Friday, 20 June 2014

Neutral, blind, amoral

An excerpt from the book Homo Imitans by Leandro Herrero:

Behavioural change management is neutral, blind, amoral. The user of behavioural sciences, however, may be purpose-driven, have a clear vision and choose a moral path. He may also be stupid.

To reward high-risk, invisible, short-term, virtual market investments (those ‘vehicles’ brought to us by the City of London or Wall Street; vehicles which have no consistency and would belong better in Monte Carlo or Las Vegas) and to do it with massive amounts of money is simply stupid. Obviously not for the recipient of the reward, but for the community at large that suffers the consequences.

The really good thing that has happened in the last years to real behavioural sciences is their ‘discovery’
by economists. Historically, economics was based on the rationality of the individual. You know, given a choice, people will maximize its utility. This was even written on the frontispiece of economics as a discipline. Well, at least until behavioural economics came along and added the graffiti:
‘sometimes’. This ‘sometimes’ or ‘maybe’ was enough to start challenging all basic assumptions. Behavioural economics today look at things from the perspective of the behaviours of the individuals, who frequently exhibit ‘non-utilitarian’ behaviours, irrational ones that do not fit the theory. Behavioural economics do not take the simplistic carrot-and-stick approach. These people know that there is a complexity to, even competition between, carrots. They also know that sticks sometimes don’t

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Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Imagine this...

An excerpt from the book Homo Imitans by Leandro Herrero:

Imagine this: a revolution that needed to understand upfront the correlation between the personality of the revolutionaries and the outcome of the revolution; a revolution wanting to know the differences in adoption of the revolution depending on some cognitive and mental capacity of people. Or needing some survey on ‘change readiness’. I am not trying to trivialize the importance of ‘knowing’, but the scaling up of ‘acting’ is very much independent from it. And that’s the very significant distinction of the behavioural-pragmatic approach. Large-scale change? Bypass the individual ’understanding’, the ‘state of readiness’, the ‘intellectual awareness’, the measure of ‘emotional engagement’, the degree of ‘personal internalization’, etc. Behaviours x influence x networks will give you the scale-up statistics you need. Remember: cogito is a

A great deal of modern management thinking has been influenced by a poor understanding, poor grasp and poor execution of behavioural sciences, which seem to stay stuck at the very superficial level of the ‘carrot and the stick’. Performance appraisal systems, sales management incentives, bonus schemes...they all look somewhat (or a lot) like carrots. A few years ago, I conducted an informal review of about a dozen sales management incentive schemes in several pharmaceutical companies. Only one made sense from a behavioural perspective. All the others were completely flawed and at least half of them had outcomes that were the opposite of what the scheme had intended to reward. All of them seemed to have been designed by a (well-paid) quantum physicist. The problem is that behavioural-sciences-carrot-and-stick models seem cheap to apply. Everybody seems to know how. But they’ll also need to bear the consequences, of course.

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Thursday, 12 June 2014

Behaviours are wonderful things!

An excerpt from the book Homo Imitans by Leandro Herrero:

Behaviours are wonderful things! They are powerful, they are explicit and they provoke many emotions. However, for many people today behaviours are still ‘secondary citizens’, only understood ‘as a result’ of other things such as values, beliefs or thinking.

These are people who, very often truly genuinely, say that changing behaviours means little unless the mindset or the attitudes have changed. They would say you can change behaviours, but it will be just superficial, not for real, just a game of pretend. Your (real) thinking will not have changed. Mindsets and attitudes... You know how I feel about those!

In many parts of the world, ‘behaviours’ still get bad press. They seem to be mentally associated with ‘forcing people’ to do something. In English, ‘to behave’ means to behave well, to conform to the norm, to stick to the rules. In psychiatry, behavioural therapy has long been labelled as a sort of superficial approach, not comparable with the more ‘serious’ and ‘deep’ therapies such as psychoanalysis or psychotherapy, which are based upon understanding and insights.

These stereotypes won’t go away soon. I don’t have much room to digress here and I know a discussion about this could go on for hours, perhaps even days or months...but I do believe we need to elaborate a bit on this before we move on. People, particularly the ones who associate behaviours with carrots and sticks, have a hard time understanding the potential value and pragmatism of focusing on behaviours.
This view of behaviours as the poor, secondary, visible representation of more noble bodies such as mind, mindset, cognition, value systems, etc. is well-maintained by many Homo Sapiens professions for very good reasons. We all tend to attribute all motivation for our actions to the essence of Sapiens. The opposite would mean accepting that we are less in control than we think we are and that our free will is less free than we think.

