Gisteren, 24 juni 2014 gezellig naar het episch drama Italië – Uruguay met vrouwlief gekeken. Voor het eerst in ons 44 jarig huwelijk kijkt ‘ons Rita’ dit jaar mee naar de matchen van het WK. Ze is voor 50 %  Nederlandse en voor 50 % Belgische dus supportert ze vrijuit voor twee ploegen dit WK (weet niet wat het zou geven mocht er ooit een finale Nederland-België uit de bus komen)

Zoals gezegd keken we gezapig naar de match tussen Italië en Uruguay. De eerste helft was eigenlijk niet om aan te zien, zodat ik alle tijd had om na te denken over het verschil tussen Awareness bewustzijn en Consciousness bewustzijn. Beide soorten bewustzijn zijn verschillend van elkaar en toch onlosmakelijk met elkaar verbonden. Ze komen eigenlijk overeen met twee karakteristieken van het Creatief wisselwerkingsproces (Authentieke Interactie en Waarderend Begrijpen) en dus ook met fasen een en twee van het Cruciale Dialogen model: Communicatie en Appreciatie. Bij Communicatie is de hoofdactiviteit observatie en bij Appreciatie is dat interpretatie. Dus zou je Awareness bewustzijn kunnen vertalen als ‘zwart-wit’ bewustzijn (die de naakte feiten registreert) en het Consciousness bewustzijn als het ‘gekleurde bril’ bewustzijn (die de naakte feiten aankleedt en inkleurt). Voor het eerst had ik een (voor mij) accepteerbare vertaling gevonden van de twee concepten waarover wij (Charlie’s Eagles) het dit jaar reeds uitvoerig hebben gehad tijdens onze tweewekelijkse ooVoo sessies [Charlie’s Eagles is een denktankje rond dr. Charles (‘Charlie’) Leroy Palmgren, maar dat volledig terzijde].

Awareness vs Consciousness

Awareness vs Consciousness

Dus begon ik het commentaar van de voortreffelijke Peter Vandenbempt (wat een plezier deze radiomaker op tv te mogen aanhoren) te analyseren. Z’n commentaar is in wezen een vertaling van wat er gedurende de match te zien is. Wat te zien is wordt opgepikt door de zintuigen en komt overeen met het Awareness ofte zwart-wit bewustzijn; het commentaar is dan weer het uiten van het Consciousness ofte gekleurde bewustzijn. Door constant mijn gekleurd bewustzijn te vergelijken met dat van Peter werd de match, die eigenlijk niet denderend was, toch leerrijk. Het Consciousness bewustzijn van Peter kwam, wat de kwaliteit van het geleverde spel in de eerste helft betrof, volledig overeen met dat van mij. Peter heeft heel wat meer te observeren dan ik. Hij ziet namelijk het geheel en ik maar wat op m’n beeldscherm verschijnt. Gelukkig is Peter een professioneel die af en toe belangrijke details beschrijft wat er op en naast het veld gebeurt en wat niet te zien is op m’n scherm. Dus werd de match voor mij hoe langer hoe levendiger. Soms was ik het eens met Peter’s Consciousness bewustzijn, soms ook niet, en dat maakte m’n oefening uiterst boeiend. Spijtig genoeg kon ik met Peter niet  in dialoog gaan…

Er was op het voetbalveld in het begin van de tweede helft – volgens Peter’s en mijn Consciousness bewustzijn –  eigenlijk nog niet veel te beleven. Toch bleef het spannend omdat Italië genoeg had aan een gelijk spel om door te stoten tot de achtste finales en Uruguay diende te winnen om hetzelfde doel te bereiken. Dit waren de naakte gegevens en met de brilscore op het scorebord kon het, een half uur voor het einde, nog alle kanten uit (logische deductie, dus zwart-wit).

Toen gebeurde er iets bijzonders. De Italiaanse voetballer Marchisio gaf de Uruguayaan Arevalo een doodschop (gekleurd). Het was een trap juist onder de knie (zwart-wit), de referee stond er vlak bij (gekleurd), wel op 1,98m (zwart-wit) en greep naar z’n achterzak (zwart-wit). Hij zou volgens Peter de rode kaart trekken (die wordt daar bewaard – zwart-wit – om zich niet te kunnen vergissen – gekleurd). Inderdaad de ref trok de rode kaart (hoe raar ook: zwart-wit bewustzijn ). Plots stond Italië met z’n tienen (naakt feit) en ze groeven zich in (niet letterlijk, dus gekleurd).

