Tribus (n.d.) discusses organizational change, the need for education, and the power of learning. In ‘Changing the Corporate Culture: Some Rules and Tools,’ a principle relating to unintended consequences is discussed herein. The principle is the difference between a ‘Learning Society’ and a ‘Knowing Society’ as discussed by Tribus (n.d.). With the ‘Right to Control’ firmly embedded in an employer’s pocket of control, the unintended consequence is that every employee becomes a heavily guarded fortress of knowledge as a means to survive in a corporate organization. Every employee must ‘know’ his job or risk losing that job. This mindset has lead to terms like, ‘Group Think,’ ‘Knowledge Management,’ etc., and creates the legal arguments and problems swirling around ‘Intellectual Property.’
One term not found in Tribus (n.d.) is that which I have labeled as ‘Keystone Mentality.’ A keystone is found in architecture when building an arch. The keystone is the center stone in an arch that provides the balance upon which the entire arch hinges. A ‘Keystone Mentality’ is found in every business in the world where a single employee hoards knowledge, considers hoarding knowledge appropriate to ensure job security, and never gets sick or takes vacation, as they (the Keystone Mentality) erroneously perceive that the business will suddenly stop if they take a break. ‘Keystone Mentalities’ gossip, rumormonger, betray fellow employees, and generally take ‘any means necessary’ to protect their position from intruders. The ‘Keystone Mentality’ is the hallmark of a ‘Knowing Society’ created through employee churn, developed in the fires of adversity, and held in positions of power by those who refuse to learn because there is a ‘Keystone Mentality’ to take the slack or rely upon. Quid pro quo is the least of the unethical behavior allowed when managers rely upon a ‘Keystone Mentality.’
Another aspect of a ‘Knowing Society’ is nobody learns anything. Since the expectation is that everyone already knows, why share knowledge. Where is the incentive to not be a ‘Keystone Mentality?’ Where is the incentive that encourages a person to bend, to be humble, teachable, or to learn? Learning requires humility, compassion, empathy, and leadership of people. A consequence from many “Knowing Societ[ies]” not mentioned by Tribus (n.d.) is that ‘Knowing Societ[ies]’ build psychopaths, sycophants, and pathological liars. ‘Knowing Societ[ies]’ are managed by people, who, if they do not know something, bluff, ‘fake it until they make it,’ and the cloning of Neanderthals becomes accepted practice, this is often referred to as, ‘good corporate politics.’
Young students are instructed to never stop learning. Why do graduates of high school, college, advanced degrees in business choose to stop learning every facet of the organization to which they are employed; the answer lies in the ‘Right to Control’ and the demands for ‘Knowing Societ[ies] in the places of employment. Corporate training for a new position mostly entails discovering whom to turn to for answers. It becomes a game of who do you know, that I know, that they do not know, so we can look good for another boss, who is pulling the same game in the chess match of corporate politics. The larger the organization, the more frustrating this problem becomes. Small business and even some mid-size businesses have one or two people, who have been with the company since inception, know everybody, have their fingers in all the pies, and feel all the pulses. Gossip from these people can make and break careers. Being anathema to change, ‘Keystone Mentalities’ will always act first from a position of corporate survival, then from a position of power to receive quid pro quo, and then, maybe, for the good of the company. The issues caused by and demonstrated as a result of current principles utilized by ‘Knowing Societ[ies]’ are unquestionably clear.
‘Learning Societ[ies]’ require leaders who know people and are humble enough to teach and be taught. Learning remains a two-way street with responsibility and accountability flowing from teacher to student and back to teacher in a never-ending circle. Leaders in a ‘Learning Society’ will ask questions, employees will ask question, the answers come from other leaders and employees, knowledge is shared so everyone wins. The organizational health is sacrosanct, and when everyone wins, everyone prospers.
Shifting the employment paradigm requires organizations to embrace learning, encourage experimenting, and demand accountability for new learning being applied. Until the ‘Right to Control’ resides in the individual’s power and not in the organization’s, a true shift from a ‘Knowing Society’ cannot occur. Some organizations provide lip service to learning being key and crucial to success. The Federal Government does lip service to reduce spending with the same affect. Until the individual is free, accountability and responsibility in the workplace, in a society of professionals, and in our communities will continue to diminish. These principles are not new; Tribus (n.d.) speaks of them, talks about them, and has been insisting this is the path to tread. Nothing changes until the basic equation shifts.
The time is now for business leaders to encourage employees to become knowledge workers, contractors, and freelance consultants. The time is now to begin and to embrace the path outlined by Tribus (n.d.); shift the paradigm in employment; and change, lead, and re-discover the power of education.
© 2012 M. Dave Salisbury
All Rights Reserved
Tribus, M. (n.d.). Changing the Corporate Culture Some Rules and Tools. Retrieved from: Changing the Corporate Culture Some Rules and Tools Web site: http://deming.eng.clemson.edu/den/change_cult.pdf