Blog: Focus or Die

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Thursday
Mar122009

CCChange Leadership

"When all is said and done, more is said than done."

Aesop, Greek philosopher, 530 BCE

This is certainly true on the subject of "change leadership."  Mountains of books have been written and yet effective organizational change remains one of the most daunting tasks facing a manager. 

ImageChef.comAfter an organization completes the OGSP process, often change is required.  "Desired Change" is a one-page exercise we use as the last step in the OGSP process and it often results in a lot more "saying" than "doing" to borrow from our friend Aesop.

I recently completed a course at Stanford University taught by Rich Shavelson called Human Cognitive Abilities, and it was a life changing experience.  Rich was the previous Dean of the School of Education at Stanford and a world expert in "cognition" or how people think. Understanding how people think is the first step toward understanding how to change the way people think.

After studying the work of cognitive scientists like Robert Sternberg, Richard Nisbett, Howard Gardner and others the inescapable conclusion is that many models of "meta-cognition" exist ... and there is no absolutely one-right way people think.  However, within this survey of approaches to cognition, certain broad areas of influence emerge that provide clues to the key influences on thinking and how best to change thinking styles.

I call my model "CCChange Leadership"  To change the way an organization does work, a leader must change the way an organization collectively thinks. The key levers of change are:

Cognition - Every person brings unique thinking skills to their work.  This is a function of their individual cognitive capabilities and experiences.  The first step toward cognition change is recognizing that we are all unique thinkers and then committing to embracing these differences - growth through diversity of thought. 

This does not mean "intellectual anarchy."  Choices must be made to successfully run any business. Soliciting divergent opinions and evaluating them in a robust manner encourages everyone to think to the best of their ability, which means the organization thinks to the best of its collective ability.

Conation - This is a relatively new concept in psychometric research and it refers to an individual's motivation, will or drive to think. Curiosity, inquisitiveness, ambition, prudence are all indicator types of a person's conative skills.  The state of the art in conative measurement, at one point,  was Myers-Briggs (MBTI), a Jungian construct which places individuals on four scales (Extroversion/Introversion, Sensing/Intuition, Thinking/Feeling and Judgment/Perception).  There has been a modern revival of the five factor model proposed by the psychometrician L. L. Thurstone in the 1930's, called The "Big Five Personality Traits" (Openness, Conscientiousness, Extroversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism).

Personality traits, just as cognitive skill, are malleable and can change with appropriate stimulation.  Leaders directly affect conation by rewarding desired behaviors like curiosity, openness and interpersonal sensitivity.

Context - Environment is important.  People absorb their environment and play it back in their work product.  From inner city elementary schools to corporate board rooms, the context in which we think shapes our thinking.  Even something as simple as the color of the walls makes a difference - red walls encourage focus on details, while blue walls stimulate creativity.

Leaders can have a direct impact on context; they create the context while the organization creates the content.  Dev Patnaik, the principal at Jump Associates (an ideation and change management firm) and author of Wired to Care, says it quite succinctly - space matters.


Cognition, Conation and Context - three areas of high leverage which can lead to substantial change for an organization. And as Winston Churchill put it:

“To improve is to change. To be perfect is to have changed a lot.”

References (2)

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    One Page Solutions - Blog: Focus or Die - CCChange Leadership
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    One Page Solutions - Blog: Focus or Die - CCChange Leadership

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