’t he?
The subliminal message here is: We must maintain Power Distance as part of the culture, or we forfeit our personal profit. It’s not about the good of the organization, it’s about what’s good for those of us at the top. Enforce behavioral conformity, even if we have to dispense of talent. Do not allow the talent to think for themselves, otherwise they threaten the status quo.
The fear is: Anything different from what we’ve ever known is BAD. Same old, same old is GOOD. No one must rock the boat in our structure.
Behavioral Theory in Organizations
The most solid business argument for any organization is to meet the expectations of the consumer. Breaking this down: A happy customer = More profitability. This requires that the organization KNOWS who the consumer is.
How is the organization going to know what a consumer wants?
Organizations must either somehow be adaptable to the consumer’s mind or hire talent which reflects the consumer – one who shares the same background. Mostly, we have organizations with hubris, organizations which staunchly believe they know what they’re doing. Take, for example, the Swedish company Electrolux, which supplies high-powered suction cleaning appliances. Their tagline was, in fact: Electrolux Sucks! Or, how about the Chevy Nova exported to Latin America? (“No va” in Spanish means “It doesn’t work”). Needless to say, these sorts of promotion had the opposite intended consequences than anticipated.
So, back to seeing the “forest through the trees,” how is it that a country with demographics reflecting a slightly higher female percentage, and with the female gender typically being the primary caretaker and financial guardian of minors (i.e. a HIGH degree of purchasing power), that the Corporate American C-Suite reflects less than 5% of a female-based consumer base? Better yet, why is it that organizations struggle to hire more women into Senior Leadership positions when, historically and academically, women have quite often repeatedly proven to outperform or match their counterparts?
While Hopper is afraid of disrupting the status quo, the time is nigh to saddle up those cash cows- whether you see them or not.
Adam Smith’s invisible hand.
Rossina Gil, MSOD, MAIS, is a Leadership and Organization Development Practitioner, a “dot” person, and the founder of Corporate Looking Glass, LLC – a diverse consultancy of OD experts and strategic thinking partners. We increase retention. Visit CorporateLookingGlass.com.
© Rossina Gil, 2015
Posted on February 15, 2015, in Uncategorized and tagged A Bug's Life, acuity, conformity, forest through the trees, illusion test, innovative thinking, organizational hubris, Pixar, Rorshach. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.