How to programme people

I consider myself fortunate these days to be able to avoid rush hour on London Underground. However, every now and then, needs must.

So, this morning that’s what I was doing, and because I don’t do it often, I found myself noticing things and reflecting.

I’m not a big fan of conspiracy theories, but if I was, I’d think about how to programme people. To shape their environment in such a way as to make them pre disposed to my message, regardless of real evidence. You might see where I’m going with this 🙂

Firstly, I’d arrange to put them in a position where they pay attention to what I want. Crowded tube trains are ideal. Cramped space with just enough room to look at a screen, and conditions that make conversation difficult. Gotcha.

Then, I would make content available free via free newspapers and social media. Salacious headlines, fake news, digital discombobulation.

Then, I would push overarching themes that pull these different threads into a narrative arc.

Done expertly, day after incremental day, I’d create a set of lenses for people to look through, and keep them so busy they don’t have the time to think, reflect and access their soul.

Job done.

A nonsense, obviously.

The fourth addiction

I mentioned in yesterday’s blog Nicholas Taleb’s observation that the three greatest addictions are heroin, carbohydrates and a regular monthly salary.

On reflection, I think there’s a fourth.

Solutions

Most of the people I talk to in most organisations are busy. Too busy seeking efficiency at what they do to notice what’s going around them.

When an issue arises, they want a fast, reliable solution, preferably proven elsewhere.

I term it the “flu plus” syndrome. Something to take that masks a deeper underlying challenge so we can carry on regardless- at least until the underlying issue manifests in a more serious way.

We are all subject to it. Just because I write about it doesn’t mean I’m immune to it( just a little more embarrassed at my stupidity these days.

Most of the issues we have to address can be sourced back to a few common but complex causes. For us, stress, purpose, ego etc, and for the businesses we are in culture, leadership, purpose.

There are no “solutions” to any of these. They are systemic and often “wicked” morphing in response to whatever solution we try to apply.

Wicked problems require hand to hand combat. Curiosity, vulnerability, determination and an anchoring in purpose. It’s hard work, and there better be a good reason for facing the pain.

On the other hand, it’s energising. We discover things about ourself and the problem. We grow.

Other people’s solutions leave us stunted.

Solutions are easy, but come at a price.

Spirit of Schumpeter

Joseph Schumpeter was the Austrian Economist who made the term “creative destruction” famous. He was a thinker ahead of his time around business and entrepreneurship.

I wonder what he would make of today? Would he see the changes on the High St, and the increasing weakness of the big companies of the last century as they turn into zombies as a bad thing, or a good thing.

I suspect the latter. The moment we organise any business, we build stickiness and resistance to change into it. The only question is how long before it falls far enough behind the rate of change in its markets to become irrelevant.

We shouldn’t (though often do) have a problem with that. However, Nicholas Taleb suggests that the three biggest addictions are heroin, carbohydrates and a regular monthly salary. The first two are a choice, but the latter for most a necessity.

That doesn’t mean we can’t control it.

By developing a mindset of doing the best we can for an employer, but not being dependent. As Robert de Niro says in the film “Heat”; “don’t get involved in anything you can’t walk away from in 30 seconds”

If we’re employees, I think that’s a healthy mindset- it keeps us, and our employers, on our toes.

The trick of course is to be able to walk away. To develop the skills, contacts, values and awareness that makes our relationship with an employer one of equals. That means training, reading, discussing and above all thinking.

For destruction to be creative, it has to create way for something.

That something is an individual and team responsibility, because the destruction will arrive anyway.

And it’s a good thing.

Scary maybe, but good.