Serious Games and Implementing Strategic Change

Setting the Table

Organizational change, when all is said and done, is the coordinated shift of many individual mindsets. Some present reality gives way to a desired or needed future reality. My colleague Tom Wadsworth refers to this as “making the future present”. It is well documented that change projects face high hurdles and frequently fail. Generally speaking the failure can be attributed to either an insufficient number of people adopting the future (i.e., “making it present”) or to a decay rate where adopters abandon the effort and prevent the effort from hitting the power curve[1].

In a recent conversation with my colleague Gail Severini she posed the question, “What if we could make people hungry for change?” My initial unspoken response was full of doubt. There are simply too many reasons – a good number of them brain-based – that people would fall short of being “hungry for change.” But, I continued to reflect. And as is often the case in conversations with Gail, her question got under my skin and provoked some reflection and thinking about change.

Change provokes deep responses in people, especially if the change is being imposed from without (real or perceived). The greater the threat against the certainty of the present the greater the doubt and fear people have of the future. (That does not imply that the present is satisfying, but it does satisfy the axiom that the devil you know is better than the devil you don’t know.)

Is it possible, then, for people to become familiar enough with the future state of the organization – before the future is actually made present – that they will find it comfortable territory, if not be hungry for it? And, what means are available for generating that familiarity in a real and concrete way? One possibility is the use of experiential learning.

Experiential Learning

Experiential learning is the process of making meaning from direct experience. It lies at the opposite end of the learning spectrum from didactic learning (teacher tells, student listens). It is, simply, learning from experience.

David Kolb’s work on learning styles[2] is well known and respected. He describes four learning styles based on four elements of learning (one of which is experiential learning). The four elements are described as a sequential process (which can start at any one of the four elements):
1. Concrete Experience (feeling) followed by,
2. Reflective Observation (watching) followed by,
3. Abstract Conceptualization (thinking) followed by,
4. Active Experimentation (doing).

Another framework is the Action-Reflection-Learning cycle, developed at the University of Lund in Sweden in the late 1970s, also built around experiential learning. Action is taken, the action itself and the results are the focus of Reflection, Learning is derived from the Reflection, and is tested in the next Action. Between the Learning and the subsequent Action is a period in which goals and related strategies are taken into account. The cycle repeats itself to derive deeper and deeper Reflections and Learning.

Regardless of the model, experiential learning creates the time and space for people to leverage an experience for their own learning. Such an experience can be intentional and designed, and used as the focal point for strategic attention in the organization.

First, however, we will consider the effect of certainty on change in organizations.

Creating Certainty within Uncertainty

The lack of certainty – be that the anticipated loss of certainty in the face of change or the lack of certainty in the present – is a deep driver of anxiety in the change process.

Certainty, and its absence, can also be understood in the context of a brain-based view of change. When the brain perceives a loss or absence of certainty – meant here to mean certainty in the near term, not an immutable guarantee of future – the amygdala responds as if faced with a physical threat, and the fight or flight response is provoked. Neither flight nor fight are favorable to the process of change in organizations.

Fortunately, the brain also has the prefrontal cortex, the so-called executive function, where rational and thoughtful responses to change are processed. What determines which one prevails? Practice.

The Navy SEALs rely heavily on neuroscience in the design of their training programs. They repeatedly put candidates in situations where they have to rely on their prefrontal cortex to overcome the fear generated by the amygdala. While organizational change is not in the same league as a SEALs mission, the perception of the brain to change is.

All other things equal, successful change efforts are a balanced blend between the work of the prefrontal cortex and the amygdala. Thoughtful intention, clear thinking, passion, and motivation are components of a planned and well executed change effort. All of this is favored by certainty.

How is this paradox – certainty during times of change which provoke uncertainty – resolved? Would it be possible to give people the chance to become familiar with the change before the change itself takes place, and in so doing increase the level of certainty, and improve the probability of a thoughtful and rational response to change?

The Future Organization as a Blank Canvass

Can people conceive of and experience the future before it arrives? How can we conceive of change as something that is both familiar and yet to emerge? Can people learn from the future as it emerges?

Consider the painter. She has completed a painting, and it hangs for all to see. This painting is the metaphor for the organization as we know it here in the present. Subsequently she sees, in her artist’s mind’s eye, a future painting, and which would be the metaphor for the future organization.

In that moment, she stands before a blank canvass. The entire painting is still in the future. The ideas and colors and shapes are in the painter’s mind’s eye, but the canvass is blank. It is only as brush is put to paint and paint put to canvass that the painting emerges, making the future present.

