Wilful blindness

Margaret Heffernan has a powerful analysis of the many delusions that go with having high office in an organisation. John of Gaunt (in Richard II) summed it up in his rebuke to the king: a thousand flatterers sit within thy crown.

Dave Snowden nods to Shakespeare too (Hamlet and Henry V) as he talks about ways that people in power can get more realistic challenge.

I think play can be a good way to disrupt the status games of hierarchy. This doesn’t mean (necessarily) the cliche-ridden games of corporate awaydays which can easily create their own rigid hierarchies. I mean just trying out different perspectives and ways of looking at issues. If you ask someone to play a difficult customer or a noxious journalist, it gives them a bit of licence to make observations they might not venture in a more solemn format. Dave talks about multiple online identities for CEOs which is another way of disrupting excessive reverence for the leader.

I’ve also found that if you get people to draw pictures or even just choose a picture from a random collection, and then ask them how it relates to the issue at hand, it often opens up very different comments and ideas than you get in a more conventional discussion.

We don’t have to go overboard; even small tilts can change the power dynamics in meetings.

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