Bounded Knowledge

ballet-545287_1920Facilitation is the streamlined modern day consulting process. It offers high value return in a relatively short time. Facilitation provides external perception, process and experience while drawing context from participants. Why are these aspects important?

The general approach is that of coaching, applying the GROW process with SMART goals. Understanding the ‘Model of Recognition’ which identifies our central needs, the contributing factor of a sense of control is a foundation for motivation and ownership. The increased involvement results in a deeper sense of responsibility. Effective coaching increases people’s awareness, builds ownership, and helps them to improve. The goal is thus to develop core learning capabilities, including fostering aspiration (motivation), developing reflective conversation (feedback), and understanding complexity (fundamental issues). This is the new learning paradigm, suitable on all levels.

A key concept that explains the need for a facilitator is understanding the Kruger-Dunning Effect, which highlights what GE ex-CEO Jack Welch termed ‘bounded knowledge’. The principle is that we tend to think we know the answer without the required knowledge, but that knowledge is exactly what is needed to arrive at the ‘right’ answer. These, in addition to the ‘blind-spots’ that organizations develop and ‘group-think’ which limits options and objectivity, are prime reasons to use a suitably qualified facilitator in strategic decision-making processes.

Many corporations and entities operate on automatic pilot, merely going through operational steps in pursuing its goals. Operational experience is usually not enough, merely offering efficiency, not effectiveness. As proven in Milgram’s Test we do not challenge authority, even when things don’t make sense. Change is therefore inhibited, and thus strategic thinking. Without a strategic mindset and process, without expertise in avoiding failure and decision-making pitfalls, these organizations have a slim chance of long-term survival. The success of a business or organization depends on three factors: the characteristics of the market, the business’ competitive position, and its strategy. A good strategy is imperative.

Private Schools

A local private school developed into a potentially good alternative to the public school system, but recently had to close down. The leading question is why?

Christians felt that Christian values are a core part of education and were prepared to pay a premium at this school. The teachers were highly engaged and attentive in this seemingly productive entity. So what went wrong? Firstly pricing policy for families became exorbitant, ignoring the concept of marginal contribution. They also offered much the same approach, academic syllabus and fewer extra mural activities, resulting in a questionable marginal utility. They failed to differentiate themselves sufficiently from public schools academically and so could not justify the premium. Once the perception changed, the momentum was lost and the cost relative to value added was perceived as unjustified. In short, there appeared to be no integrated strategy.

The ‘old school tie’ value (your competitive advantage) is generally under question and it will require significant innovation and change for private schools to survive the approaching renaissance in our education.

Strategy does not have to be complicated, but it has to be consistent with the values and goals of the business. It has to be consonant with the environment in which it operates and meet specific needs. It has to be feasible in terms of investment and operating costs, and it needs to provide a core competence that offers competitive advantage. Private schools are becoming too expensive for our dwindling middle-class. The world is under pressure to lower costs relative to those of China. How we can increase our productivity at lower costs is our strategic challenge. The answer lies in strategic thinking and the ability to change for the right reasons. Real, fundamental change is only possible if we address the ‘1st Quadrant’ issues. (See MEganize).

Leverage Areas

The lesson here is that failures invariably result from ‘1st Quadrant’ flaws. Dr. Peter Senge (The 5th Discipline) refers to these as ‘leverage’ areas. The problem with this is that much of this resides in our auto-pilot or ‘operational’ thinking, thus the need for objectivity and a process to challenge these paradigms at a strategic level. For instance, our educational approach has not changed for over 150 years, and our ‘democracy’ has devolved into an appeal to the lowest common denominator. Communist countries generally continue to falter in ruin, and yet continue to believe. There is no strategic thinking here. Democracies today have shown a total lack of strategic thinking, thus the new drive for effective strong leadership with less ‘red tape’ and more action. This illustrates the need for Paradox, one of the 3 P’s needed in Strategy. (explained in MEganize).

There is much psychology behind how we behave, almost predictably in most circumstances. This has been proven in marketing by the almost universal use of Hopkins Rule that appeals to developing habitual buying, a pseudo form of customer loyalty. The Classic Asch experiment proved how easily we can be manipulated, and subjected to ‘group think’, developing ‘blocked paradigms’, a tool used extensively in political/communist media. This is the tale told in Orwell’s 1984.  We are creatures of habit and conform to the norm. The micro becomes the macro and these tools are used by corporations and governments to change our thinking. These are all leverage areas.

The overriding situation still exists – that of providing a competitive base from which we (and our children) can succeed. To assume that ‘we are all winners’ is a political slogan based on illusion, and leads nowhere. (The Rs in GROW and SMART stand for ‘Realistic’). China, for all its egalitarian and communist doctrine, is fiercely competitive and has a comprehensive 100 year strategy to be the world’s superpower by 2049.  So far, so good. They have an integrated strategy with a central purpose.

Successful companies and good decisions are driven by empowered teams. However these teams are generally ignorant of strategy process and principle. (Read Essential Business Savvy) All they have is contextual skills. Collaboration and the facilitation process are thus key elements building a good strategy. Centralized control is a sure way to a quick demise, as we have seen. By understanding the drivers and structures that offer the best process and results, Jennings SPF aims to minimize the ‘strategic drift’ that happens so easily.

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