Productive Irreverence vs. "Rest" Practices

I've been thinking about a new banner for a while, so when I read Lisa Haneberg's Cultivate Productive Irreverence:
"When we are irreverent, we show a lack of respect for people or things. Productive irreverence is showing a lack of respect for things, processes, practices, and tasks that ought to change in order for the team to progress. I am not advocating that team members demonstrate a lack of respect for one another, but I am encouraging a lack of respect for projects that no longer makes sense. Productive irreverence is needed to ensure that you and your team members are questioning practices and tasks that ought to be questioned. Someone who is productively irreverent is an occasional troublemaker and a person you want on your team – more than one would be even better."
Wow! There's my career, and this blog, in a nutshell.

Since my first post, I have been lampooning the 'Best Practices' fetish:
"Whenever someone says ‘best practices’ we here at Spooky Action hear ‘rest practices’, because generally the practice consists of what the rest of the industry is doing. There’s nothing wrong with rest practices, as we will discuss in the next section, but don’t fool yourself into thinking that there is some inherent virtue to them.

Then again, Professor Robert Cialdini might say that there IS an inherent virtue in rest practices. He wrote a book entitled: Influence: The Psychology of PersuasionInfluence: The Psychology of Persuasion, which is essential reading for any adult whose career aspirations extend beyond hermit. The gist of the book is that Cialdini, an experimental social psychologist, spent 3 years undercover working in various “compliance professional” roles (e.g., sales operator, fundraiser, recruiter, advertiser) to learn the secrets of how to persuade people to agree to things they often would not do without said influence. He found that there are six distinct weapons of influence:

  • Reciprocation

  • Commitment and Consistency (Ho! Ho!)

  • Social Proof

  • Liking

  • Authority

  • Scarcity

Social proof is the tendency to view a behavior as correct in a given situation to the degree that we see others performing it. It works subconsciously, in proportion to the number of people we observe doing it, and we are most influenced by the behavior of those we perceive to be most like ourselves! No wonder industry rest practices are veritable siren songs for managers."
I continued the theme in When Bad Things Happen to Good Concepts
"...but eventually, consultants get involved, and you end up with...

Which wouldn't be so bad, except the consultants insist that the color of the boot is a key system parameter, and that you need to hire a group of experts in rabbit husbandry to define and monitor key metrics such as RPPPS (Rabbit Pellets Per Pencil Sharpened).

How can such bad things happen to good concepts?

Simple. The executive who read about the new concept in Harvard Business Review doesn't really want to apply the concept. No, he wants an instant application that gives him the same results as the HBR case study! And he wants it in time to effect this year's earnings!! There's no time for a complete definition of context, and besides, we're mostly similar to those other companies anyway, so let's bring in a complete application, tweak it for the most important unique characteristics of our company, and get a quick win!

But since we don't know anything about the new concept - and because we're in a hurry - we don't realize that the color of the boot was only relevant because the last application the consultant built was at a bullfighting establishment in Matamoros. Dios Mio!"
And continues on with stuff like this, from How To Make Important Decisions:
"In summary, the questions to ask yourself when faced with an important decision are:
  1. Can I define a necessary and sufficient set of facts to make this decision a complicated one?
  2. Can I simulate the dynamics of the decision sufficiently to create an adequate model of the situation?
  3. Can I devise and buy options that defer the ultimate decision until I have a better understanding?

This simple checklist will insure that you won't unwittingly fall victim to Lovaglia's Law.

[Jim Gaffigan audience voice]"That's an awfully presumptuous title for a nobody like him!"[/JGAV]

Yes, but that's productive irreverence in action and I'm full of it!

posted by Mike at 8:01 AM


Blogger Mark McGuinness said...

Well I feel instantly at home here. I get funny looks from some of my friends when I tell them that "common sense" simply means "what we all agree on".

10:56 PM  
Blogger Mike said...

Yo Mark,

Thanks for stopping by! I can't remember the name of the old Martin Mull movie with the line "In an insane world, the sane man appears crazy", but it still applies today.


11:22 PM  
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