What is the organizational change equivalent of the blank canvass? And how can brush be put to paint and paint to canvass in a way that engages the imagination of people in the organization?

Serious Games and Organizational Change

Think of the blank canvass as a game. It is a serious game, insofar as it portrays a specific future with serious consequences. This game has been carefully designed, and engages people in exploring the knowledge, skills, thinking, and behaviors that will make the future organization possible, to make the future present.

The serious game is, above all, a means to an end, not the end itself. Its design is carefully planned, and winning the game requires strategic thinking and new mindsets. A good deal of preparation goes into defining and describing the future dynamics of the industry, the business environment in which the organization will compete, the knowledge, skills, thinking, and behaviors that will be required, and the business processes and rules that have to be in place for the organization to survive and prosper, all of which define the learning objectives of the game.

Most importantly, it is the tool for practicing. As with the Navy SEALs, the more people practice for the future, the better they will perform in the future.

The Implementation of Serious Games for Organizational Change

The role and purpose of a serious game exist in a context. The context is introduced by senior leaders as a part of beginning the organizational conversation on change. It is open and transparent, part of the larger preparation for a change effort. Its introduction might sound like this:

“We have been talking and thinking about the future in which this organization will operate and compete. It is different from the reality in which we operate and compete now. If we are to operate and compete in a different future reality, we have to be a different organization.“

“There are many things about the way we are today that fit the future. There are other things that will have to change. We will need different processes and methods for the way we do things. We will need to be different people – shifting our deep assumptions about our business and the way we think and behave, and the knowledge and the skills on which we rely to produce our goods and services.

“Over the next three months we are going to engage in playing a game. It is a serious game, for it embodies our future. It is a game that puts us into the future we have to become. We will play the game repeatedly, until we get good at it, and come to know the deep drivers that make for a successful run of the game.

“This is important. I will make time to play the game. I expect you to make time to play the game. I will blog on my experiences. I expect you to blog on yours. We will periodically come together in conversation to talk about our experiences and what we have learned. Three months from now, I expect us to have a pretty good handle on what the future expects of us, and for that future to be familiar to us.

“Thank you. Let the games begin!”

Making the Future Present

Three months hence, nothing officially has changed – no announcements about specifics, no visible consultants, no “sell the future” meetings, no training, no status meetings, no GANTT charts, no Lean initiatives. The status quo has been officially left alone.

Yet, something is changing. New knowledge, skills, thinking, and behaviors are emerging. The status quo is subtly shifting. Through repeated plays of the game, a gap is opening, a feeling of dissonance between the present and the future. People are beginning to explore and experiment. The game has facilitated people moving through the cycle of change before the change has actually taken place.

There are a number of models that describe how people move through change. I favor Scott and Jaffe’s model insofar as it describes the cycle in terms of the past and the future, and in terms of how we interpret the external world and how we think and feel internally.

Serious games invite people to explore. In a game designed to be the future organization, the only thing to explore is the future. The game shepherds people through Denial and Resistance into Exploration. As the future becomes more familiar, a sense of certainty grows.

The Change Effort Itself

Serious games are not a panacea for organizational change. They can serve a necessary lever of change but it is unlikely they are in and of themselves sufficient for the change process. Serious games are a means to an end, not the end themselves.

By the time senior leaders introduce the actual change effort – the end itself – the details are not foreign nor are there unexpected surprises. The serious game serves as a ready made template for change, where the initiatives rolled out in the organization mimic the elements of the game people have been playing for some time.

Rather than having to convince people of the need for change, leaders skip the consumerism approach (gaining “buy in”) and switch to the building block approach, leveraging what people already know about the future into the real changes that make the future present.

The dominant response becomes, “I’ve been here before” rather than being suddenly thrust upon the change cycle, experiencing the acute feeling of uncertainty, and digging into denial.

You Expect People To Play Games Rather Than Work?

A common response to the suggestion of experiential learning is to protest the idea of playing games rather than working. Productivity is a powerful (and important) metric in a lot of organizations, and it takes a direct hit from time spent playing games (and then talking about the results, and what they mean).

But all change efforts have a cost to the organization. No matter what activities people engage in, change always has cash costs (checks written paying for goods and services associated with managing change) and opportunity costs (time spent on acclimating to change rather than on direct labor). If there is an inevitable cost associated with change, direct or indirect, it seems fair to ask, what type of activities produce a favorable response to change?