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Monday, 9 June 2014

How to fail expensively: don’t leave the calm shores of world I

An excerpt from the book Homo Imitans by Leandro Herrero:

It should be clear by now that while world I is a conveyor of important and vital messages that play an imperative role in raising awareness, educating, establishing rules of the game and engaging minds and hearts, it is world II where the real cultural change takes place. And that cultural change can only take the shape of an infection, a behavioural infection that creates new norms (ways of doing, ways of supporting new processes, style of dealing with customers, etc.) That is why the concept of social infection is so important.

My insistence on the shortcomings of world I in creating social change do not come from a dogmatic position. On the contrary. I have seen traditional change management programmes fail and many well intentioned efforts to ‘convince’ and ‘engage’ with ‘communication tools’ fall by the wayside. I have also seen the incredible waste of energy and money involved in all this. Basically, I have seen enough to question why on earth people continue to do the same. Perhaps this also rings some bells for you.

There is also plenty of depressing data. When we put together all that we know about change management programmes (those surrounding an IT implementation, those aiming at a broader cultural change or those aiming for transformation), the track record is far from impressive. Generally speaking, about 70% of the initiatives fail to deliver on the expectations. This is a big number by any account, but management has come to think of it as something more or less inevitable. Imagine for a second that 70% of airplanes crashed, 70% of bridges fell down, 70% of buildings collapsed or, simply, that 70% of the time your corporate IT system was down. Dreadful thoughts, no doubt. Well, this is the equivalent in change management.

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Thursday, 5 June 2014

Choosing influence that can scale up.

An excerpt from the book Homo Imitans by Leandro Herrero:

Choosing influence that can scale up.

The second discipline of Viral Change™ is influencing. However, this is not about just any kind of influence, it’s about ‘scalable’ influence. Or in other words, it’s about how to create a fast buildup of the social infection. There is a new ‘industry of influence’ that promises to teach tricks and shortcuts, sometimes with poor or no scientific basis. It tends to be thrown in the same basket as ‘motivating people’ or ‘inspiring them’. ‘How to influence people’ often appears in ‘training packages’ that promise to teach you skills in achieving goals, managing your own boss, getting a raise or simply being in control. Becoming an ‘influencer’ now seems to be part of the expected portfolio of politically accepted goals.

Very often, influencing gets trivialized and reduced to the ‘tools’ and ‘how to’. Often it’s limited to listing vague requisites which would work equally well for ‘being a good manager’ as for ‘navigating through life’. In those ‘packages’, people are asked to ‘change their minds’ or their ‘mindset’ (remember, that thing I still can’t find?). They make it sound as logical and easy as changing the oil in your car. Or they are asked to ‘request and clarify responsibilities and reward appropriately’. It’s hardly something to disagree with, but it makes you wonder why the othe\thousand things you could do to be an influencer are not listed.

In chapter 4.2, I’ll share which aspects of influence are relevant for social infections and which ones are good for nice conversations and bullet points in training programmes.

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Monday, 2 June 2014

Obsessive focus on behaviours

An excerpt from the book Homo Imitans by Leandro Herrero:

Confronted with the execution of a strategy (problem solving, culture building or any other aim), we are always offered a choice of routes: world I and/or world II. As we know, traditional management’s default position is world I. In the following chapters, I will address each of the world II components on their own. Each of them relates to disciplines in the social and/or network sciences and all of them contain a fair amount of counter-intuitive principles. Mastering the combination of these components or disciplines is the basis for Viral Change™. As the graph on the previous page summarizes, the art of social infection requires:

(1) Obsessive focus on behaviours
The first discipline is behavioural change management which is well-anchored in traditional behavioural sciences. I am still surprised to see how the management world remains filled with folk psychology and half-baked behavioural answers, eagerly embraced by people in search of quick fixes. Invalidated behavioural concepts are widespread and anybody in ‘management’ or ‘HR’ seems to be a de facto expert in the matter. I’m advocating for the application of some standards, like those needed to master accounting or running a production line.

When it comes to ‘people’, it seems anything goes. The results are things such as ludicrous incentive schemes which reward exactly the opposite of what they intend to promote or extraordinarily complex competence frameworks that seem copied word-for-word from the latest management book on the shelves. Chapter 4.1 will explore key concepts about behaviours in the context of social infection of the viral change type. As it will be impossible to summarize the whole discipline of Behavioural Change Management in one chapter, I will focus on a few key concepts that are crucial or simply not well understood.

