What does the shocking vote of 30% of my fellow Swiss citizens (57.5% out of 53% of the people who actually bothered to cast their ballot), imposing a ban on the construction of Muslims minarets, have in common with some Board meetings? Not a lot, except that it is fascinating in both cases to see how those who seek to destroy value (intentionally or not) have it far easier than those attempting to create it and how those who “sit on the fence” in neutral position collude in fact with the “value destroyers”.
Last week, I received a mail from Marcial Losada where he enthusiastically explained: “I’ve been immersed in the world of quantum entanglement, the vibrant new field of quantum mechanics with applications to quantum computing. Computers today will take more than the age of the universe to answer the most complex questions we can pose. In the future, quantum computers will do it in a fraction of a second. As I was pondering on this, I remembered that one of the best-known constants in quantum physics is Planck’s constant. Actually, Planck started the field of quantum mechanics with the discovery of his famous constant. Suddenly, I realized that the mathematical structure and conceptual framework of Planck’s constant has interesting parallels with the variables in my model. Planck’s constant is equal to energy divided by frequency. In my model energy is given by the emotional field and frequency by the P/N ratio; i.e., how frequent is P in relationship to N. Consequently, to derive the negativity bias which is the minimum quantum of energy in the energy field, I need to divide the emotional field value by the P/N ratio. For example, the emotional field value when people reach flourishing is 7.7368 and their P/N is 2.9013. If I divide the first number (energy) by the second (frequency), I get the value for the negativity bias, which is 2.666666… That means evolution imposed on us a heavy weight of 2, 2/3 negatives to lift one positive. Evolution gave us the means to survive but not to thrive. So now I found both the number that makes us survive and the one that makes us thrive.”
Let the purists appreciate Marcial’s original text. It took me a while to understand it. Basically, what Marcial explains is that humans have a natural tendency to use 2.66 times more often “negative” behaviors than positive ones. When we add this to the fact that, following Marcial’s seminal research and finding, we need to actively display at least 3 times more positive behaviors than negative to create the environment for flourishing strategic discussions, it means that people who try to build a constructive climate are at an 8:1 disadvantage (2.66666 x 3) against the “saboteurs”.
On a personal basis, I find such results helpful in understanding why, it is so easy to drift to below optimal contribution when working in a team. The 8:1 wind we sail against suggests that we do need to make a conscious and focused effort if we are to positively influence a situation. A fantastic example of that is the mythical “Twelve angry men” movie where Henry Fonda has to take a stand against bias, prejudice and above all, the neutrality of those “flying in support of victory” (ie. Taking the easy way out and voting guilty with the rest). The beginning is particularly interesting (see below).
The whole movie shows how patiently and resiliently, Fonda, while practicing Value Building Behaviors, maintaining a balance between enquiry and advocacy as well as external (other) and internal (self) manages to win, one by one (this is Hollywood) his fellow jurors.
With New Year soon arriving with our traditional good resolutions, I thought we could, in our executive teams, be aware of these facts (the determined individual and collective effort it takes to create the conditions for flourishing strategic dialogues) and agree on some specific do’s and don’ts for 2010 during our meetings. Our experience shows that Executive Teams who spend not more than 20 minutes at the end of their weekly/monthly meeting to review their behavioral dynamics progress rapidly towards better quality discussions.
On my way for a fascinating week to Paris, Frankfurt and Denmark, designing leadership development programs that visibly support their organization’s strategic intent. I wish you all a great week…