In de 78 minuut lagen plots twee spelers in de zestien van Italië (gekleurd, de zestien is van Brazilië, maar soit). Peters commentaar werd heel boeiend, misschien had Suarez Chiellini gebeten (feit wegens de ‘misschien’), Suarez was niet aan zijn proefstuk toe (feit, hoewel we niet weten wat hij in Nederland bij Ajax en in Engeland bij Liverpool geproefd heeft). De fase werd meerdere keren herhaald, vanuit verschillende camerastandpunten (zwart-wit feiten), maar noch Peter, noch ik konden ze ‘juist’ inkleuren. Ons Consciousness bewustzijn schoot tekort. Wel ontblootte Chiellini z’n linkerschouder (zwart-wit) en misschien was er wel een tandenafdruk te zien. In alle geval had Suarez naar z’n tanden getast (zwart wit), maar had hij ook gebeten of had Chiellini zich zelf verwond door z’n schouder tegen de tanden van Suarez te meppen? Noch Peter, noch ik kwamen er uit. We hadden te weinig feiten, onze observatie schoot te kort. Het beeld was niet scherp genoeg om de wonde correct te zien (een of twee rijen tanden en hoe dicht bij elkaar?). Bovendien werd de schouder van Chiellini vlug zedig toegedekt door een Uruguayaanse speler…

S’avonds nog even naar Diabo gekeken en de steeds scherpzinnige Jan Mulder kwam met een prachtig idee. In plaats van een psycholoog naar Brazilië te sturen (om het ‘geval’ Lukaku op te lossen – een ander verhaal van Awareness en Consciousness bewustzijn), stelde hij voor om een tandarts te sturen. En ik dacht zo dat dit zwart-wit gegeven, een tandarts die de afdrukken op Chiellini’s schouder bestudeert en ons een gekleurd uitsluitsel geeft (mbt de vraag: heeft Suarez gebeten of niet?), ons verder zou kunnen helpen. Maar dan dacht ik:  op het moment dat de tandarts in Brazilië aankomt zijn de tandafdrukken verdwenen (gekleurde mening) dus zullen we het misschien nooit echt weten…

Overigens heb ik de laatste week van Jan Mulders’ inkleuring van de werkelijkheid genoten. De manier waarop hij onze nationale Karl soms te grazen neemt met z’n Consciousness bewustzijn is ronduit hilarisch. Zo bijvoorbeeld z’n commentaar m.b.t. het ‘domme blondje’ Mathilde en, nog sterker, toen hij vroeg of Karl kandidaat is voor het voorzitterschap van de FIFA; dit net nadat Karl geponeerd had dat hij als trainer van Duitsland of de USA wel zou opteren om een draw te flikken.

De tweede match heb ik die avond niet bekeken, ik was bekaf. Toch deed ik m’n twitterdoos (volgens het consciousness bewustzijn van ‘ons Rita’) open en daar vond ik een tweet van m’n goede kennis Frank Van Massenhove en ik was weer vertrokken. FvMas1 Het Consciousness bewustzijn van Frank kwalificeert het voetbal van Italië als ‘laf’. Deze statement is inderdaad geen Awareness gegeven maar een Consciouness gegeven, gevormd in het denkkader, de mindset van Frank. Althans dit zegt mij mijn Consciousness bewustzijn. Is dat juist? De enige die mij ‘de waarheid’ kan zeggen, klaarheid kan scheppen over de feiten, is Frank zelf. Nu weet ik al jaren dat twitter niet het meest geschikte medium is voor diepgaande dialoog. Toch kon ik me niet weerhouden, omdat ik het net gezien had, om als volgt gekleurd te reageren: FvMas2 Inderdaad had ik net gezien dat Prandelli op een schitterende manier zijn ontslag aangeboden had. Ik scrolde m’n twitter tijdlijn naar boven en vond toen nog tweede tweet van Frank (hier samen met z’n eerste)FvMas3 De trainer die het laffe voetbal orkestreerde werd plots in de ogen van Frank een magnifieke nederige baas (dus via z’n Consciousness bewustzijn). Hij voegde er ‘en passant’ een dot van een Consciousness bewustzijn statement aan toe, in de vorm van een open vraag.