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Friday, 30 May 2014

I reorganize ergo sum

An excerpt from the book Homo Imitans by Leandro Herrero:

A reorganization has taken place. A new structure amalgamating old divisions is in place and now the ways of doing must change. The Big Consulting Company has left (well, not quite, they never do) and there is a myriad of PowerPoints and fresh materials articulating the new structure, the new operating model and the new processes and systems in extreme detail.

Senior management cascades this information down through all the layers of the organization (from VPs to directors to managers) in a series of workshops. It’s all very rational, sophisticated and legitimized by the enormous budget used to reach this point.

(1) The ‘small’ detail of how people are actually going to work together in the new not in ‘the slides’
A key component for successful change is that people not only understand the new structure (they are now de facto part of it) or the new processes (they all make sense on paper), but also that they actually behave differently. Suddenly, they have to share information with people who they have not worked with before.

They can no longer draft their business plan in the cosy isolation of their office with the assistants of their three loyal lieutenants. Now, they have to ‘co-develop it’ (sic) with a dozen of interconnected ‘stakeholders’ who didn’t need to know about each other before (or if they did, they pretty much ignored each other without the sky falling down). There is nothing in the colossal stack of PowerPoints left behind by the Big Consulting Company that even touches on explaining, suggesting or helping with how people are going to behave differently. Why? Because the Big Consulting Company operates in world I and in world I, the availability of the information is an end in itself. After all, if new B is better than old A, Homo Sapiens will do B. ‘OK, and if not, we’ll train them.’

(2) So they make an attempt to define which new behaviours are needed
Their management team has become acutely aware of ‘the small detail’ mentioned above and now develops a series of exercises to define the kind of behaviours that may be needed.

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Monday, 26 May 2014

The two worlds side by side

An excerpt from the book Homo Imitans by Leandro Herrero:

Mr Sapiens and Mr Imitans live in different places, but though they should build bridges between them and then use them every day, they should also be very mindful of their different worlds. World II objectives cannot be achieved in world I territory. Social infections (world II) are not created by posters. Revolutions are not announced. Well, not usually. Social movements and cultures are not created by training.

Communication (world I) is not change.

As the figure on the previous page illustrates, the maths of world II could not be more different from the maths of world I. Attrition is to world I what build/scale-up is to world II. World II effects start small, often unnoticed, with selected behaviours being practiced by a small number of individuals.

These are then copied by people in their immediate circle of influence and create ‘clusters of new behaviours’: true new critical masses, copied and spread by others like an infection, eventually generating ‘new norms’.

Let’s look at the differences between world I and world II in some real-life organizational examples. Note that there is nothing intrinsically wrong with the contents of world I, but its main problem is poor scalability and sustainability, for which it needs the help of world II as we will see later on. When you look at the highlights in each column, you may have lots of questions.

Don’t worry, as the rest of the book will hopefully answer all of them. For now, it’s enough to simply appreciate the differences or perhaps increase your awareness of which world you spend most of your time in.

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Friday, 23 May 2014


An excerpt from the book Homo Imitans by Leandro Herrero:

In an information-cluttered working environment where many ‘initiatives’ compete for airtime, repeated topdown communications become terribly inefficient. In Cluttered Corporate Inc, noise and signal get blurred. Eventually all is noise. The biggest health hazard of world I is information pollution. In fact, the mathematics of world I are the maths of attrition: start with aiming at everybody and then
cascade down. Information will reach initial destinations (stocks). Some people will pay attention. From those first ‘receivers’, some people will pay enough attention to understand. From those, some will consider doing something.

From those, some will actually attempt to do something. When you get to the terminus, a relatively small percentage has been truly influenced by the communication(s). Attrition is not only embedded, amazingly, we have come to accept that this is perfectly OK, a natural part of the process.

To fight attrition, we usually have a not-so-secret weapon: repetition. A new, bigger and better communication campaign will take place. This time perhaps communication packages will be prepared for VPs. VPs will brief directors, directors will have workshops with managers and managers have meetings with staff. And this way, ‘everybody will have gone through it’ (this is the language you hear) to ensure consistency. It is a noble and expensive goal. Large budgets are allocated, but the programmes have relatively small impact.

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Tuesday, 20 May 2014

‘Deus ex machina’

An excerpt from the book Homo Imitans by Leandro Herrero:

In this world, big seems to be beautifully linear as well: the more information pushed down to the bottom, the more pipes or channels used, the more flow created...the better it seems. Indeed, this is a world of channels, vehicles and their language: flow, block, saturation, etc. The pathways are algorithmic, pardon my language. It means that usually the roads are more or less preset and laid out like on a geographical map. You can go from A to Z via different roads—either meandering along the scenic route or taking the highway—but you have to stick to the map. In large organizations, the organization chart represents the information highways (algorithms) for the ‘cascade down’.

Success in world I is defined by the quantity and quality of the currency that reaches its destination points. In a 1,000-employee organization, the aim of a communication campaign is to reach 1,000 points of arrival. Simple. The assumption is then that 1,000 people will understand the message and that, as a result, 1,000 people will be ‘engaged’ in a particular way (intellectually, emotionally). The latter is difficult to validate other than by invoking the corporate equivalent of the ‘deus ex machina’: the post hoc fallacy. In other words, we did communication campaign A, we improved B (results, performance, employee survey data), ergo, the communication campaign did it. In most cases, this is a very weak argument dominating a strong and convenient management belief.

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Friday, 16 May 2014

Currency is Information

An excerpt from the book Homo Imitans by Leandro Herrero:

In this world, the currency is information: verbal, written or electronic information that flows all around and between us. This is the world of facts, the world with pieces of data or packages of knowledge flowing from one place to another. Homo Sapiens and management love this world. The information is packaged and pre-cooked so that it is digestible, usually presented in PowerPoint dishes or contained in spreadsheet prisons (after all, we call the boxes ‘cells’). Bullet points flood corporate life, encapsulating and summarizing thoughts.

In this world, company visions are presented and declarations of intention made. We ‘send’ guidelines, announcements, directions, pieces of news, congratulations, threats, tricks, explanations on the steps needed to go from A to B and anything else that the label ‘communication’ can accommodate. The ‘organizational logic’ is explained and distributed this way. It travels ‘down’ using traditional communication vehicles (from emails to posters, newsletters and magazines) or more modern media (video, audio or a combination of both).

Formal verbal interactions take place in world I. A significant amount of our time is dedicated to this world. We have ‘collaboration devices’ to facilitate the currency exchange: meetings, forums, workshops, town hall presentations, seminars, webcasts and podcasts. Technology has helped us to communicate in bigger and better ways. Fibre optics can now transfer 10 trillion bits of information per second.

Information can be used, reused, packaged and repackaged. And what’s more, it’s able to reach your eyes/screen/earphones on demand. E-mail is pervasive in this world. The corporate executive or the individual professional is ‘always on’, on demand, connected to a server 24/7. The arrival of a piece of information to your (big, small or minuscule) screen is announced by a blip that triggers a Pavlovian reaction. There is no way that information, the currency of world I, would not get to you.

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Tuesday, 13 May 2014

We’ve been getting it wrong time after time.

An excerpt from the book Homo Imitans by Leandro Herrero:

We’ve been getting it wrong time after time. Change management programmes that fail to deliver, many
inefficiencies in the management of organizations, the poor performance and big disappointments of government orchestrated social change interventions, the failed civic or religious campaigns to develop and implement a ‘social agenda’, the slow, painful and often unsuccessful health education and promotion short, lots of failed attempts to change behaviours in a large population, either inside the firm or in the outside world.

They all have something in common. All these failures stem from the misunderstanding of the differences between two separate worlds, each with their own rules and their own tempo: the world of communication (world I) and the world of behaviours (world II).

These worlds are very different. I have summarized these differences in the graph at the end of this chapter. Yet we mix up these worlds all the time, like mixing apples and pears, pretending that they are the same. After all, they’re both fruit. We cross the border between these two worlds at our  convenience and we use their attributes indistinctively. And this is where the problem starts.

I deeply believe that achieving success in any of the goals described before, from internal management in the organization to an external macro-social change, depends on mastering both (a) the understanding of and respect for the differences between the two worlds and (b) the establishing of bridges between them without getting them mixed up. Management in particular has not learnt the distinction between world I and world II. It muddles them together as if they were one single territory. The consequences are a series of messy and wrong expectations either about people or ‘management systems’. Things that belong to world I are expected to deliver outcomes that belong to world II and vice versa. For example, behavioural change (world II) is expected to follow an information or communication cascade (world I). Every single day in the management of organizations this mistake is made. The mistake costs time, effort, and results, at the very least, in inefficient management and leadership. Let’s look at this in detail.

