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Posts Tagged ‘obama’

Cognitive surplus, The Vision Thing, Kurt Lewin and Newton

Posted by Andrew Cooper on November 15, 2008

 

Newton

Newton

George H Bush allegedly said that he didn’t do ‘the vision thing’ (although, following two minutes extensive research via Google I can’t actually find a source for that so perhaps he didn’t).

Either way, his son’s successor is very big on Vision.  And following on from his extraordinarily successful use of the web to help back up his job application for the Leader of the Free World post he’s about to take on, he’s using the web to collect visions.  

Anyone interested in change management and psychology is bound to have been thinking about the central message of Obama’s campaign.  If you spend $30.00 on an Obama victory T-shirt (I’d want a victory sweat shirt at that price, particulalry given the current dollar/pound exchange rate, but I suppose that’s not the point) you will be able to wander around broadcasting the message – ‘Change can happen’ – to anyone who happens to read you.

This is a pretty safe promise, of course.  Change can happen. We’re all agreed on that. There’s an implicit suggestion that the change in question, if it does happen, will be beneficial, but the slogan provides a safety net just in case it isn’t.  

thankyou_bannerThere’s a lot that could be said about managing change and it’s a fair bet that the large management consultancies are queuing up to say it to Obama’s transitition team in the hope of landing massive contracts of the kind that our own government, here in the UK, has handed out to them over the last eleven years (see various previous posts in which I’ve suggested that this isn’t necessarily a brilliant idea.)

I’ll limit myself to just one thought. Kurt Lewin, who died in 1947, is one of the best known theorists on change management. He is also, as the wikipedia article points out, known as the ‘father of social psychology’.  His ‘force field analysis’ approach is one of those lessons from pscyhology which I would put in the ‘obvious when you think about it but nevertheless useful’, category of ideas.  

Force field analysis is like a restatement of Newton’s First Law of Motion which, as you will recall, states that ‘”A body continues to maintain its state of rest or of uniform motion unless acted upon by an external unbalanced force”.  Lewin said that social situations are like this.  They remain static because a set of balancing driving and restraining forces keep them that way.  So, if you want them to change, you must reduce the restraining forces and/or increase the drivers.  

As the wikipedia article also explains, Lewin talked in terms of ‘unfreezing’ a situation, making the change happen and then ‘freezing’ it again. 

All this is massively difficult to do and although I’m a SLLL (sceptical lilly-livered liberal) I can understand why the right in America is aghast at the idea of an interventionist President attempting to change things using the Federal government machine.  (So aghast, in fact, that Representative Paul Broun has already played the ‘Hitler’ card by comparing the President elect with, yes, Adolf Hitler.  This is, of course, a sure sign that he has lost the argument.)

(The video is, incidentally from the excellent Daily Show website: fellow card-holding LLLs will appreciate why it’s been my main source of intelligence regarding recent goings on in the USA – the show’s website is excellent.)

Anyway, Obama certainly has one thing in his favour at present.  If you want to engineer large scale change you need a large shock to unfreeze the existing status quo.  In this respect, at least, Obama and Hitler have something in common: large scale economic shocks.  Hitler had the depression and its consequences for Germany.  Obama has the credit crunch induced world economic crisis.

It’s going to be an interesting few years, one way or another.  

My vision for America, incidentally, is that all American citizens are provided with one of my very-nearly-ready-to-sell Mindworks approach starter kits so that they can think things through properly instead of rushing out and changing everthing willy nilly.

The starter kit has been slowly fermenting away over the past couple of months, and has recently been renamed ‘Mindworks BrainGear’ after someone rightly pointed out that ‘Mindworks Approach’ didn’t exactly grab his attention.   The second part of the process around which the kit is based, incidentally, exploits force field analysis.  I talk about bridges and barriers rather than driving and restraining forces, but the idea is exactly the same.  Just thought you’d like to know, Senator Obama.

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Cometh the hour

Posted by Andrew Cooper on September 29, 2008

An imaginary President

An imaginary President

I’ve just been watching Obama addressing a crowd live in the US following the House of Representatives’ rejection of Bush’s Wall Street bail-out plan. 

He was doing a good job, but he could have done better. He persists in using long words like ‘philosophy’ which, to my mind, is a bad idea when you’re addressing people in the Flyover States whose votes you need. He must have said it five times.

Jed Bartlet would never make that mistake. If only Jed, Josh, Toby, CJ and the rest were actually in the White House. Bartlet was a Nobel laureate in economics, no less.  He would have known exactly what to do. And he also had the common touch. He knew that when the President addressed the nation he needed to imagine that he was sitting in a bar with Homer Simpson and his chums, explaining how to put the world to rights.

A typical American voter

A typical American voter

Obama also needs to tell some stories and to use analogies that people will understand. My infants/teacher/delicious sweets story, for example (see below) to illustrate how the current US administration left Wall Street to regulate itself.  

So, stories and simple words.  Verbs optional.  Varied sentence length.  And, usually, one idea per sentence.  Plus idioms: words they use, not words you use.  ‘Big Idea’ not ‘philosophy’: ‘Bush’s big idea was to let Wall Street run itself.  That was it. That was his big idea.’

Words are powerful, but the gaps in between and pacing are just as important.  Long gaps, sometimes.  Listen to Churchill who not only used pauses to great effect but also used some very long sentences, almost stories in themselves, broken up by dramatic pauses.  The gaps are needed to let it sink in and, vitally, to let them complete your thoughts for you.  It’s in their heads that this is lost or won, not yours.  Everything Is Psychology.

He knows all this really, but in the heat of the moment he forgets it.  So if Senator Obama would like to hire me to join his team I’m available at very reasonable rates. Certainly less than the $2,000,000 that McCain’s top advisor was paid to ‘help financial giants avoid regulations‘. Contact details are in the left side bar when you’re ready, Senator.

Posted in Bush, government, obama, politics, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »