Donald Winnicott (1896- 1971) was a brilliant British psychoanalyst. And you won’t find many instances of my praising psychoanalysis, a wonderful method of magical thinking that developed into multiple tribes and dialects. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t use magical thinking as a pejorative term. There are tons of them in Literature, thanks God, so we don’t have to stick to PowerPoints. Some Strategic Plans, also fall into the same category.
Amongst many ideas and concepts that Winnicott created, I always loved the one of transitional objects. These are critical objects in which we could make safe transactions. Translation. Kids playing with toys can make the toys talk to each other, even bring dragons or dinosaurs to the play, kill people or kiss them, all in safe place. There are not them doing these things, but the dinosaurs and the princes. These artefacts produce a safe psychological space.
Like the comfort blankets and teddy bears. According to a survey by Travelodge, (2011) about 35 percent of British adults still sleep with a teddy bear. And what about that ‘security blanket’ in the Peanuts characters?
That’s is why simulation is such a powerful management tool. You are not anymore fighting your fellow VP or stepping into that Director’s shoes. You are just playing with scenarios and the software usually tells you who is killed in the game. Not you, the simulation tool.
Simulation and in some instances brainstorming (although we have made a mess of that) in which we are throwing ideas, including bad ones, not to somebody else spaces, but to a blank flipchart, are key transitional objects in organization life. We usually don’t bring blankets and dinosaurs, but the flipchart will do just fine. Once used, the flipchart then gets semi-forgotten, The flipchart is the greatest corporate graveyard of ideas. But, hey, it was a great canvas for 20 pairs of eyes to look at, instead of looking at each other. So safe.
Winnicott would have agreed. I hope