Originally posed November 10, 2011
The metrics used today to judge the effectiveness of organizations are primarily stock prices and their direction in context of the market condition. This is supposed to reflect the equity of the brands in the stable of the organization. It is therefore all built on the fuzzy perceptions that people collectively share, of individuals, brands and organizations. However we think most of the judgments made of which organizations are high performing based on stock prices and general fuzzy perceptions, are largely accurate. We hypothesize that human beings have sufficient intuition and intellect to quickly see a team that works well together and to see the opposite. This post offers a few thoughts on how to move your team toward higher effectiveness in terms of these economic metrics.
You’ll recall my hypothesis explaining the increasing inability of the human race to be effective in managing its world: the acceleration of information racing into the brain per average day.
No one can deny there has been such an acceleration whether or not you buy my method of reaching that hypothesis.
Is there a reader who would argue that the human race is just as effective in managing its world today as it ever was, and that the human race is as effective today as it ever can be? You may be right (if “you” exist) but that is a self-limiting thought. This meme can spread like a virus through our biocomputers – and it has. Defeatism, and self-limiting self-fulfilling prophecies have been observed being inculcated in children by pessimistic parents, and the children then perpetuate these self-put-downs and everyone-else-put-downs for the rest of their lives, passing it on to their children, and so on down through the centuries.
Has there ever been a time when no one could think up a new idea to restore equilibrium to the perilously-wobbling globally interconnected economic system?
Of course, we never had such a precariously interconnected system before. The challenges of our own making have escalated due to tool making and invention. This and media are causal drivers of acceleritis in the first place. A secondary hypothesis posits that the three main causal drivers of acceleritis are written language, tools/weapons, and media.
These are three historic shocks that have created the modern trance. (pre-publication monograph available to other researchers in this field.)
The word “trance” implies hypnotism or drugs or a mental state brought on by high fever – characterized by a reduced level of functional effectiveness, especially in terms of complex challenges. EOP (Emergency Oversimplification Procedure) is my name for the state caused by Acceleritis™. Like a trance of any other kind, EOP reduces our functional effectiveness as compared to when we reach two higher states, Observer state and Flow state. The vector that best describes the continuum formed by these three states of waking consciousness is non-distraction: distraction brings the mind down to EOP; and perfect singlepointed focus where distractions are automatically mentally controlled, yields Flow state, Observer state being the doorway to Flow state. The message inherent in these hypotheses is that we must as a race and as individuals learn to stay focused through complexity. This is the purpose of The Human Effectiveness Institute and the psychotechnology toolware we are creating.
How do organizations actually function today, under these widespread conditions of acceleritis and EOP? For a moment, contemplate government. Then, for a moment, contemplate your own organization. What behaviors and outcomes can you see that are consistent with this hypothesis?
The flow of communication in organizations is extremely non-optimal in most cases I’ve observed during my 30 years of consulting for hundreds of Fortune 500 corporations.
As information moves upward in the typical organization today, much information is purposely hidden. The motivations are primarily fear, and secondarily lust for success – not necessarily greed, because that implies people already have the basics covered, which is not the general condition today.
Workers tell certain things to their managers, hiding their mistakes and also hiding bits of information they sense could be useful to them more when the timing is right and they’ve thought it out to the end of the logical stream. “Wisely” they do not want to blurt out ideas that could be powerful and could also be stolen and used by others to gain the power that the individual lusts for. Alas this “wisdom” (actually cunning) serves motivations that are conditioned rather than consciously chosen. Acceleritis is what has conditioned people to “not have time” to fully contemplate their lives and so they are just rushing through it, trying to keep up, and oversimplifying everything as much as possible. Black and white jumping-to-conclusions is one common tactic for keeping things as simple as possible. None of these acceleritis-driven behaviors (information blocking, black and white thinking, rushing) are conducive to being a high performing individual in a high-performing organization.
Information blocking then continues as information flows upward and across an organization. Managers tell directors what is beneficial to the managers. Directors tell officers what is beneficial to the directors. Officers tell the CEO what is beneficial to the officers. Information becomes overladen with this spin and that, with specific people in the organization taking credit for certain spins and where they should lead, so that they will be promoted if the course is taken and works out. These behaviors trace back in the evolutionary dawn to the level of brain development in the reptile stage. Territoriality and pecking order start even earlier and are exalted in this stage. Mammals and humans have more corrugated cortical tissue and the potential to understand nobility. Nobility mediates selfishness to create an individual in tune with others, and thus able to lead. However nobility is a high level of further human development not inherent in the acceleritis shaped civilization we have built. Nobility must be achieved by bootstrapping oneself out of acceleritis driven EOP and into Observer state in order to clear the mind of its own distractions and robotical behaviors, at which point periods of the highly-effective Flow state occur naturally.
The same is true with organizations. The thing that obstructs information the most is lack of direct contact between the top and bottom of the hierarchy. One deals mostly with peers and superiors. The King/Queen does not disguise himself/herself to go among the people to learn what is really going on. When this occasionally happens “accidentally”, so much is learned it inspires creativity throughout the organization.
The larger the organization the more levels and therefore the more filtering of information for selfish reasons. With companies and governments getting larger and larger, acceleritis continuing to accelerate, the harm of organizational bigness is exacerbated. Plato reasoned that a utopian community could consist of individual groupings of people not larger than 1000 persons, because everyone could stay in touch with everyone else. Above that it would not be optimal in effectiveness because communication would break down and selfish interests would tear it apart. Whether or not he got the magic number right, his prediction has certainly been borne out. The larger the organization, the more important that the leaders find a way to stay in touch with people at all levels of the organization, as many as possible.
One method of encouraging people to share their ideas early so that more minds can work on them sooner is to develop a culture that rewards people for their ideas with immediate positive recognition.
