Magazine article Industrial Management

Eliminating 'Doublethink;' or, How to Overcome Terminal Iner

Magazine article Industrial Management

Eliminating 'Doublethink;' or, How to Overcome Terminal Iner

Article excerpt

How many times have you heard the phrase "Nothing ever changes?" Unfortunately, while most managers in business and industry have never been busier or involved in more projects, most employees will tell you "Nothing ever seems to get done." What causes this lack of progress in the midst of chaos? The answer is quite simple. Management is suffering from terminal inertia caused by "doublethink."

Simply stated, this situation arises whenever a person or group of people accepts, as valid, two opposite and mutually exclusive premises, thereby rendering himself incapable of a positive response to either.

In "doublethink," the first or initial concept perceived as "truth" is the thesis.

A second but contradictory "truth" is the antithesis.

The synthesis, or resultant, of these two contradictory ideas creates a state of cognitive dissonance, or mental opposition, resulting in neutrality or inertia similar to a "tug-of-war" in which both sides are equally strong.

A classic example of this phenomena would occur if you attempted to train a puppy to sit but rewarded different behaviors each time.

Thesis -- Push the puppy's bottom down on the ground as you command him to "Sit."

Antithesis -- Force the puppy to lie down on the ground as you give the same command to "Sit."

Synthesis -- Eventually, your little puppy will accept both "truths" as correct but will not know which is expected of him and will, therefore, perform neither behavior when commanded to "Sit." He is effectively neutralized.

The degree of risk one is willing to take as a result of inaction is often in direct correlation to the amount of time or money invested in either the thesis or the antithesis.

For example:

Thesis -- You discover that your house, on a cliff overlooking the beach in California, straddles a visible earthquake fault. It really is not a very safe location and you should move.

Antithesis -- But you paid $1.5 million for this house.

Synthesis -- You stay in the house and concoct various rationalizations for doing so.

This same thing occurs each time managers buy into a program or piece of equipment which later proves inefficient. Instead of getting rid of the defective item, it is kept, even to the detriment of the overall company, because "We paid "X" dollars for it. …

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