GLOSS Issue 19 DEC 2014-JAN 2015 - Page 76

Human irrationality subsequent questions of ‘How?’ and ‘What?’ This echoes the earlier work of Friedrich Nietzsche and of Viktor Frankl, who, in Man’s Search for Meaning, asserts that one can achieve any ‘what’ if the ‘why’ is large enough. All make a compelling case for the importance of developing and buying into a clear and inspiring ‘Why?’ This has certainly been a significant part of our leadership strategy during our combined 50 years in the commercial world and it is abundantly apparent in other people whose leadership we most admire. However, as anyone who has ever been on a diet can attest, ‘why’ is often temporary. Initially the ‘why’ — be it a high-school reunion three months hence, or a wedding, or a hot date — will inspire enormous amounts of action and even results. But, inevitably, time goes by and the ‘why’ fades. All of a sudden, we find ourselves back on the sofa in our sweatpants, watching Oprah and eating chicken out of a bucket! In the 1600s, French mathematician, inventor and philosopher Blaise Pascal famously suggested in his dissertation on ‘decision theory’ that human behaviour was the result of an individual looking at all of their available options, weighing up the pros and cons and then making the most logical decision possible. Of course, this was in the 1600s and there was very little reality television around to dissuade him from his idealism. More recently, scholars of the behavioural sciences, such as Daniel Goleman in his ‘Emotional Intelligence’ series, have suggested that we are far more driven by emotions than simple logic and that by developing our Emotional Quotient (EQ), we may better understand what drives human behaviour and belief systems. This certainly seems to be the case. Everything we do is to some extent filtered through how our actions will make us feel. Of course, we still post-rationalise our emotional decisions. There are plenty of men in their fifties driving around in sports cars who can tell you all about aerodynamics, German engineering and their marque’s racing heritage … but all they are really interested in is attracting women half their age. Alarmingly, behavioural studies carried out in Las Vegas indicate that this may often be a successful strategy (good news for the ageing gent in a Porsche or Ferrari then). Hot on the heels of Goleman’s research is the work by Simon Sinek, who tries to narrow down our emotional focus to dealing with a single question — ‘Why?’ — a question that he rather neatly dovetails into the Why? Good question. It turns out that, like discipline, an inspiring ‘why’ can be difficult to maintain over the long haul. A lot of this is driven by our sense of Identity Congruence, our innate need to behave in a way that aligns with our sense of self. If the ‘why’ or the program of discipline conflicts with who we think we are at our core, it is highly unlikely to be sustainable. However, it is also a function of the environment and systems we create around ourselves. Discipline is a lot easier to maintain in an environment that supports it. Abstinence is relatively easy when you’re an overweight, bombastic senator with nothing on offer (versus being a charismatic President such as Bill Clinton). Eating fresh food is simple in the absence of fast-food options in your local area and workers without families in remote locations are more likely to be willing to put in a little overtime than those surrounded by other priorities. (Why wouldn’t they be?) People working in business-to-business sales often pride themselves on the rationality of both themselves and the customers they serve. In fact, many scoff at anything other than an order-taking approach to engaging their customers: ‘They’re not interested in soft sell, they want what they want. It’s a necessity’. While we hold an almost fetish-like fondness for office equipment, it does seem a bit of an overclaim to call it a necessity.