Fear can also be minimized in an organization by a culture that provides constructive feedback in a supportive manner, and never creates a mood suggesting impending punishment and disgrace.
A sense of safety and collegiality makes a team more likely to perform in Observer state, where objectivity and search for clarity are the mood, and there is no compelling emotional tug of war between one outcome and another. In this state, which has been called the basic professional state (Ichazo), wasteful movements are minimized, and people keep their eyes on the real priorities from second to second. There is a relative absence of fear and other negative emotion, as people are not attached to getting recognition, nor fearful of sounding stupid, because this has been the context that management has successfully inculcated.
Leaders need to be role models and this is the strongest form of training. Aplomb is the operative word. Merriam-Webster definition: “complete and confident composure or self-assurance: poise.” Poise sounds more like something one is trying to project. In my mind, aplomb beats poise just because aplomb counter-suggests that the person is striving to portray an image. Instead, to me, aplomb evokes an image of a lead plumb bob hanging down perfectly steadily. That is of course where the word came from, French a plomb, “according to the plummet” (plummet=lead plumb bob in modern parlance). A person in equipoise, not needing to prove anything to anybody, incomparably fearless, palpably unflappable. At rest like a plumb bob but ready to move in any direction responsively.
People, especially leaders, like to show confidence. But in doing so sometimes they show a lack of aplomb either by fleeting angry expressions, trying to make a joke, scratching themselves, or any of a number of other obvious clues including just their apparent tension. This shows the confidence is just a façade. People around them know what it is without necessarily putting it into words in their mind. They know the leader is not truly confident but that it’s just an act. This does not attract real supporters.
If the team does not have total confidence in the leader, their acceleritis will immediately leap them into a mode of performance that is sub-optimal for the organization, where they will be in a mood of self-protection rather than a mood of teamwork, solutions and success. If it is not gamelike, if it is not play, if you would not be doing it except for the money and where it might lead you, you might get through the day but Flow state will be a rarity. Your team needs to see that you are enjoying every minute of it so they realize this way would be more fun than the way they usually get through a day.
Acceleritis is the great enemy of aplomb. Imagine a higher being – God if you wish – or simply a being that is to human beings what human beings are to viruses – a scientific possibility in the viewable universe of billions of galaxies. Somewhere right now such a being probably does exist. Imagine that being is the soul of aplomb. What does she/he have to worry about? Phenomena such as acceleritis and EOP cannot take hold in the mind of such a being, its intuition and intellect — being at far higher bandwidth and information processing power than we operate at — can see through such traps of the mind while we as yet cannot. At least until the individual discovers this truth for herself/himself and begins to work consciously on seeing the EOP trap and subtly sliding around it again and again back into Observer state, every minute of the day, every day, and brings it under conscious control such as a higher being could do far more quickly and easily, with no practice needed.
We Earthlings do need constant practice if we are to make our minds fully conscious of what drives us and therefore in control of that whole process. That’s just where our current bandwidth is at. Comes with the package, the brain as it is today in evolution. Software that has been pre-programmed into our minds before we ever knew to think to ask for a choice about which programming came in and which stayed out. By the time we are five there have been over a billion neuron connections wired into our brain simply by our experiences. The brain automatically learns, and some learnings are actually incorrect — they make wrong predictions about what will be successful, yet they exist in your brain as having power over you to force you or impel you into unthought-out actions that have the apparent safety of being exactly the same thing you always did before in such a situation.
This is conditioning. Conscious choice is preferable to being a robot driven by your conditioning.
It’s not what you have to learn. It’s what you have to un-learn.
Imagine how manicky you and I must seem to a higher space being of true aplomb. Racing around to get things done without the perspective of how unimportant most of these things are in the Big Picture, although we are anguished by them at the moment.
When the EOP caused by Acceleritis™ is stripped away, and the person spends more time in Observer state, where fewer and fewer things can press her/his buttons, the individual exhibits true aplomb, signaling true inner freedom from attachment to anything. True fearlessness with regard to whatever could happen, including death. This is not a common state for human beings today. However, we do see this aplomb in sages, saints, “great men” and “great women”, performers of all kinds from athletes to entertainers to public speakers/politicians – very rare in the latter category, though some of our presidents have had aplomb at important turning points in history, and great deeds emerged from this cocoon.
Your team gets closer to aplomb when you have created the right atmosphere, and provided the right role model. They are less obsessed by the petty little personal biases, ambitions and other stuff that a typical team is totally immersed in and can’t see past. This is not coming from their essence as a person but from the acceleritis buildup of conditioned robotic behaviors driven by powerful neuron clusters in the brain. A person who is not aware of this syndrome can obviously do nothing to counter it. Those who have achieved aplomb have done so consciously, having discovered the inner software and reprogrammed it over time.
Aplomb at its highest level exists because the individual identifies not with the body you see standing there before you, but with the entire universe including the parts unseen, and so has nothing to lose. In India and throughout Asia, this ultimate aplomb is also known as enlightenment, liberation, equipoise, and by other names, and those who have achieved this ultimate aplomb are known as gurus. Real gurus are very rare even in the East, although those on the path to guru-ness are a much larger number. In our blog we are constantly offering suggestions toward a degree of guru-hood for all of us some day in the perhaps not-too-distant future. Science and our own Will shall determine the speed of getting there; however, I hypothesize it is in fact our destiny to all rise to this higher level, or Flow state, through long practice maintaining Observer state from which Flow eventually springs.
Ultimately, organizational effectiveness will be exponentially increased as a result of most of us spending most of our time in Observer/Flow states. This will have a hugely beneficial effect on government, the economy, levels of happiness and quality of life.
Best to all,
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