Culture Change is a Complex Process

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Can We Use Parallel Processes to Solve Organizational Problems?

parallel processes solve organizational problems

In 1989, Kenwyn Smith published a study entitled “Fix the Women”, describing a consulting situation characterized by fighting between two women in a troubled unit of a state hospital. After assessing the behaviors, the researchers determined the women’s hostility was actually fueled by feelings of competitiveness among the three senior men in the unit.

This is a phenomenon called parallel process thinking: when dynamics of one system are picked up and enacted by another system. In this case, the competitive dynamics of the men in the hospital unit fueled the conflict between these two women.

Consultants don’t always think of the theories associated with the work we do. They become part of us and our work. We talk to people and through years of experience, theories in behavioral science organically drive what we do, how we speak to people, how we solve problems, how we help, and how we advise.

When focusing on results with clients, especially within a limited timeframe, energy is usually spent toward practical application. But this theory is important because it affects everybody. If you can understand parallel process thinking, then it has potential to serve as a guide for better problem-solving.

So let’s examine this idea of parallel processes.

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How To Unlock Your Potential For Innovation Through Crowdsourcing

innovation through crowdsourcing

The human mind has an incredible capacity to learn, recognize patterns, and connect pieces of information together to find new ways to approach old problems.

Unfortunately, our problem-solving abilities are limited by individual knowledge and experience. When problems are large and complex, we might not have the right data available to have any hope of finding a solution if we go it alone. And when we get stuck, collaboration can be a powerful way to find the best solution.

By sharing knowledge and experience amongst a diverse group, we can often tackle complex problems that cannot be solved alone.

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How to Use Pattern Disruption to Sustain a Culture of Innovation

pattern disruption to sustain a culture of innovation

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to lead a webinar about dancing bears in colorful ball gowns. I mean, who hasn’t? The subtext here (and arguably the more important focus) was to discover new methods of disruption and innovation.

In case you missed it, you can watch a replay of the webinar here (gated content).

If you’re in a subway, without your headphones, or reading this on a flip phone for some reason, let me offer this summary.

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To Grow Leadership Skills, Get People Out of Their Comfort Zones

grow leadership skills

When I worked in the outdoor industry, I saw a lot of leaders forced out of their comfort zones. To survive in the backcountry, they had to use their physical and mental strength, keep an open mind, and rely on those around them for support.

Some fared better than others, and I found people’s individual identities and corporate positions didn’t determine their levels of success. Anyone could grow as a person and leader during a backcountry excursion, but only if he or she was willing to embrace the discomfort that accompanied the transformation — and you can do the same.

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Still Hating Our Jobs

still hate our jobs

Written by Todd Putman and Lori Sparger

Well, nothing has changed. We all still hate our jobs.

Wait, that’s not quite right. A third of us are engaged at work. We love our jobs. But the other two-thirds, according to the most recent State of the American Workplace from the Gallup organization, are “actively disengaged” (16%) or “just there” (51%). Wow.

That’s a resounding vote of no-confidence in our current management practices. “The very practice of management no longer works,” says Gallup Chairman and CEO Jim Clifton. He calls for “transforming workplace culture.” Embracing purpose and identifying employee skills, “strengths” in Clifton’s nomenclature, are solid goals.

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How Technology Can Save Your Company Culture During an Expansion

technology can save your company culture during expansion

As any business expands — either domestically or internationally — it can be a challenge to maintain a consistent company culture. Communication might suddenly need to bridge time zones, and messages will need to stay consistent despite language or cultural barriers. An expansion can affect organizational design and the centralization of resources, potentially making employees feel detached.

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Knowledge Management: Did You Know?

knowledge management benefits

It’s funny how things go in cycles. What was critically important to us last year may not be a concern to us today. And things we used to take for granted, we now cannot fathom living without.

Think about the Internet. Most of us weren’t even aware of it until the mid 90’s, but where would we be today without it? Although I type here from the comfort of my office chair, my office is at home and I rarely need to venture into NYC thanks to technology. My office material comes from and my calls are handled over a VOIP platform. All driven by the web.

Knowledge management is a similar area you’ve probably never paid attention to. Maybe you haven’t heard about it yet, but knowledge management is already affecting how you live and work.

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How to Care For Workplace Culture Through Its Awkward Teen Years

care for workplace culture through its awkward teen years

Building a business is like raising a child. We see them grow up over the years, go through hard times and good, learn from each success and failure, and eventually blossom into something more wonderful than we ever could have imagined.

One of the more challenging stages of the process is a business’ adolescence. It’s no longer a scrappy startup but not yet a full-grown business with established and consistent processes.

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Pop The Bubble: Having Conversations that Make Us Think

having conversations that make us think

I recently read an article about our individual ignorance (Why We Believe Obvious Untruths) that made me stop and think about the current state of our union. To say that we are living in two Americas is a gross understatement. And for society’s sake, we have to bridge this divide and learn to listen to each other (notice I didn’t say agree with).

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How to Fail Successfully

how to fail successfully

Written By Mike Irwin

My youngest daughter is a skateboarder.  With her, I’ve spent a fair amount of time at skateboarding events and at skate parks.  While I’ve been wowed many times by bold and amazing stunts, I’ve also noticed one thing:  skateboarders fall.  A lot.  Pros, beginners, veterans and young rippers all hit the deck.  Mount a GoPro on their helmet and the courage factor goes way up but it still doesn’t keep them from falling. Here’s the thing: they almost always bounce right back up.

Why is that?  Well, for one thing, they (sometimes) wear protection.  Mostly though, their ability to jump back on the board uninjured is because they know how to fall.  In skateboarding, knowing how to fall (or fail) is part and parcel to knowing how to continue to push to achieve new tricks (or success).

“Knowing how to fall is, like, a basic life skill,” one skateboarder told me.  “If I didn’t know how to fall, I wouldn’t be able to learn new tricks either.”

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