Future Possibilities

This article concerned itself with the process of change, not its content, nor how that content came to be (an article for another day). It posed the possibility that serious games have a powerful role in organizational change efforts. Senior leaders collaborate with serious game designers to produce a game that embodies the future organization. The game elicits the knowledge, skills, thinking, and behaviors that will be required of people if the desired and needed future is made present.

As people play the game, the future becomes a familiar place. The organizational canvass is still blank, but the lines and colors and shapes of the future painting are emerging in people’s minds, and are positioned to become new mind-sets. When the actual change effort begins, people have a sense of certainty – familiar ground where the new rules are known, and a certain amount of knowledge, skill, thinking, and behaviors required of people are already in place (or at least the foundation has been cast).

Serious games are emerging as a powerful tool in corporate settings. Fast Company’s article on serious games[2] cited applications in healthcare, education, and the military industries, and mentioned companies such as Hilton Hotels, Cisco, and Alcoa. They are an emergent innovation in change management that leverage all of the same important attributes as simulation with the powerful added dimension of making it fun and social.

Visit Basic Business Simulations designers and developers of Serious Games for Learning.

NOTES
[1] The power curve occurs when the growth curve of adoption becomes exponential and gains the power and the momentum to pass through the point where more than half of the people have made the future present. Thereafter the curve seeks out an implicit goal of the last person who will adopt, making the future fully present.
[2] Image from Clara Davies, http://www.ldu.leeds.ac.uk/ldu/sddu_multimedia/kolb/static_version.php
[3] http://www.fastcompany.com/articles/2008/07/serious-games.html

Related post: Thinking from the future as it emerges

Dialogue Protocols

Setting the Table

Some of the best conversations we experience seem to emerge spontaneously, focus on a theme or topic that quickly captures our interest and resonates with our minds and our hearts. The experience can be soulful, a sense of spiritual joining of people on a plane not commonly accessed.

Is it possible to have those conversations and access that spiritual joining by intention and through practice? What are conditions that make such dialogues possible? Are there practices or approaches that can reliably draw people into heart-full and mind-full speaking and listening? Can such a conversation be scheduled for Thursday morning at 10 AM?

What Is Really Happening During Deep Conversations?

The questions I am sure have many possible answers. One – which may be a distillation of several possible answers – is a cycle of deep listening, reflection, and speaking, where each person is primarily interested in listening to the thoughts and feelings of others and secondarily interested in speaking their own thoughts and feelings. When they do speak from their own thoughts and feelings they are offering a reflection on what they have heard and felt rather than starting from their own world view that they habitually download.

In my own experience the chatter of self talk quiets or even ceases. So intense is the attention paid to others that I lose the need and the desire to give voice to my own thoughts. Not only am I content to listen, I can feel a palpable excitement around the possibility that I am about to gain access to an insight that might not have otherwise come along.

Conversations By Design

The challenge it seems to me is to create the cycle of deep listening, reflection, and speaking as a matter of intentional design. I refer to this as a dialogue protocol. They are conversational “rules of engagement”. A protocol is in simple terms a set of rules that guide the conversation.

As an example, a protocol for a conversation that hopes to reveal some creative ideas might be Once Around, Uninterruptible followed by Open Conversation. Each person in the conversation offers comments which cannot be interrupted by anyone else. After each person has spoken the conversation is open and it will flow to wherever it flows.

At a minimum it delays one common enemy of creative thinking, the tendency to jump in and judge the merit of an idea before it has been explored, before idea scaffolding has been given a chance, where each idea is used as a stepping stone to the next.

Brief History of Protocols

My colleague Cheryl Barker and I attended the NeuroLeadership Conference in 2008 in New York. Upon her return she began to explore how meeting agendas might be improved. She and her colleagues at Neundorfer (a pollution control company in Northeast Ohio) developed the concept over a period of months. Included for each of the agenda items was a protocol. In simple terms it laid out the expected unfolding of conversation for that agenda item.

For sharing information the protocol was Presentation. For converging on a decision the protocol was Preference or Acclimation. The intent of the protocols was to ensure all voices were heard (that wished to be heard; anyone could say “pass”).

Can Rules Lead to Freedom?

Such was my introduction to dialogue protocols. Their appeal to me personally centered on their ability to slow my thinking down and delay my tendency to draw conclusions about the thoughts of others before I have given them their just due.