Ik scrollde nog verder en gaf een antwoord op een nog latere tweet van Frank, bedenkend dat twitter soms wel een heel vlug en vluchtig medium is, met tikfouten als bijkomende werkelijkheid.FvMas5 Maar ook m’n bewering dat Frank en ik op dezelfde golflengte zitten steunt niet op Awareness bewustzijn maar wel op mijn Consciusness bewustzijn. Wie zei er al weer dat je niets kunt leren door naar matchen en commentaren rond het WK te kijken? PS deze morgen las ik op sporza.be dat de disciplinaire commissie van de FIFA een onderzoek geopend heeft tegen Luis Suarez. Hij riskeert minstens twee wedstrijden speelverbod, luidt het. En nieuwe foto’s van Chiellini’s schouder tonen wel degelijk ‘tandenafdrukken’. Wordt zeker vervolgd 🙂

Why a Paradigm Shift is Needed: Current Trends in Organizations

Some companies are organizing around teams and making teams responsible for their own work without management supervision. In such a situation, each team is accountable to all the other teams with which it is interdependently linked. This creates a kind of marketplace accountability in which the work of each team is appraised for its quality and timeliness by the other teams with which the team has connections. The meaning of such a system starts with satisfying the needs of the customer, both internal and external. Each person, and each team, and all the interlinked teams that make up the organization participate in this leadership.

There is often literally no one “making decisions” from a ,”higher level” in order to control the work of the teams. In many cases, the various teams are coordinating by something very close to mutual adjustment. In the past, mutual adjustment as a method for gaining coordination and shared direction has been limited to relatively small groups of tightly integrated people. The idea of expanding mutual adjustment to include larger organizational units is fostering a significantly different idea of leadership.

In a related vein, many organizations are trying to break down the strict barriers, the silos, that have separated and defined different functions. Boundaries do not go away, but our ideas about the nature of boundaries can change. In most organizations, functional boundaries are the product of coordination from above, from a level of more abstraction – the classic bureaucratic hierarchy.  As organizations try to create a context in which functions can work together more closely, coordination from the top seems to be giving way to coordination from the side-from workgroup to workgroup instead of from manager to manager. This makes the leadership task significantly more complex and requires an approach to leadership that embraces the differences within and among groups. A model of leadership that acknowledges and accommodates the need for direction and meaning between functions seems to be called for.

Increasing diversity in organizations also suggests the need for a new paradigm in leadership. If organizations are going to embrace differing cultures, they need to be able to embrace differing values, philosophies, attitudes, ideas, and feelings all at once, seeing differing values and perspectives as mutually sustaining. Older approaches to leadership depending on the idea that a leader can generate a vision to guide, motivate, or gain the commitment of others are unlikely to serve this need

very well simply because the vision of a leader – even if it is informed by the ideas of followers – is of necessity the vision of a single culture and a single worldview, because it is expressed from a single point of view. Vision in diverse organizations needs to be multifaceted, and meaning in diverse organizations needs to be reciprocal, forged in continuous interaction, An idea of leadership as shared process may be a step in this direction. This process is the Creative Interchange process.

The need to make organizations more directly responsive to customers is leading to the practice of granting increased no routine decision-making authority to operational people. This move also seems to call for a new paradigm in leadership. Making people more directly responsible for their work and the outcomes of their work puts the identity and reputation of the organization into the hands of many, rather than of a strategic few at the top. As operational employees take responsibility for making decisions in direct communication with customers, depending less on following a script and more on their own living of the Creative Interchange process, the enacted strategy of the organization unfolds in the day-to-day actions of a multitude of people. If the strategy of the organization is to be effective, people at all levels and doing all kinds of work need to be participants in the evolution of that strategy. Again, an approach to leadership as a shared process is being called forth.

Finally, the whole set of ideas implicit in what is being called the learning organization may depend upon a new idea of leadership. We wrote in part II of our book ‘Creative Interchange’[1]: “We have to make the Creative Interchange process a discipline (our way of doing business) and a daily reality. Only then will the learning organization become a flourishing reality. In other words, we are convinced that the Fifth Discipline[2] of Peter M. Senge can only become a success if it is essentially based on the ‘Sixth Discipline: Creative Interchange’.

Fundamentally, the difference between the learning organization and the traditional organization lies in the concept of open and closed systems. he traditional organization was conceived as a more or less closed system, with a goal of stability in the face of environmental change. The learning organization is being conceived  as an open system that evolves continuously as it interacts with its environment. Although the traditional organization was well served by a model of leadership that emphasized a single, controlling vision created by a leader who had a highly abstracted view of the enterprise-the leader created the leadership that kept the organization stable – the learning organization needs a model of leadership that points toward continuous adaptive change: “The [Creative Interchange] Process is the Leader”.

