Citizens for Good Grievances

Let’s say you have a government that doesn’t serve your personal agenda. You have a grievance. You’d like to make some changes to better serve your interests. What do you do?

One popular local strategy undermines. Rather than helping officials leverage their power to serve your interests or taking their power for yourself, this approach diffuses their power by defaming it. No need to painstakingly work through issues or risk personal injury.

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Informational Cascade

"We like to think that people improve their judgment by putting their minds together, and sometimes they do. The studio audience at “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” usually votes for the right answer. But suppose, instead of the audience members voting silently in unison, they voted out loud one after another. And suppose the first person gets it wrong."
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What Does Not Work

Let's say you want someone to change. What should you NOT do? Here are some ideas.

The approaches outlined below sometimes work. The trouble is that they work just enough to keep us hooked into believing that they work unconditionally. We might never conclude that when continually repeated, they not only don’t work, but most often intensify the very behaviors and attitudes we are trying to change. The following lists contain most of the comments you’ve heard frustrated parents pass to their unruly children. Maybe you’ve heard yourself say these, too?

These approaches fail because they just do not work long term, regardless of your presentation skills, your unassailable logic, or the purity of your motivation. It seems to be a law of human nature: Humans cannot cooperate in the face of continual Unsolicited Lectures, Taking The Moral Highly Ground, Self Sacrifice/Denial, and expectations that say, “You really ought to want to!” Slip over here for more ...

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A Post-Modern Parable

Toyota and General Motors decided to have a concrete canoe race on the Missouri River . Both teams practiced long and hard to reach their peak performance before the race.

On the big day, Toyota won by a mile.


GM, very discouraged, decided to investigate the reason for their crushing defeat. A strategic management team, made up of senior management, was formed to investigate and recommend appropriate action. They concluded that Toyota had 8 non-union guest workers rowing on a twelve hour shift and 1 person steering, while the GM team had to include 4 pensioners who couldn’t row, 4 union employees who were restrained from rowing for more than four hours without a break (and had to comply with union rules limiting latitude for individual judgment), and 8 people steering: administering health plans, pension benefits, and compliance with union and government mandates, and maintaining narrowly-focused shareholder relationships.
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Anthropologie

Today's New York Times features a fascinating article, which plays into recent postings about design. The article, entitled Army Enlists Anthropology in War Zones, describes how employing social scientists is increasing effectiveness and reducing violence in Afghanistan. Here's an excerpt:

The anthropology team here also played a major role in what the military called Operation Khyber. That was a 15-day drive late this summer in which 500 Afghan and 500 American soldiers tried to clear an estimated 200 to 250 Taliban insurgents out of much of Paktia Province, secure southeastern Afghanistan’s most important road and halt a string of suicide attacks on American troops and local governors.
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Self Organizing Teams

There's an old concept called Context Marker, that Gregory Bateson used to kick around. A context marker is a subtle environmental cue that pretty reliably informs people how to behave in a situation. Context markers mostly influence at a pre-conscious level. Paying attention to and deliberately setting context markers can influence self organization. 

An example: Set up a conference room into rows of chairs with a center aisle. Dim the lights. Place an open book, perhaps a candle, on a small table at the head of the room. Then invite people into that room and watch what they do. Conversation will hush as they enter. Some will fold their hands in front of them. Ask later why people sat where they sat and and you'll learn that quite a few chose a chair positioned where their family sat in church when they were kids. Were they aware that they were doing that? Most weren't until they reflected on it. Slip over here for more ...
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Uncertainty and Dread

Yesterday, I read Seymour Hersh's latest: Shifting Targets The Administration's plan for Iran in the New Yorker. I found myself slipping into a cocoon of dread as I read. The piece examines the Administration's deliberations around how to justify attacking Iran. It tells a story of cynical certainty creating conditions before the fact that will justify the unthinkable after the fact.



Later, I was listening to a book called Dark Star, which tells the story of a Pravda journalist during the run-up to WWII. He, too, was surrounded by cynical certainty seeking to justify unthinkable actions. He lived in dread, too.
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