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Thursday, 8 May 2014

Incredible Plasticity

An excerpt from the book Homo Imitans by Leandro Herrero:

If the Social Sciences teach us anything, it is about our incredible plasticity, which we are always more ready to attribute to others than to ourselves. And this fantastic capacity is precisely the good/bad news to consider. Bad news à la Iraq, good news à la all the possible good that roles and uniforms could provide in daily life. And since most of our daily life is spent at work, all the above applies to management and leadership. The problem is that management science has developed thick membranes, as if it needed to protect itself from intrusions by Psychology, Sociology and the other Sciences de l’Homme. Milgram and Zimbardo are not taught in business schools, but I can’t think of a better starting point to discuss leadership.

Back to the news. Another article I read was cynical about the ‘new’ Iraqi police. The occupying forces had finally realized there was no option but to bring back the old police force and the military that had been disbanded. The columnist joked about seeing the old moustaches and the old faces back” and could not understand how we should expect new behaviour from them. Most people would sympathize with this point of view but the tiny minority that belongs to the Social Psychology tribe would have no problem accepting it. If the context changes (and, indeed, it
has) this police force may surprise people with its ability to comply with the new regime. A change of uniform and context may create some good, even with the old moustaches. Similarly, providing a positive context in organizations (this is the leader’s function) makes roles and uniforms constructive. The same roles—managers, directors, project leaders, heads of HR and vicepresidents— in a negative context create havoc.

The key is the existence or absence of agreement on nonnegotiable behaviours, hopefully, but not necessarily, linked to a value system. These non-negotiable behaviours were probably absent in Abu Ghraib, or everything there was possible and negotiable in a contingent way – that is, depending on what needs to be achieved; for example, weakness in the detainees. Contingent approaches in management and leadership are wonderfully convenient and deeply dangerous, not something that traditional business education is prepared to accept. My unofficial father of contingent leadership is Jack Welch, ex-CEO of General Electric.

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Monday, 5 May 2014

Roles, Power and Uniforms

An excerpt from the book Homo Imitans by Leandro Herrero:

The pictures that shocked the world will still be in many people’s minds when the name Abu Ghraib is forgotten. The scenes of Iraqi prisoners and their American custodians made front pages and prime time everywhere. The sense of disgust was universal, but apart from this there was a varied spectrum of reactions. There were the politico-military questions. How on earth could this happen? Were the perpetrators just a few bad apples? How far up the chain of command did it go? There was the socio-political question: to what extent can this type of thing be justified? And there was the plain, ‘normal citizen’ question: how on earth can human beings do this to one another?

Now the blame has gone in several directions, the buck has stopped somewhere, so we are told, and the whole thing will soon more or less evaporate into history. American writer Gore Vidal reacted to the events of 9/11 with a sharp, cynical and otherwise politically incorrect comment: “It will be all over by the Christmas sales.” It didn’t quite happen like that, but he wanted to make the point of just how fragile our collective memory is. The Abu Ghraib saga, I suspect, will be contained one way or another, and soon consigned to the black book of black history. Period. Among the thousands of articles and references relating to Abu Ghraib there was an unpretentious, not terribly prominent and matter-of-fact column published in The New York Times, which revealed that, at least for a tiny sector of the population, these events were no surprise whatsoever. Anybody with a degree in Social Psychology would have said: “Aha! This is Milgram and Zimbardo revisited.” These were the authors of some old psychological experiments that have since been repeated several times. The article mentioned the studies and sought the opinion of people who had taken part.

I referred to Stanley Milgram in a previous article (‘It’s the system, not me’, May 2004). In a nutshell, it involved the citizens of the US town of New Haven who had volunteered to take part in an experiment on the effects of punishment on learning. They played the role of teacher, reciting words that the learners had to repeat correctly or receive an electric shock. The intensity of the shock rose with each mistake, and the learners screamed with each increase, eventually pleading with the teachers to stop. But the psychologist directing the experiment encouraged the teachers to continue regardless. Some refused and some carried on to the maximum voltage, which was labelled ‘dangerous’. The proportion of people who continued administering the voltage was 65%. Interestingly, laughter was sometimes the teacher’s first reaction when hearing the learner’s initial discomfort. The catch, as students know and readers of this column will remember, was that the learners were actors.

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Thursday, 1 May 2014

Good news: In management we don’t have electric shock.