This suggests that somehow we have to figure out how to achieve flexible navigation that adjusts to changes as they happen, not in annual or other time-specific cycles. It’s an image of a ship on which the sailors are calling out to one another what they are doing and what they have learned about the sea in which they are sailing. Instead of regarding a sea captain as the leader; the entire ship-sailor system is seen as leadership. If companies are to steer by this kind of large-scale mutual adjustment, an approach to leadership is needed that enables direction to emerge from the reciprocity of interrelated work.

In recent years the theory of leadership has been building toward a new view in tandem with the practice of leadership. The final step in understanding how these changes in the idea of leadership affect the practice of leadership development is to describe in more detail just what such leadership might look like. How is it different from the traditional idea of influence and the modern idea of shared commitment?

Leadership as Shared Meaning Making

The idea of leadership that is emerging calls for rethinking the source of leadership. It will no longer be thought of as something initiated by the leader (or by followers) but understood to begin in the reciprocal connections of people working together. This is a significant change from even the most current ideas of leadership, which are still rooted in the idea that leadership is a product of individual initiative and action. Even in the modern idea, it is still usually presumed that the leader initiates the shared process.

The idea that leadership is initiated by interactions of people (which is the creative interchange process at work between people) instead of by people as individuals goes well beyond the idea that leadership is a personal trait. It also goes beyond the idea that anyone can be a leader. It even goes beyond the idea that leadership can and should be shared between leader and followers. It is the idea that the process is the leader.

This new idea says that leadership begins and ends in the interrelations of people working together. It is not that the process is most effective when it is shared by a leader with followers; sharing is where the process comes from. It doesn’t come from leaders and it doesn’t come from followers; it doesn’t come from any one person alone. The Creative Interchange process is the natural learning process[3]. It comes instead from what goes on between people, from people making reciprocal meaning (promises, commitments, interpretations, agreements) when they work together. This is leadership as shared meaning making.

What exactly do I mean by “shared meaning making?” Without getting too entangled in philosophy, I suggest that it refers to joint or reciprocal interpretation of experience, especially experiences that are readily open to multiple interpretations. To use the old analogy of the blind men and the elephant, I mean the synthesis of all the partial observations. This is more than a summary of the various views-the size of the leg, the length of the trunk, the feel of the tail. It means that all those who hold the various observations from differing points of reference arrive at an agreed-upon view of the whole animal. shared meaning making then, refers to the reciprocal social processes by which a group of people agree on how to understand some phenomenon and what value to place on it. I hope this becomes clearer as the paper progresses.

six wise people



 



[1] Roels, Johan. Creatieve Wisselwerking. op. cit.

[2] Peter Senge, M. The fifth discipline. The art and practice of the learning organization. New York: Doubleday, 1990

[3] Wieman, Henry Nelson. Man’s Ultimate Commitment. Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press, 1958.

This blog is a reaction to a Blog of David Ducheyne, in which he claims that the Purpose lies outside yourself:http://www.hrchitects.net/purpose-lies-outside/

I gave some comments as you can see on his blog and the comment he gave on those was : “It’s always nice to see comments that are longer than the original Blog.  I think we agree.” Since I really cannot confirm this paraphrase of David I wrote this Blog.

A simple exercise to find your purpose is the Purpose Game that I have learned from my third Father Charlie Palmgren. I have played that game for almost twenty years now in very different settings . It goes as follows:

“You ask the other person, let’s call him Person A, to think of an activity he/she regularly does out of her/his free will. When he/she has found that activity you ask Person A to communicate this activity to you (Person B). The only question Person B has to use is: “What is YOUR Purpose of doing this activity?” Be aware that her/his answer is really connected to him/her. Don’t let fool you in this game, this is crucial. Person A has to stick to him-/herself and not take a flight to someone else.

Like in following exemple: “I (being A) pay bi-weekly a visit to my mother in law”. You, David (being B) asks me “Johan, what is your purpose of doing this?”. If I answer you “ Because she likes this”, I’m cheating, I take ‘a flight’ …. You (Person B) has to bring me back… Back to ME.

So the game has to continue USING the answer of Person A. You built upon or dig deeper in the purpose using those answers.  You continue the game until Person A repeats, paraphrases himself. This ‘landing point of the Eagle’ is noted on a piece of paper. This ‘final’ answer, you’ll see, does NOT ly outside yourself, it is the core Purpose of your Being.”

I’ve been playing this game with thousands of persons and mostly I pair up the people in the group. When A has finished (he got stuck, paraphrases himself)… A becomes B and B becomes A and the team of two play again. In those twenty years I’ve never got a surprise, all people found their inner PURPOSE. I must admit that once I had to dig very deep with a Catholic Priest until he said… BUT then I am selfish! No, I replied, you are a loving HUMAN! (in Flanders I call this game: ‘Mother, why do we exist?’).

