Author Sam Harris is running another research project on religious faith that should prove interesting. He needs volunteers who represent lots of different perspectives.
We are preparing to run
another fMRI study of belief and disbelief, and we need volunteers to help us
refine our experimental stimuli. This promises to be the first study of
religious faith at the level of the brain. By responding to the four surveys I
have posted online, you can make an enormous contribution to this work.
You'll find links to these surveys on my home
One of most frustrating issues in operations research and organization leadership is the high failure rate of large, multi-dimensional change programs. These are the types of programs that result generally from mergers and acquisitions, technology replacements, or significant policy or market shifts. They often involve hundreds of people and tens of millions of dollars.
Large organizations want to be stable and profitable operations: they are distressed by anything that rocks the boat or introduces risk. Three decision points are critical to increasing the chances of successful change:
Whether to do it. This decision is usually put off until a crisis brews or a deadline looms. Many companies can mobilize only with a looming threat. (This is the famous burning platform.) The key is to mobilize before the crisis hits.
When and how to do it. This decision is usually optimized to disrupt current operations as little as possible, which, if the place is really in flames, is not a wise move. This decision requires lots of data, emotional intelligence, and the courage to tailor the plan.
Correcting the course along the way. This decision is the real opportunity for the inevitable roller coaster of change, for this one big decision should really be dozens of smaller ones.
I have a couple of 'secrets' to managing large-scale change that relate to the second point:
Spend half of the planning phase on understanding lessons learned from past attempts at both your organization and others, and
Spend half of the design phase on tailoring these lessons to the near and long-term changes.
What to do with that extra up-front time?
Make the people who are the 'targets' of change a part of the decision to change and the program’s design.
Individuals don't give up what they have today on the promise of getting something better in the future. Design benefits that are tangible, low-risk, and delivered in pieces.
Change leaders and projects managers must give equal attention to organizational or personal losses, as well as corporate gains. The program philosophy and plan must explicitly address "loss management" in addition to communicating benefits.
Change program success cannot depend solely on new technologies or what succeeded elsewhere. The technologies and business practices at the heart of most change programs are usually over-sold or just won't work in the conditions at hand. (Think ERP.)
Change designs must transcend the personality and short-term agenda of the current executive sponsor. The full benefits of any large change are never achieved on one leader’s watch.
Corporate decision makers who seek to combine company cultures would get better results by building associations between their companies, rather than forcing their cultures to 'fit.'
Executives use mergers and acquisitions to increase shareholder value, become bigger players, or cut costs. More than half of all M&A's fail to meet key expectations, often with consequences that devastate employees, customers and stockholders. AOL Time Warner and HP/Compaq are famous examples among hundreds of lesser-known attempts.
While observers and researchers have widely studied M&A failures and published insightful lessons to learn, 1980's-style M&A practices continue to seduce time-boxed executives and the consultants and integrators they hire. Over the past twenty years or so, one factor--culture fit--has consistently made the list of top-10 issues. From a recent study by the Hewitt consulting firm:
"Cultural fit emerged as the top HR integration issue in terms of
importance and complexity during an
M&A deal. Despite this, 52 per cent of companies indicated that
they did not believe that cultural integration would take more than six
months nor had they planned for such an eventuality. However, 70 per
cent had learned that cultural integration took much longer than six
months in reality."
While this study would appear to advocate the need to pay greater attention to cultural integration, the most up-to-date methodologies, like this one by Booz-Allen, are weak in this area. (Click to enlarge).
Why aren't we making more progress with cultural integration? I believe decision makers are stuck repeating a pattern of incomplete assessments and naive assumptions about human nature and the predictability of combining organic systems.
Corporate decision makers--goal-oriented, like-minded, and usually merger veterans--approach each new M&A with four flawed assumptions:
Employees are predictable and malleable
Any risk can be mitigated or managed during the time allotted
Initial plans and targets will play out as envisioned and committed-to
With persistence and cunning, the goals and tactics of the small leadership group will prevail
Marriages between two people work better when allowed the time to adjust, assimilate, and learn. Courting corporations are much the same. They need time to collaborate, co-develop new products, form partnerships, and get to know each other. ___
Researchers are using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to prove Spinoza’s speculation that we tend to believe what we know and disbelieve most new information.
This sounds reasonable on the surface, but totally crazy when you think about the path of human progress.
Premature disbelief of what we do not understand gives undiscovered knowledge a serious handicap. Why should one spend the additional time and effort on discovery and learning? Curiosity is not enough. The answer is survival: our old beliefs may be fatally flawed.
The next time you have an important decision to make, challenge one key factor about the decision that you assume is fundamentally true and indisputable. You may be surprised with what you learn.
And, oh yea, as far as we know the earth is not the center of the universe, although people just like us believed it was for thousands of years.
Gene Autry's Cowboy Code was a set of guidelines that influenced me and
my older brothers. It was something a young cowboy could always use in
We fuss a lot over specific decisions and choices, such as, "What should I buy?" or "Who should I pick?" and less time learning the guidelines that would serve any-and-all decisions. Our consumer culture is partly to blame; we want the benefits of outside experts. But this generally comes from faceless sources that we have to return to at each new decision point.
I think earlier generations relied more on codes of behavior and patterns of thinking that became part of who they were.
A story in today's paper confirms something I posted a few weeks back, here: Whole-body exercise is better for your mental faculties than brain-only exercise. (I must admit I want to try the new vision software that's out for the GameBoy DS.)
"So instead of spending money on computer games or puzzles to improve
your brain’s health, invest in a gym membership. Or just turn off the
computer and go for a brisk walk."