The like button
What would life be like if no one acknowledged your existence. What if you were ignored and excluded.
Our social interactions play a role in shaping our brain. We know now that repeated experiences sculpt the synaptic connections and rewire our brain. Accordingly, our relationships gradually frame the neural circuitry. Being chronically depressed by others or being emotionally nourished and enriched has lifelong impacts. This is of course unwelcome news to someone whose relationships tend towards the negative but it also points out to where the possibilities for repairing the situation might be.
We can no longer see our minds as independent and separate but as thoroughly social. Our mental life is co-created in an interconnected network. The human mind is not located and stored in an individual. Rather, what we have called the individual mind is something that arises continuously in relationships between people.
Communication starts with acknowledgement. It is about granting attention to others and making room for them in our lives. Thus how we connect has tremendous significance. Our (management) attention should be on who is talking and who is being silenced? Who is included and who is being excluded? Who do I acknowledge and who acknowledges me?
Changing the way we communicate is the way we change organizations. Changing the conversation is not a major program or change process. It is about understanding and influencing participation. It is sometimes about new connections, new conversations, and new people taking actively part. It is often about asking different kind of questions and pointing to different kinds of issues. It is always about being more positive than negative.
There can be no change without changes in the patterns of communication. Organizations of any kind, no matter how large or how small they are, are continuously reproduced and transformed in the ongoing communicative interaction. The patterns of interaction in an organization are highly correlated with its performance. Thus we should pay much more attention to the strength and number of relationships and the wideness and depth of networked thinking.
My friend Marcial Losada has proved that the distinctive characteristic of a high productivity organization is the capacity to generate expansive, positive, emotional states. Emotions can thus be seen as the driving force behind cognition and action. There is a lot of truth in the sentence “I don’t remember what you said, but I remember how you made me feel”
Low connectivity, self-orientation and negativity can trap organizations and people into rigid patterns of thinking and limiting behavior. “We have a human habit of getting stuck in a certain way of thinking and finding it extremely difficult to jump out of the rut into another way of thinking” as Murray Gell-Mann put it.
In modern psychology, the word empathy is used in three senses: acknowledging a persons existence, understanding that person’s feelings and being responsive: I notice you, I listen to you, I act with you.
The new management challenge is to identify the patterns of interaction behind high or low productivity and high or low creativity. It is also about analyzing how and when we get stuck. Is it in endless advocacy? Is it in self-absorption? Is it a result of general negativity? The goal is to create expansive emotional spaces that open up possibilities for effective action, creativity and learning. It is not about having common goals and sharing the same values. It all starts with acknowledgment and recognition between different people with different views and different approaches, evolving into a more responsive and complementary sense of consciousness.
What would it be like to live in a world where acknowledgement was the accepted rule that we freely wanted to follow – any time, any place, and with anybody.
The like button, as one way of saying that I have noticed you, I see you, I hear you, is more important than we know.
Thank you Marcial, Doug and Ralph