GLOSS Issue 19 DEC 2014-JAN 2015 - Page 77

So what is it that drives these ‘rationalists’ of the corporate procurement world? When you dig a little deeper and ask them some provocative questions, the process of buying business-to-business products reveals itself to be anything but the straightforward, rational process that its participants claim it is. Do they buy the best product? No? Then perhaps they are not driven by a rational need for quality. Do they buy the cheapest product? No? So it seems they’re not driven by a rational need for economy either. The truth is, if they are lazy, they buy what they have always bought; if they are fearful, they buy the best known brand (remember, ‘no-one ever got fired for buying IBM’); if they are the typically disengaged middle manager, they don’t change things until someone higher up the chain complains. Of course, the list of causes goes on and on, but very few lead to the world of rational decisions that Pascal promised. These compromised decisions even follow us into our personal lives. Beliefs are hard to shift beliefs prove to be the cockroaches of the mental world — impervious to even nuclear attack! So, if discipline is hard to maintain and our rational minds are little help, perhaps we can enlist the help of belief systems. Of course, this is easier said than done. Yet this methodology — the shifting of belief systems — has come to dominate in the spheres of leadership, psychology, marketing, sales and performance coaching. We talk about changing our beliefs in such a casual way that it makes us seem ignorant of just how powerful these beliefs actually are. Many of our beliefs have proved stubbornly hard to move in even the slightest terms over the past few millennia and have in fact led to wars, murder, family breakdowns and even suicides. Nevertheless, it seems to be a logical place to start. One of the main problems with most campaigns around behavioural change, be they commercial, government or personal, is that we do tend to focus only on shifting beliefs. We employ communications campaigns, advertising, keynote speakers, audio programs and the like. However, try as we may to bludgeon our beliefs into submission with affirmations, rational platitudes and emotional blackmail, the A restaurateur once shared with us that if you have an oversupply of a particular wine, you should present it on your menu as the second least expensive option, something they referred to as the ‘first-date’ wine. The paying partner’s ‘logic’, they claim, runs along these lines: things may not go well, so they don’t want to waste money on the really good stuff, but of course, looking cheap may decrease the chances of things going anywhere at all. So they assiduously avoid the cheap plonk and opt for the second most expensive option (‘A very good choice if I may say so, Sir’). Almost every one of us can name at least one thing in our lives that we believe down to our toes is bad for us, self-destructive, unhealthy or emotionally heart wrenching. We know we should stop doing it and yet, despite all our affirmations — sticky notes stuck to the refrigerator, extra coaching sessions and seemingly rigorous strategies to counter this behaviour — we continue to do it. Part of the reason for this is that our beliefs are very much attached to our conception of ourselves. For example, followers of the various religions do not typically say, ‘I believe in the teachings of the Bible’ (or the Koran, the Torah, the Bhagavad Gita the Dhammapada)’. They are far more likely to say, ‘I’m a Christian’ (or a Muslim, a Jew, a Hindu, a Buddhist). For people who are of Jewish ethnicity and Jewish religious belief this is no doubt even more selfdefining. What this means is, changing what you believe is not as simple as … well … changing your mind. It actually involves changing your conception of who you think you are.