An excerpt from the book Homo Imitans by Leandro Herrero:

The good news is that in management we don’t have electric shocks. The bad news is that there is a worse kind of pain than that inflicted by voltage: psychological pain. The dynamics of power in our organizations are very rich. We exercise power, obey orders and follow instructions. We also challenge them, resist or decide not to comply. In the process, organizational life sometimes serves as a coverall excuse for many things that would not be accepted in normal life. How many times have we said, or heard, “It’s not me, it’s the system. If it were up to me, I would let you do it.”

I have always been fascinated by the pervasive use of ‘they’ in organizations. ‘They’ want this. ‘They’ forced me to do that. What fascinates me even more is how often I have heard it used by senior people, even those at the very top. Who is ‘they’ in those cases? In my experience, it’s a virtual, almost Olympic ‘they’ – the system, the best, most convenient and unaccountable management black hole.

We don’t need the man in Milgram’s lab to tell us, “Keep pushing, it’s an experiment, for goodness sake. Do you think you can break the protocol just like that?” Our managers, supervisors, directors and vice-presidents, you and me—65% of us, if Milgram is right— will say “I am sorry, John, it’s not me, it’s the system. I have to inflict this pain on you. I don’t want to, but I have no choice.” In organizations, such behaviour comes in many forms and shapes. A 30-volt shock, for example, is forcing people to do something that is a hassle, unnecessary and serves no purpose other than to boost the ego of the person giving the instructions. A 50-volt shock might involve denying someone that little, perhaps one-off, opportunity for flexi-time that would make all the difference to the employee’s family and no difference whatsoever to the business. A higher voltage could entail submitting somebody to unnecessary humiliation and considerable psychological pain by requesting an action that serves no purpose other than as a public show of power.

I have seen the latter done to someone going through a terrible family crisis. Nevertheless, she was told, “I am sorry, we have to do this, it’s the system. There is nothing I can do.” It was a fantastic lie; there was a lot the manager could have done.

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Monday, 28 April 2014

It’s the system, not me...

An excerpt from the book Homo Imitans by Leandro Herrero:

Not many people knew what was going on in the psychology department. Nothing unusual about that. An advert in the local newspaper offered volunteers a few dollars for participating in an experiment, and many people from the city of New Haven applied.

The study was run by Stanley Milgram, a small curious assistant professor specializing in social experiments. This one examined the effects of punishment—administered here as an electric shock—on learning. The psychologist conducting the experiment read sequences of words to be repeated: house, money, flower, pretty, whether, cat. Each time a subject got them wrong, the volunteer, who was sitting on the other side of a one-way glass screen, administered a small electric shock. The potency of the shock increased progressively with each mistake – the lever moving from 25v to 30v, 40v and so on.

As the experiment continued, the subject’s reaction changed from a grimace to expression of more and more discomfort. Invariably, the level became very unpleasant, even unbearable. The subject would be almost screaming. The administrator objected. “Never mind,” the psychologist said, “this is a well-controlled experiment, you need to keep pushing the button.” Screams. “I want to stop. He wants to get out.” “No,” said the psychologist, “keep trying. It’s the protocol, we can’t break this experiment yet.” And so it continued until the pain was intolerable and the administrators were shaking. But they kept pushing the button. Well, some of them: 65 % to be precise. The other 35% gave up and refused to continue the torture.

The experiments were repeated and repeated, always the same: mistakes, shocks, up, up, up. And the citizens from New Haven kept pushing the button even though they were torturing the guy on the other side of the screen. Again and again, 65% complied with the instructions, and 35% told the psychologist to keep the money. More screams, more shocks and more knowledge about learning.

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Thursday, 24 April 2014

From the jungle to Wall Street.

An excerpt from the book Homo Imitans by Leandro Herrero:

Rituals that are effective both on the business AND the organizational level are rare. Most of the time there is a disconnect between the business functionality (poor) and the ritual and tribal functionality (very high). One of the visible effects of a sudden cost-cutting exercise in the firm is the almost automatic suppression of some rituals: no more off-site meetings, no more transcontinental travel for a meeting, no more people sent to business schools...

But rituals can’t be suppressed. We can’t pretend that we can get rid of them, leaving a vacuum behind. The annual sales conference can be cancelled for cost-cutting reasons, but it will probably be substituted by regional/local ones, a digital one, a series of internal meetings with lots of PowerPoints, teambuilding exercises, local dinner meetings or something else.

The platform for belonging and expressing mimicked behaviours must exist one way or another. And if there is a real vacuum or a shortage, a new ‘corporate initiative’ will be launched for the corporate tribes. Tribal behaviour helps us understand a lot of Homo Imitans’ social life. Today’s anthropology should move from the jungle to Wall Street.

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