And this purpose is: You want to be happy, content, fulfilled, in peace … and this lies in yourself. And how many hours you want to be that way? Indeed 24/24 and seven days a week. Those of you who have had in their lives what are called ‘White nights’, know that this is seldom because one is happy, content, fulfilled, in peace…

Of course David is right saying that we cannot be happy all this time on our own. We need other people, creatures like pets, nature,…

My fourth father, Paul de Sauvigny de Blot SJ (in short Paul de Blot) was during years, like Victor Frankl, a prisoner in a WWII concentration camp. Victor in a German one, Paul in a Japanese one. The story he often tells about surviving (he lived more than a year in a death cell where he could not see any light, so after a while he didn’t know if it was day or night), is also about friendship. He testifies that not the strongest men survived in a concentration camp, it were those men with the most friends. You’ll find easily some of the his key notes on Internet.

Among the tribes of northern Natal in South Africa, the most common greeting, equivalent to ‘hello’ in English, is the expression Sawu bona. It literally means “I am here” The order of the exchange is important: until you see me, I do not exist. It’s as if, when you see me, you bring me into existence. This meaning, implicit in the language, is part of the spirit of Ubuntu, a frame of mind prevalent among native people in Africa below the Sahara. The word ubuntu stems from the folk saying Umuntu ngumuntu nagabuntu, which, from Zulu literally translates as “A person Is a person because of other people”[i]

Let me quote David Ducheyne: “Psychology has discovered that your mental development is triggered by interaction with others. You cannot healthily exist without the other. You define yourself, based on the interactions with the other.” One of the philosophers who discovered this is the American Religious philosopher Henry Nelson Wieman. He writes extensively about “that creative good which transforms us in ways in which we cannot transform ourselves.” For Wieman our supreme devotion must be to the creative good not to the created relative goods [created by the creative good], this was an ultimate commitment to what in his later years he increasingly came to label “creative interchange.”[ii]

In 1966, Wieman met and formed a working relationship with Dr. Erle Fitz, a practicing psychiatrist, and Dr. Charles Leroy (‘Charlie’) Palmgren, my third father. Fitz, Palmgren, and Wieman met regularly in Wieman’s home (in Grinell IA I recall) until Wieman’s death in 1975 to focus on how creative interchange could be the basis for psychotherapy, applied behavioral sciences, and organizational development. After Wieman’s death, Palmgren continued to nurture the creative interchange philosophy, identifying the conditions necessary for the Creative Interchange process to occur nt, and developing tools to help people remove the barriers to those conditions while identifying the counter unproductive process ‘The Vicious Circle’.

I was lucky to meet Charlie in 1992 and since then I’m using the Creative Interchange Process in my field of expertise: Safety. In 2001 I wrote a book about my interpretation of Creative Interchange in the field of Loss Control (Safety): ‘Creatieve wisselwerking’[iii]. In 2012 followed a new book ‘Cruciale dialogen[iv]’ (‘Crucial dialogues’) which is the application of the Creative Interchange Process during tough conversations.

Indeed, you really define yourself, based on Creative Interchange with others!

Some people claim that there are two levels of Purpose:

1) Personal purpose, as in why am I here on earth? And;

2) Organisational purpose: the higher calling of an organisation. Finding deeper meaning in work that leads to a higher level of engagement, if it strikes a chord with the individual.

To me it makes sense that if an individual is well-aligned with his Purpose, he will seek out the same level of alignement professionally. If the company mission, vision and values don’t suffice, the individual will try to fill in the gaps on his own. And if there is an irreconcialbe gap between his Purpose and the company’s one he should leave the company. If not, he will become unhappy by definition, since he will be trapped in a ‘Vicious Circle’.


[i] Peter M. Senge [et al.] The Fifth Discipline Fieldbook, strategies and tools for building a learning organization.Doubleday, New York, 1994.

[ii] Wieman, Henry Nelson. Man’s Ultimate Commitment. University Press of America®, Inc., Lanham, Maryland 1991.

[iii] Roels, Johan. Creatieve Wisselwerking, Garant, Leuven-Apeldoorn, 2001

[iv] Roels, Johan. Cruciale Dialogen, Garant, Ant

Last 20th of May  I’ve got the following e-mail from Pieter Jan Bots : “Thank you for submitting your proposal for the symposium: RISK AND SAFETY Different Perspectives , Amsterdam 11-12 November 2014. We are happy to announce that your presentation with the title: Fourth Paradigm in the Work Field has been approved for the symposium.

