I shared yesterday the tragedy of the obvious. The obvious that is so obvious that we don’t see it. Read here if you missed it and find out about the donkeys.
(1) It is obvious that top-down communication and information bombardment does not create change, or at least not at a scale. Communication is not change. There is no change unless there is behavioural change. However most of our management systems in organizations and many societal change projects are still mainly based on information. If we could just tell everybody, inform everybody, train everybody. But no revolution has ever been created in a classroom.
(2) It is obvious that even if we admit that behaviours are what matters, still we treat them as pieces of information: we put them in power points and posters (and then we pray). However, behaviours spread by copying, we copy each other, and we are a very sophisticated copying machine. It’s homo imitans more than homo sapiens. In doubt, look at your television screens.
(3) It is obvious that if we agree that behaviours are ‘the currency’, and that this currency multiplies by copying, not by training or an information tsunami, then the question is who has more power to be copied, who influences us the most. The traditional view has been to look at the leadership, particularly at the top, and it is hard to blame anybody thinking that way, particularly when we see the consequences of bad examples. However the strongest source of influence in organizations and societal settings is peer-to-peer, what we see around us. There is plenty of data such as the Edelman Trust Barometer saying this every year for many years. We have largely ignored this, or seen it as a curiosity, or something that is acknowledged, but we don’t know what do about it because, top down leadership and visibility and authority seem to be more obvious. However for the purpose of culture shaping peer-to-peer has greater power than the hierarchical one. Its tribal, horizontal, one of us. Political marketing knows this very well (data, segmentation).
(4) It is also obvious that most of that fluid connectivity of influence from peers takes place in the informal organization: corridor, cafeteria, mens rooms, ladies rooms, the water cooler, the car park. However, most of the traditional management efforts are focused on the formal organization: the teams, committees, structures, task forces- we have created such colossal teamocracies that people don’t know how to interact and collaborate outside the formal strait jacket of a team.
(5) Another thing that is obvious is that stories are great currency to spread change. But traditionally organizations have used a lot of heroic stories (examples), it should be obvious that their effect on people is to switch them off: ‘not me’. They are useless as culture shaping. As opposed to the small stories of success of ‘people like me’, my peers (‘I can do that’).
(6) And finally, in these complex times of interdependence (I’d like every division, team, organization, business to write their declaration of interdependence), the top down leadership of before has tremendous limitations and it should be obvious that what matters is how leaders orchestrate things sometimes silently, what we call Backstage Leadership™ . This is, the art of leading by giving the stage to others and those others are the peer-to-peer groups and communities.
I have described to you a few components or ingredients of The Viral Change™ Mobilizing platform . In Viral Change™ mode, we orchestrate large scale behavioural and cultural change by working in very precise ways using these components and others. It’s a true ‘operating system’ for the company.
So there are many obvious things in front of us, yet we keep looking for what is smuggled via that caravan of donkeys.