Is bringing orderliness to a conversation a real and feasible stepping stone to the conversations I described above? While the protocols measurably improved the quality and the productivity of meetings, they did not seem to reliably lead to that deeper exchange that signals the joining of minds, hearts, and souls. (The agenda item itself was a factor; a final decision is more analytical than it is creative.)

Was the failure an indicator that protocols (rules) were not the way in, or could it be that the protocols needed to be developed to a greater degree?

A Dive Into Synergy and Collaboration

Cheryl Barker introduced me to Nancy Klein’s book, “Time to Think.” It is an excellent read; I recommend it to everyone. At the heart of the book is the question, can we get people to do better thinking if we fail to make the time and the space for thinking?

Concurrent with this I was exploring the possibility of a major writing project with two colleagues. We had a number of discussions around synergy and collaboration, more at the level of responding to the spirit and energy of the words than taking the time to actually answer the question, What does that really mean for each of individually and all of us together?

As we discussed the words, I repeatedly referred to thinking, as in synergistic thinking, collaborative thinking. I had it in my mind that what I sought was at a deep level, where thoughts are formed, memories were accessed and recombined into new thoughts and ideas. But, I never really found the words to paint the picture I had in mind, that intimate weaving of thoughts and ideas, and it proved to be a frustrating experience for all of us.

Having failed to reach some meeting of the minds on the meaning of synergy and collaboration, it is no surprise that we had very divergent opinions on the practice of synergy and collaboration. For one of us it was presenting a reasonably well formed idea to the other two and soliciting responses. While that was certainly more collaborative then simply embarking on a solo effort, it struck me as more of a negotiation than collaboration and synergy. It was also far from the partially formed, ill-described idea of synergy and collaboration with which I was struggling.

The Place of Synergy and Collaboration: Dialogue versus Thinking

I started to have doubts about my own assumptions. I started to lean into the possibility that it might be more a question of dialogue than thinking. Since we each had our own separate brain, failing a Klingon mind-meld it was unlikely that our neuronal thinking processes could be physically combined.

Dialogue on the other hand (the outward and audible manifestation of thinking) was something that took place in common space and time, and could be joined through listening and thinking. And that returned me to the idea of a protocol as a means to an end. If we could have a conversation that sounded like the one in my head, even if we had to hammer it into place, I thought my colleagues could experience what I was failing to verbally communicate, and the way forward would be a bit more accessible to all of us.

The Challenge of Dialogue

At the same time I was seeking a concrete entry point into synergistic and collaborative dialogue, one of us, Gail Severini, had been doing thinking around openness in organizations. She was (and is) very interested in understanding what conditions were necessary for this to happen, and what type of dialogue might be possible if and when it was achieved. This struck me as a framework highly compatible with synergy and collaboration.

It seemed to me that the primary challenge was decreasing the time that each of us spends with our own thoughts and increasing the time we are fully present to the thoughts of others. To that end I proposed a dialogue protocol to my colleagues for an upcoming conference call scheduled to discuss an article that John Barbuto (the third colleague) had written. We were at a crossroads, where we had to declare the path we intended to follow for thinking and writing. (This was not a rigid decision, more akin to saying, from here forward we are headed roughly east, at least making clear that north, south, and west were no longer on the table of possibilities.) They agreed with some hesitation and doubt.

Digging Deeper into Dialogue Protocols

The dialogue protocol unfolded this way.

1. Time to Think
This did not assume that no one had done any thinking prior to the call and needed a few minutes to catch up. Rather, it was explicit time to synchronize the prefrontal cortex with the amygdala. So, facts were synchronized with feelings. There was actual silence during the call.

2. Possibilities, Once Around, Uninterrupted, No Discussion
Each in turn briefly shared her/his view of the future possibilities that s/he had derived from John’s article. Brief meant brief, favored by having taken time to think. Each of us was expected to distill everything down to as few words as possible. This was discipline as well as creativity.

3. Time to Think
Time for each of us to think about the possibilities others had contributed. This was a reflection. There was actual silence during the call.

4. What I Find Interesting, Once Around, Uninterrupted, No Discussion
This was a “shift” exercise. As an example, I spoke to John about what I found interesting in his possibilities, John spoke to Gail about what he found interesting in her possibilities, and Gail spoke to me about what she found interesting in my possibilities. The protocol prevented me (as an example) from speaking my own thoughts without continuing to be present to the thinking and feelings of John (and the same for each in turn).