The next day Carsten Busch, with Pieter Jan and Nick Gardener the driving force behind the seminar, wrote me an extensive e-mail to congratulate me and to warn me: “We think that your presentation will be one of the most controversial of the seminar, therefor we have put it in the section ‘New Perspectives’. Since we understand that your presentation will be on the ‘edge of what most participants will expect’ (i.e. out of the comfort zone of most safety people), it will be important to keep it somehow concise.  He went on: “The questions that I hope you’ll answer are: Why a new paradigm is needed in the work field? Which road should we take? And How?”

Since I will only have a twenty minutes to develop my thoughts (it looks like a TED talk!), I’ll really have to be ‘concise’, and that is not one of my Core Qualities! So to prepare myself I have written this blog.

A Paradigm… it’s 20 cents isn’t?

The paradigm concept was first coined by Thomas S. Kuhn is his book ‘The structure of  scientific revolutions’[i]. A Paradigm is, according to Stephen R. Covey[ii], the way we ‘see’ the world – not in terms of our visual sense of sight, but in terms of perceiving, understanding, interpreting. As a metaphor, I like to compare our paradigms to the colored lenses in our glasses.  What we see isn’t a completely accurate reflection of reality, it is shaped by our attitudes and perceptions.

gekleurde bril

 Fig 1 Paradigm Metaphor ‘colored glasses’ (based on The Ladder of Inference of Chris Argyris[iii])

Paradigms are mental models, frames of reference, … that help us to see the reality and to solve our problems. Charlie Palmgren thought me to use the concept ‘mindset’[iv], a paradigm is a frame of reference for our body of thoughts, a model that we use in order to understand and to explain certain aspects of the reality.

The term paradigm shift was also introduced by Thomas Kuhn in the same book, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Kuhn shows how almost every significant breakthrough in the field of scientific endeavor is at first a break with tradition, with old ways of thinking, with old paradigms.  A paradigm shift, then, is a change to a new game, a new set of rules. Each Paradigm Shift is more or less a reaction to a crisis. Sooner or later, every paradigm begins to develop a special set of problems that everyone in the field wants to be able to solve and no one has a clue as to how to do it. How are those special problems going to be solved? By changing paradigms, by a paradigm shift! In my ‘TED talk’ I’ll use the representation of a Paradigm and a Paradigm shift presented by Joel Barker in his book ‘Paradigms’[vi][v].

 

Figuur Paragdigm curve

 

Figure 2 The presentation of a ‘Paradigm’: the Paradigm Curve

First let’s label the axes in Figure 1: the horizontal (or x axis) represents Time; so if we move to the right, time is passing; the vertical (or y axis) represents success or ‘Problems solved’ using the prevailing paradigm. So if we moving upwards more new problems are solved at a specific time. The process starts not at zero, because problems were solved in the past without a particular set of rules (or Paradigm). Note that there is a slight slope to the A phase: problems are solved in a slow way until we fully know and have refined the problem-solving rules of the actual Paradigm. If you are successful in this then Phase B follows. The dramatic change is the angle of the curve in Phase B indicates that you fully understands the paradigm. You have become efficient in identifying problems that can be solved using the paradigm and effective at applying the rules to discover solutions. You’ll notice a break in the B segment of the line. The more powerful the paradigm, the more problems it will solve over time. Let’s take a look at the C phase of the Paradigm shown in Figure 1. We see the rate of problem solving begin to slow down and the time between problems solved increases, our solutions breed new problems. As we climb higher on the curve, the problems remaining typically increase in their difficulty.  The Paradigm Curve is a simple and useful way to depict the life span of a paradigm.

Why a paradigm shift is needed in the work field?

Simply because the actual way of dealing with work field problems doesn’t work anymore.  Workers at best ignore the slogans of top management, at worst they play along. In most companies the safety philosophy remains naïve, mechanical, fallacious, shallow and .. a century old.

A great deal of the Work Field management remains stuck in the ideas of Fredericks Taylor ‘scientific management’. I know there have been paradigm shifts in the past, because I’ve lived through them: the ‘technical paradigm’ (I call it the Heinrich Paradigm) has been followed by the Organizational one (I call it the Frank E. Bird Jr. Paradigm), which has been followed by the Human Behavior one (I call it the ‘Dupont’ or ‘dr. Krauze’ Paradigm).  Those present ‘safety organizations’, as some call them, seeks behavior manipulation or control and at the same time are killing innovation and preventing sound communication and successful ‘crucial dialogues’. Behaviorism is the ‘popular’ philosophy, unfortunately more and more problems are not solved by the actual ‘Human Behavior’ paradigm. “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” is a quote attributed to Albert Einstein and IMHO very true in this context.

