Any group involved in decision-making is bound to hold people with different attitudes. That's a good thing because ideas need to be balanced and challenged by skeptics and guards. But the people on the brakes should openly discuss their doubts and remain open to reasoning. And the people with their foot on the gas should pause and listen. Knowing who's who will allow progress to move on in a steady, thorough pace.
Although most of my work is done online, I regularly lecture and moderate meetings. Recently, I was invited to attend the senior management meeting of a construction company. Eleven people around the table, wanting to hear what their business future may hold. My exposé on the future got the usual responses...
To observe how a team reacts to a future presentation is extremely illuminating. It shows their baseline attitude towards change. That’s priceless information for change managers and entrepreneurs who want to ready their business for the future.
When a team considers the relevance of developments for the future of their business, they usually sort them in three piles:
The sorting itself isn’t very telling. The characteristics that separate threats from opportunities differ per company. Each company has a distinct, unique fit between their offering and target customer groups. In other words: the sorting is situation driven.
However, the way people tend to address a threat or an opportunity is significant. It conveys how they see the future and whether they want to change their approach at all. This is personality driven.
The ambivalence, the tug of war between personal and situational drivers, makes a change process hard to manage. For executives, insight in baseline attitudes is extremely informative and crucial to momentum and results. Knowing where ambivalence comes from reduces the noise in the change process: it makes ambivalence more transparent.
The way people respond to emerging developments says a lot about their attitude towards change
I’ve been a practicing futurist for over 15 years now, and I've seen people labeling themselves time and again.
Horizontally, we have threats and opportunities, and vertically the opposite attitudes towards change. Baseline responses are noted in the matrix cells.
When you observe a person and you find that he responds consistently for one cell, without bringing evidence or debatable considerations to the table, then you’ve got your finger on their baseline attitude.
Practise round: Examples of telling non-verbal cues in the presidential debate, 2012, by Janine Driver.
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