5. Time to Think
Another reflection. Each reflected on what her/his dialogue partner found interesting. This was not a compare and contract with one’s own original possibilities. It was thinking centered completely on what her/his dialogue partner found interesting. There was actual silence during the call. (While a reflection is obviously our own thoughts, the intent was to push each of us to center our thinking on what someone else had contributed to the dialogue, as opposed to our own default position on the idea.)

6. The Gift Received, Once Around, Uninterrupted, No Discussion
Each of us in turn shared the gift they received in what her/his dialogue partner found interesting. (The order was the reverse of #4; John shared the gift he received from me, Gail from John, and I from Gail.) This was also designed to keep each of us centered in the thoughts of another person. (Similar to above, while any articulation of a gift received was obviously our own thoughts, this protocol also kept each of us anchored in the thoughts of the other. In order to complete this protocol, each of us had to remain present to our dialogue partner.)

7. Time to Think
Another reflection, on the gift received. This was actual silence during the call.

8. Open Discussion

The Outcome

I think everyone found a rule based conversation odd to some degree. It was considerably different from a free flow conversation where anyone can express any idea in any order that seems logical to that person. There were murmurs of approval mixed with hesitation. It seemed to approach a new dialogue without actually arriving.

For me, it at least allowed a glimmer of what I had in mind to show through.

Was the Dialogue Protocol Effective?

Short-term, it is likely that dialogue protocols can feel confining, even counter productive. Having spent a good deal of time designing and imagining this protocol inside my head, the periods of silence seemed very long to me. The lack of familiarity with the protocol likely dampened dialogue to some degree.

Long-term, it seems to me that the promise of dialogue protocols is when written rules are internalized as habit, when taking time to think and being fully present to another person become normal and routine ways of having dialogues and being in conversation with each other. The overt sense of “rules of engagement” gives way to the normal and routine manner in which people engage each other’s feelings and thoughts.

Future Possibilities

The future possibility, for me, is a reliable way to have conversations that matter on a routine basis. This doesn’t mean that every dialogue has to be structured; there is much to be said for completely spontaneous conversations that flow where they flow and the point of departure and the destination take on less importance than the journey.

Notwithstanding, in the course of work we have to eventually be about the business of the business, and to make forward progress on that front in a more productive and meaningful way is very attractive to me.

I invite others to develop and try dialogue protocols, experiment with them, share their experience, and work toward enriching dialogue (by this or any other approach).

Hearing Doubt Rather Than Seeing Resistance

Setting the Table

My thinking in the last several years has focused on how the routine and ordinary conversations in organization affect their willingness and ability to see the future different from the past. These conversations are based on recurring themes (frequently repeated conversations or stories that reinforce “this is the way we do things around here”) and common vocabulary (words or phrases that occur frequently and which have a strong and pointed meaning in the organization).

One such phrase, “resistance to change”, is well-established in the lexicon of managers, leaders, and consultants. (Google Scholar returned 82,700 results, 7,500 in the last year alone.) It typically refers to followers who fail to readily adopt new ways of thinking or doing. It strikes me that labeling people who are slow to adopt a new idea as resistant is to cast them as a force to be overcome, as if they were the enemy or villains.

Enemies and villains are people to be conquered and subjugated. They are expected to pay a price for their opposition. After they have been subdued they are regarded with a wary eye. Trust is out of the question. Constant supervision and vigilance is required. Their good will is always suspect.

Is this healthy, to see followers as the enemy for no other reason than that they have a different opinion or preference or belief, or questions about what change means to them? If so, how do leaders simultaneously think of followers as allies in producing goods and services for customers and as a cohort that must be conquered or overcome in some way? So which is it – friends, or foes?

My Opinion, Your Attitude

Resistance to change is often associated with another phrase, a somewhat damning one, where resisters are accused of having a “bad attitude”. The phrase can be understood on many levels but its connection to “resistance to change” further deepens the divide between leaders and followers.

In order to name an attitude, it is the world view of the leader (not that of the follower about to be labeled) that is hard at work. It requires the leader to process spoken words or observable behaviors and interpret them in some way.

It is the interpretation to which the leader gives voice but without any corresponding sense of ownership or accountability. Rather, the leader’s opinion is assigned to the follower in the form of an attitude. This is an action of a weak leader who lacks any sense of the difference between thinking “I am cause” and thinking, “This is what happened to me.”

Such thinking is injurious to leaders, followers, and to the organization as a whole.

(Claiming a follower has a “good attitude” is the same process – it is still the leader’s opinion projected on the follower as fact without any sense of ownership or accountability.)