What are the kind of problems that are created by the actual paradigm in the work field? Let’s keep it ‘concise’ and only look at one prevailing element of the actual paradigm: the ‘zero’ mindset. The actual buzzwords in that mindset are ‘zero accident’, ‘zero preventable accidents’, ‘zero injuries’ … and finally ‘zero harm’.

This ‘zero harm’ is indeed one of the last convulsions of the actual safety ‘frame of reference’. There is no possible way in the world for any organization to ever meet that ‘zero’ goal. The believers of the zero mindset are basically setting themselves and their subordinates ‘from the outside-in’ up to all sorts of issues to obtain ‘on paper’ what cannot be obtained in reality by using that slogan. Most CEOs and managers of the ‘zero mindset’ companies that are charged with achieving ‘zero harm’ have become like the fabled emperor with no clothes on. He was sold ‘invisible’ clothes by a persuasive consultant, and the people lied to the emperor to avoid shaming him (and to have to bear the consequences of their ‘authentic interacting’).

There are at least two guaranteed strategies for achieving a ‘zero accident goal’ in this paradigm: 1) creative use of statistics and definitions (classification of accidents!) and 2) a massive dose of good luck over an extended period of time. Being who I am, I won’t recommend either one to you, even though the first has ‘success guaranteed’ after implementation. It’s all about whether you want to like yourself upon seeing your reflection in the mirror. I do like myself, and I’d like to keep things that way.

There is this third method that may get you close, eventually, but it costs a lot of hard work, disappointment and patience: good safety management. And without a certain dose of luck it won’t bring you down to ‘zero’ and keep you there. Because you simply cannot control everything, and “entropy will get us in the end”, so accidents do happen, no matter how good you are.

My experience has taught me that the “zero” talk leads to under reporting and misleading information about the safety reality. Zero harm is a great vision. But is it necessary to say this? The purpose of safety is in line with the core purpose of every human being (Play the ‘Purpose Game’ and you’ll find out if you don’t know it by now). The focus should be not on the end result but on what is being done to prevent accidents. What proactive measures are in place? Are they working? Are we focusing on the right things (looking solely at the human behavior and not at all the causes why incidents are occurring)? And more important: ‘are those measures lived from the inside-out, because people believe in them or are they just doing it – or worse making the right ‘movements’ – because we have to do it, from the ‘outside-in’.

I have always received the same comment from ‘zero harm’ disciples from many industries: “They believe that if you don’t buy into the zero mindset that you advocate or endorse incidents and injuries!” Or, you are willing to accept less than zero. Accepting that someone may come to harm is a different thing from planning to have someone harmed. I think it’s very transparent if you manage to communicate that you cannot provide 100% safety, even if you would like to. There is of course a major nuance between not endorsing a “zero goal” and “planning to injure”. My response has always been this – wanting something and getting something are two different things. A plan to improve the process is the only logical way I know I can influence the probability of incidents occurring. If I have a zero injury goal but do nothing different, how can I expect different or improved results?

The desire that everyone in a company does their work without injury and goes home in the same state of health as they came to work in is NOT the same as a Zero Injury target. The longer I thought about it, the more disgusting the whole idea of ‘Zero Accidents’ became. It’s not only a thing that involves mostly fear, blaming or statistical lying. One of the worst things about it is that the concept of risk acceptance, which is an essential part of safety management, is neglected or even denied by it. Don’t get me wrong, by far most accidents can be prevented, and in hindsight probably all of them. But in reality not everything can be prevented. Firstly because we’re never capable of controlling all the variables. Secondly because we don’t even want to reduce risk to ‘zero’, and thirdly, if we wanted to we, – like the ‘zero mindset’ CEO’s – don’t have the resources to do so.

So we badly need the fourth paradigm in Safety!

Which road should we take?

As in the poem of Frost[vi] ‘the road not taken’! Until now we’ve taken the ‘outside-in’ road. The working population were forced to have continuous improvement from the ‘outside-in’. The had to perform safely and follow the procedures, instructions, rules and regulations, if they believed in them or not.

In order to take the road less travelled, first of all our safety slogans need to be focused more toward the everyday working population so that they accept the basic principles (be safe, think smart, be alert, do dialogue, etc.) from the ‘inside-out’.

