Archive for the ‘change management’ Category

Lately I’ve been caught up in books and articles about bias and how our biases affect our thinking in subtle and irrational ways.

Predictably Irrational” by Dan Ariely explores the hidden forces that shape our decisions – why we spend more on certain products, why we refuse to cut loose and keep doors open long after it makes sense, how our preconceived expectations influence what we see (or what we choose to see) and how we choose to interpret events. Warning #1: You may not have as much control over your decisions as you think! Warning #2: If you take a class from Professor Ariely, it sounds like you’ll have a ball, but don’t trust him. You might be the unwitting participant in one of his wild experiments! Then again, it might be kind of fun and definitely enlightening, if you can drop your justifications and biases long enough to learn about your own foibles.

Mistakes Were Made (but not by me)” by Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson documents why we justify foolish beliefs, bad decisions, and hurtful acts. Why would I ever own up to a bad decision if I can rationalize why it was the right decision at the time. ooooh, “at the time” is a convenient rationalization!

I’ve not read “Nudge” a popular book by Cass Sunstein and Richard Thaler, but it looks like an appropriate third act to the two prior books. According to the NY Times Magazine article about Sunstein (May 16, 2010) this book explains why conservative economics (people are rational, therefore the role of government should be as guarantor of a fair market and nothing more) do not always work in the real world – people are not rational. We are subject to biases and quirks. (What? We’re quirky?) But our quirks are predictable. We are, predictably irrational.

I’m not going to argue behavioral economics vs. conservative economics. The PBS Nova production of Mind Over Money is your best source for the exploration “Can markets be rational when humans aren’t” and it’s available for you to view online.

But I am going to argue that we can all be better consumers, team players, parents, volunteers, students…heck, better human beings by being aware of our own biases. Again, I’m going to rely on an expert who produced a video to help his Advanced Placement High School students learn about cognitive biases for a psychology class. Take it away Mr. Wray…

So the next time you make a purchase or some other important decision or pass judgment on another person or on an event, ask yourself, “Is my Cognitive Bias Showing?”


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Dangerous Ideas: “What if…”

[Cross posted]

The recent Public Library Association Conference featured a session titled, “The Dangerous Ideas”. The idea behind the session was to stimulate a conversation about adaptation and change by posing the question, “What if…?”

The presenters began by introducing Ten Dangerous Ideas:

1. What if we stopped cataloging?
2. What if we participated fully with the FBI in all criminal investigations that involved the use of library resources?
3. What if librarians individually and as a profession promoted, used and helped to develop Wikipedia?
4. What if we accepted open source software as a way of being more in control of the customer experience?
5. What if we embraced our iner geek and created immersive games that prompted cults of library junkies?
6. What if we required all library staff to have expertise using technology?
7. What if mistakes were expected and embraced and all librarians became mistake masters?
8. What if we didn’t make decisions based on fear or scarcity?
9. What if we stopped being passive/aggressive?
10. What if we didn’t make our customers work so hard?

I did not attend this session, but have been following the aftermath on the Transforming Texas Libraries Blog and the Web Junction Blog. Some of the provocative questions raised and documented on the Web Junction Blog are:

What if librarians would promote and participate in the development of Wikipedia?
What if we made decisions that are not based on scarcity?
What if libraries large and small invest together to adopt open source solutions?
What if teens in the library were our partners instead of our problem?
What if we learned to advertise the allure of libraries as successfully as soft drinks and junk food?

This discussion is continuing on “whatiflibs” wiki posted on wetpaint, a very easy to use wiki.

The question, “What if?” calls upon us to use our imagination and to push our thinking into uncomfortable territory.

Recognizing this, the presenters had follow-up questions for the workshop participants:

  • Why does this thought make me uncomfortable?
  • What are the opportunities in this idea?
  • What actions can be taken to pursue the opportunities?

I teach Change Management and Civic Entrepreneurship to graduate library students. I thrive on uncomfortable thoughts because that is where opportunities hide. Too many people retreat when confronted with uncomfortable thoughts. We don’t like ambiguity. We may feel threatened. We may feel insecure about what change will demand from us. But all of these are just the flip side of opportunity.

I’m sorry I missed this workshop. I would love to see this thinking brought into the National Coalition for Dialogue and Deliberation Conference taking place in Austin, TX October 3-5, 2008. The conversation starter could be a “What if…” related to the D&D community or democracy itself and how D&D impacts democracy.

