Finally back to our blog… Thank you for your patience and numerous requests (sometimes orders) to move on. So here we go again!
An interesting event took place during my family’s trip to Brazil, hosted by the Portuguese airlines TAP. On the way to, our collective memory has been firmly anchored around the very poor conditions of the aircraft (run down), the poverty of the imposed movies (no choices) anyway only visible on two out of the four TV screens (as the others weren’t working properly in our Business Class seats), the indigent food (alcoholic drinks limited to two, which had little impact as I was in my non alcohol month) and, above all ,the arrogance, rudeness and antipathy of the crew on board… Having just experienced the superior quality of Qatar Airways, TAP felt like prehistoric!
On her way back and to my surprise, my wife called me claiming not to be able to connect her two experiences: The crew had been so respectful, so helpful to her and our family, “It was incredible to see how smiling and engaging they were! Let’s give TAP another chance!” was her closing statement. Although, when I asked her about the infrastructure, the plane was still in a dubious state, the movies continued to be from a cheap kind, and she hadn’t eaten during the flight. So nothing had changed there…
Obviously, the emotional memory was far more powerful than the factual one.
Doug Dean, a Strategic Marketing wizard working in Asia, recently sent me this clip from Daniel Kahneman’s 2010 intervention on TED.com. Daniel Kahneman is the 2002 Nobel Prize of Economics. He is a psychologist and teaches in the USA and Israël. I found it fascinating and decided to edit it as the original clip is 20 minutes long (visible on http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/daniel_kahneman_the_riddle_of_experience_vs_memory.html)
Dr. Kahneman distinguishes the Experiencing self from the Remembering self. In short, he claims that the experiencing self, the part of us which lives the present experience is always the “victim of the tyranny of the remembering self”, which is where we store emotional memories of our experiences.
The whole point of Kahneman is that our emotional memory distorts the way we remember things, in a positive or negative manner. Another famous scientist, Portuguese born Dr. Antonio Damasio claims in his “Somatic Markers Hypothesis” that, although our mind uses both cognitive (logical, rational) and emotional criteria to help us taking a decision, the more complex the decision environment is, the more we will use “somatic markers association” (in simplifying terms, emotional markers from the past) to help us decide the best alternative. Damasio sometimes uses the word “memory of the future” about somatic markers.
In a simpler although equally stunning way, you may always experiment is yourself in what I call the “Kouzes & Posner test”: Ask someone (or better an audience) what jumps to mind when evoking “Paris”… Expect to hear things such as “Romance, food, Eiffel Tower, bookstores, Marché aux Puces, Le Louvre or sometimes burned cars or abusive and rude taxi drivers…” and when the boys have been away for too long you may even, occasionally hear “Hilton”… But never, ever did I hear someone respond in quoting the number of inhabitants, size of the city nor its yearly budget… People remember emotions not technical descriptions.
This is precisely what we use when creating powerful “emotional markers” during times of change. These markers will help people create positive memories which will engage them towards the future (supporting Kahneman’s Remembering Self) and lit up inspiring light towers which will inspire people forward in troubled moments of change.
These emotional markers are sometimes powerful symbols, inspiring narratives or stories, moving testimonials, spectacularly different ways to behave from the “significant leaders”, etc…
Thank you, Doug for sharing this. I hope it will stay into everybody’s “Remembering Self”. On my way to London, Helsinki and Zürich. have a great week all,
 Kouzes, J. & Posner, B. (2007) “The Leadership Challenge”, (4th Edn) – Jossey-Bass – ISBN: 978-0787984915.