Safety consists of a plan and a process. The plan is usually your policies, procedures, activities, etc. that will prevent accidents (What you have to do). The safety process is how the plan is implemented and run (How this is done). Better than a ‘zero’ mindset, I believe the focus should be on how to improve the process in the fourth paradigm in the work field. The process should be observed, audited, and scrutinized from the ‘inside-out’ to find where expectation and reality have gaps. The wider the gap and the bigger the risk, the more focus and resources should be brought to bear to fix it.

During my life I understood an inherent issue with the human condition: we want to take risk but not acknowledge the taking of risk. We act in an unsafe manner but we justify it in many ways. Most of all, we prefer ignorance of the risk over uncovering and addressing the issue. Until we can change the acceptance that risk is out there and must be controlled from the ‘inside-out’, we can’t move forward. This is not easy. Because you can’t control risk if you can’t acknowledge it!

In the actual paradigm many in our business claim to know and live by continuous improvement cycles and the lessons learned by quality management and then ignore Deming’s 14 points. Outcome measurements alone won’t get us to 100% safety, they need to be linked to input measures. Measure and react to the inputs and the resulting outputs will take care of themselves. Process Control holds the secret not reclassifying the true information for a statistical lie .

In the new paradigm we will move the zero accident target to a vision. Then the whole community, including workers, put together strategies and plans (that include actions) on how accidents can be prevented from the ‘inside-out’. In the new paradigm the positive inputs (conditions, behaviors, activities) will be controlled by all from the ‘inside-out’ to ensure they are both being done and they are helping to actually prevent accidents from happening. I can guarantee if you do this, the outputs (accidents) will be reduced over time. As you make gains, fine tune your approach until your current state meets your ‘end’ state (or at least a state that contains an acceptable amount of risk, level that will be lowered over time).

And how will we take that road?

We need a (safety) culture change that allows the ‘inside-out’ control at all levels of the input measures. That, in my opinion, is a huge issue and one that must be addressed in order to allow the flow of information. And for this trust and openness are everything. The companies that live in the fourth paradigm – I call them Creative Interchange companies – certainly have an easier time of managing EHS issues. So the answer is very simply. We have to re-install the Creative Interchange Process in the Work Field.

I’m working with clients to help them to create the needed paradigm shift. We start with building trust and openness and learning to have ‘crucial dialogues’ (which are based on that natural transformation process, called Creative Interchange) about issues. Not only safety issues since we’re working on a culture change in the work-field, not only in the safety-field. This culture change is in fact a paradigm shift. The challenge in the new paradigm is to consistently demonstrate that the truth is valued… even when it’s not good news. In this new culture, the ‘Emperor has no clothes’ story becomes real: everybody is empowered to tell everybody (including the CEO and the managers) they aren’t doing a good job. In the present paradigm employees aren’t really empowered to do that and sometimes a consultant is (more often than not, at the cost of his contract – since the paradigm shift has not taken place yet).

A “zero vision” is not the same as a “zero target”. A ‘zero vision’ is what you really, really, want. But you know that you’re not there yet and that it will cost you a lot to get there. If you get there at all. But to me, it is the journey that is important, not the destination. You are convinced that it is worthwhile to strive for it. In order to get there you’ll probably have to put some shorter term goals – milestones – (realistic and motivating) where you’ll have to get first. The real discussion should be about lowering risk, prevention of incidents and to what lengths we are prepared to go to achieve these things, from the ‘inside-out’. And as James Reason once said “Safety is a guerrilla war that you will probably lose (since entropy gets us all in the end), but you can still do the best you can.”

Re-installing the Creative Interchange process will Drive out fear, so that everyone may work effectively for the company. (See Ch. 3 of “Out of the Crisis”[vii] W. Edwards Deming). Why because the energy of that transformation will slow down the ‘Vicious Circle’[viii]. In the actual paradigm the Vicious Circle is very much alive which lead to Organizational Mediocrity

cover chicken


[i] Kuhn, Thomas S. The structure of scientific revolutions. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1970.

[ii] Covey, Stephen R. The seven habits of highly effective people. New York: Fireside (Simon & Schuster), 1990

[iii] Argyris, Chris. Overcoming Organizational Defenses. Needham, Mass.: Allyn and Bacon, 1990

[iv] Palmgren, Charles L. Oral statement, Stone Mountain, Ga, Summer 1994

[v] Barker, Joel A. Paradigms. The Business of Discovering the Future. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1993

[vii] Deming, W. Edwards. Out of the crisis. Cambridge, Mass. Cambridge University Press, 14th printing, 1991

[viii] Stacie Hagan and Charlie Palmgren, The Chicken Conspiracy. Breaking the cycle of Personal Stress and Organizational Mediocrity. Recovery Communications, Inc. Baltimore, Maryland 1999