How about it D&D-ers? Are we ready for some Dangerous Ideas?

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Managing Organizational Change in the Library

[cross-posted at: http://texasforums.wordpress.com/2007/05/06/172/]
I am attending a conference called LOEX. This is a group of library instructors and the theme “Uncharted Waters: Tapping the Depths of Our Community to Enhance Learning” was perfectly aligned with my interests in libraries and community engagement.

The 11:15 – 12:15 time slot on the LOEX Conference Schedule in San Diego posed a real challenge for me. First, it is tough to be inside for a workshop at a beachside resort.

Second, there were two excellent presentations that both apply to my interest area and research.

  • The Role of the Library in Achieving Co-Curricular Activites in Civic Engagement on College Campuses, and
  • Sailing off the Map: Managing Organizational Change in the Library

I teach Change Management for the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, but I’m also researching civic engagement of libraries. Fortunately, they were both on board the William D. Evans Sternwheeler so I could bounce between the two and my colleague, Ann Bishop attended the civic engagement workshop. I introduced myself to Mary Reddick, CSU Sacramento and Susan Metcalf, University of S. Indiana who invited me to join them at the end of their presentation and collect e-mail addresses and introduce myself to their attendees.

So off to learn about Organizational Change from Wendy Holliday, University of Southern Utah and Kristen Bullard, University of Tennessee at Knoxville.

Wendy and Kristen used a conflicting values assessment tool to evaluate the organizational cultures at UTK and USU. This Organizational Culture Assessment Instrument (free!) was developed by Kim S. Cameron and Robert E. Quinn in Diagnosing and Changing Organizational Culture. Through a series of questions, the tool measures organizations according to four quadrants or dominant characteristics with each quadrant given a numeric ranking for a total of 100 points:

  • Clan Culture: very friendly place like an extended family where teamwork, participation and consensus are the dominant modes of decision-making.
  • Adhocracy Cuture: places an emphasis on entrepreneurship and creativity. People are encouraged to stick their necks out and take risks. The organization encourages individual initiative and freedom.
  • Market Culture: the focus is on results and getting the job done. Leaders are drivers, tough and demanding. The organizational style is hard-driving competitiveness.
  • Hierarchy Culture: formal and structured, this culture emphasizes procedures and managers are good organizers who focus on efficiency.

They asked members of each organization to respond to the questions two times – first assessing what is and secondly responding with what they would like for the organization to be. Not surprisingly, both organizations leaned heavily toward the clan or adhocracy culture and the primary difference between the current state and the preferred state was less hierarchy even when hierarchy ranked lower than either clan or adhocracy.

But the real value of the tool is not the picture of the current culture or even the preferred culture, but the conversation that takes place about what factors of each culture speak to their core values for the organization and what they reject from each cultural characteristic. For example, a discussion at the workshop revealed a bias against the Market Culture because of the competitive nature, and yet everyone valued the idea of getting the job done and focus on achieving goals. Although the description provided by the workshop leaders did not include “response to the market demands” I can imagine this is an element of the Market Culture and one that library instructors who are concerned about meeting the information needs of students would certainly support.

So the value is not in where the lines get drawn, but in the conversation about why the lines are drawn such…what elements fall within the box of acceptable behaviors within our culture and what elements fall outside of what we are willing to tolerate.

I can imagine that the skills a moderator uses in deliberative forums would be extremely useful in moderating a group reflection of this tool and its results. Essentially, the four quadrants represent four different ways of managing an organization and conducting business. They are each driven by a different set of values that take priority. No one method is the right answer. Elements of each are appealing, but too much of one over another may lead to unintended consequences. These are all criteria used by National Issues Forums in framing an issue for deliberation. Here are some generic questions we use to train deliberative forum moderators that could be useful in leading a discussion of this organizational culture tool:

  • Why does this particular approach appeal to you?
  • What might be the consequence of following this approach completely?
  • I know that you resist approach X, but what do you imagine is important to those who support it?
  • Can you make the best case for the approach you like the least?
  • What would it take to make this approach more palatable to you?

It would be interesting to use this tool and my experience in deliberation together! Perhaps I will find a way to integrate this tool into the course I teach at the University of Illinois Graduate LIbrary and Information Sciences program.

The presenters did an excellent job and I’m sorry I had to duck out early, but it was well worth it to connect with the civic engagement contingent on the top level of the William D. Evans Sternwheeler.

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