Unpacking Resistance

Dictionaries are useful for clarifying meaning. Looking up “resistance” reveals the following that are related to social systems:

Definitions [1]
1. the act or power of resisting, opposing, or withstanding.
2. the opposition offered by one thing, force, etc., to another.
5. ( often initial capital letter ) an underground organization composed of groups of private individuals working as an opposition force in a conquered country to overthrow the occupying power, usually by acts of sabotage, guerrilla warfare, etc.

Synonyms
1. opposition, obstinacy, defiance, intransigence.

The above suggests that resistance is an active choice. It requires one to have given some thought to a situation or issue, to have concluded that it is not in their best interest, and to actively campaign against the situation or issue as a worthy and honorable endeavor. It communicates a hardening of position, the opposition of forces. It seems reasonable to conclude that anyone who is not adopting new ways of thinking and doing must have, in fact, actively made such a conscious decision. It seems reasonable and logical to label the person a resister.

Unpacking Doubt

Labeling someone a resister has a chilling effect on a leader – it removes the possibility of thoughtful and reflective conversation as a means of forward progress. As resisters, followers must simply be overcome. This can happen through brute force or by reliance on consumerism leadership, in which the leader sells the future and seeks buy-in from followers.

What happens if people who exhibit or demonstrate some slowness in adopting new ways of thinking and doing are viewed as having doubts rather than engaging in resistance?

From the dictionary:
Verb (used with object)
1. to be uncertain about; consider questionable or unlikely; hesitate to believe.
2. to distrust.
3. Archaic . to fear; be apprehensive about.
4. to be uncertain about something; be undecided in opinion or belief.
Noun
5. a feeling of uncertainty about the truth, reality, or nature of something.
6. distrust.
7. a state of affairs such as to occasion uncertainty.
8. Obsolete . fear; dread.

The above meanings are quite the contrast to those for resistance. They open an entirely new set of possibilities that can be explored by leaders and followers. It frames a conversation of mutual regard, one that holds the deep assumption that some reconciliation of ideas can and ought to be achieved, the opportunity to “move along in thought” in the words of Henry Real Bird, the poet laureate of Montana.

Doubt is something than can be explored as colleagues. Two parties can have the same goals, have doubts, and still work as colleagues in pursuit of reaching those goals. Two parties can have different goals, have doubts, and still work as colleagues to create common ground (where none existed).

Leaders frequently expect commitment from followers without giving followers the latitude to discuss any doubts they might have about the future. This is paradoxical – if there are no doubts, no commitment is required.

Imagine that you have a task for which you have the money, time, people, experience, knowledge, equipment, information, materials, and skills that might be required, all in unlimited supply. Save for remembering to begin, how much commitment is required? None, for a successful outcome is guaranteed.

It is only when any of the above is in short supply that people need commitment to work though obstacles and to deliver a successful outcome. Resources in short supply raise doubt about the outcome, about the future.

Future Possibilities

Peter Block asks, “If we cannot say ‘no’ (which is a form of expressing doubt) then what does ‘yes’ mean?”

Expressing doubt is a way of clarifying role, needs, and expectations in the context of vision and mission. Genuine commitment begins with doubt, and “no” is a symbolic expression of people finding their space and role in the strategy. It is when leaders fully understand what followers do not want that they can fully design what they want. The option to say no and pass is the foundation for commitment.

Expressing doubt is not about hijacking the future. Nor is it done in the expectation of guarantees that followers (and leaders themselves for that matter) will receive exactly what they want. Expressing doubt is a deep expression of integrity and honesty, and a gift to leaders and followers alike. The leadership task, writes Block, is to surface doubts and dissent without having an answer to every question.

Block poses some questions to assist leaders in surfacing and exploring doubt. These questions are considered by leaders and followers alike.

  • What concerns about the future do you want to talk about?
  • What is the “no” that you have been postponing that impacts your choice of the past or the future
  • What is the “yes” that has lost its meaning that impacts your choice of the past or the future?
  • What is the forgiveness that you have been withholding that may stand in the way of choosing the future?
  • What is the resentment that you have that no one knows about that impacts your choice for the future?

How would change in organizations be different if leaders inquired into the doubts people have about the future rather than cast them as enemies of the future? What conversations would be created? What conversations would cease?

[1] (From Dictionary.com Unabridged, Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2011.)

Post-script, 2011.10.05: I just came across the following from my colleague Tim Soden, who I consider to be a wise person. “I believe that if I use a label to assert that someone is resisting me I am sabotaging myself by limiting my personal abilities after all ‘what we resists persists’.”