Culture and strategy. Do we have to choose one over the other?

Black and white.
Good and evil.
Anima and animus.
Emotional and rational.
Social and personal.

Is life made of dualities? Strategy and culture are one of these dualities we often encounter business-wise. Are we talking about opposing forces? Dichotomies seem to give us two opposing aspects on different poles, and the choice we have to make is either one or the other. Will we choose to act for good or evil? Will we focus on creating a stable business strategy or distinctive company culture? The thing is, we are much more complex.

There are so many shades between black and white, and we are living proof of the spectrum between those polarities. We are a combination of various qualities, each present by a different degree. Some traits or behaviours may dominate our nature, while others will resurface only on special occasions. We are the best representation of the polarity concept.

There is a scope and extent of each aspect contained within the other. A continuum of polarities exists within us, and we often personify a varying combination of them. Nothing flourishes in extremes, so often, the key is in finding balance. To conclude whether this is the case with company strategy and culture, we need to define the two first.

What is strategy and can you run a business without one?

Before we dive into defining what the term business strategy encompasses, we should take a step back and examine what strategy actually means. The term was introduced 15 centuries ago, originating from the Greek στρατηγία stratēgia, meaning »art of troop leader; office of general, command, generalship«. Military tactics, siegecraft, logistics were just several skill subsets that the »art of the general« embodied. The term strategy evolved through the ages and came to denote a high-level plan to achieve one or more long-term or overall goals under uncertain conditions.

Strategy is not solely reserved for the military quests anymore. Nowadays, it stands tall in all life areas, be it personal development goals, professional life goals or business goals. Our personal strategies are often shaped by our beliefs, values, and personal management system. We hardly go on living our lives, hoping everything will turn out for the better. Even if we don’t have a specific strategy pinned on our vision board, we have at least some sort of a strategy in our minds. What we’ve learned through primary and secondary socialisation and social norms stimulate our goals. Strategizing can sound scary, but we should never forget that the new experiences can serve as an excellent basis for regularly updating our life strategy by having our end goals and vision in mind.

Now, let’s try to grasp what strategy means businesswise. Researchers and practitioners agree that there is no consensus on the subject. Peter Drucker (1954), was the pioneer in addressing the strategy issue. He was under the notion that an organisation’s strategy consists of the answer to two fundamental questions: What is our business, and what should it be? Reflecting on the term’s origin, Drucker didn’t believe that »business is war« or that the business strategy should be associated with an act of warfare. Instead, he thought that strategy should enable an organisation to achieve the desired results in an unpredictable environment. Analysing the company and its marketplace to identify »certainties« was the first strategy development step.

The business strategy should serve as a framework for making both short-term and long-term business decisions. Hundreds of decisions are made in each company daily. From what software should we invest in and use, to marketing, recruiting and sales approaches, and even how each employee should make the most out of their workday. Not having a strategy in place that will guide these decisions, the organisation can be torn in different directions, less effective and profitable, and risks suffering internal confusion and conflict.

To summarise, we can consider business strategy as a set of guiding principles that construct a desired behavioural pattern. It should direct our people to the paths they should and shouldn’t take. Always having the end goal and desired results in mind is what makes both business and life strategies similar. They even point at the same impediments, the worse our starting point is and the more ambitious our goals are, the more effort it will take us to realise said strategy. We should put double the effort in to make it distinguished, and we’ll have to play smarter and work harder to make it a reality.

What is culture?

The term culture might even be more complex and broad than strategy. The consensus case is the same. There is no universal understanding and little consensus within, and even less across disciplines.

Almost seven centuries ago, when the word »culture« first appeared in the Oxford English Dictionary, based on the Latin culture, it denoted »cultivation« or »tending the soil«. A couple of centuries later, the term was associated with the phrase »high culture«, implying the cultivation or refinement of mind, taste, and manners. Nowadays, it is defined as the characteristics and knowledge of a particular group of people, encompassing language, religion, cuisine, social habits, music and arts. Simply put, culture is how we are doing things over here.

Consequently, organisational culture is the assortment of values, expectations, and practices that guide and inform the team members’ actions. It can be seen as the ultimate collection of traits that make our companies authentic. The term »organisation culture« refers to the values and beliefs of an organisation. The company culture also determines the way people interact with each other and behave with others outside the company.

Edgar Schein is one of the most prolific psychologists famous for his model of organisational culture. According to him, organisations do not adopt a culture in a single day. They tend to form it as the employees undergo various changes, adapt to the external environment and solve problems. Schein is famous for characterising three levels of organisational culture: artefacts, values, and basic assumptions.

  • Artefacts are the organisational characteristics that individuals can easily view, hear, and feel. A visitor or an ›outsider‹ should also be able to notice them. The architecture and interior design, the office location, the employees’ manner of dressing, and even souvenirs and trophies represent physical artefacts. The language and technology used and the stories and myths circulating among the people are also part of this level. It also includes visible traditions that display ›our way of doing things‹ expressed at ceremonies and rituals, social and leadership practices, and work-related traditions.
  • Values, according to Schein, are at higher levels of consciousness, and they represent the employees’ shared opinion on ›how things should be‹. The members don’t necessarily act according to these values, but they can help them classify their situations and actions as desirable or undesirable.
  • Basic assumptions are the third level that makes the company culture’s core. These kinds of beliefs are never challenged since they are taken as facts. A pattern of basic assumptions evolves among the social group members. Understanding the basic assumptions gives meaning and coherence to the seemingly disconnected and confusing artefacts and values.

Schein noted that the company culture appears and solidifies through positive problem-solving processes and anxiety avoidance. The way the company solves and reacts to problems is a more prominent factor early in its history, as it will commonly face many challenges. How it responds to those earlier challenges will significantly impact the future cultural DNA. Still, every new problem has the potential to be a pivotal opportunity since new issues are not always the same as the old ones. While broader strategies and mindsets may solidify, the culture adapted by problem-solving can evolve.

On the other hand, anxiety avoidance comprises learned reactions that allow groups to minimise anxiety. Seeking order and consistency and figuring ways to minimise internal and external conflict are elements connected to anxiety avoidance. The resulting behaviours are quite stable since we tend to indefinitely repeat the responses that we know will successfully avoid anxiety.

The collision between culture and strategy

Can strategy and culture operate independently in an organisation? Should they be considered separate entities? This capitalist era enforced a result-driven approach to many companies, and many managers seem to use their strategy to justify chasing numbers, KPIs and ROI. Even though some companies might win the numbers race and double their profits, their people might be impaired in the long run. These demanding managers believe that strategy deals with the »real business« and is the route to success. They deem culture only as »panem et circenses«, using this concept just like the emperors of old used sustenance and entertainment to subdue public discontent. Like a nice thing to have that will hopefully make people happier in the foreseeable future. This complete focus on revenue can create burnt-out and overworked employees, and the culture deficit can lead to high levels of friction and productivity decrease.

Some leaders found it tempting to focus on developing strategy more than culture in the past few years of unprecedented change. Most would argue that a strategy that describes a general long-term vision without defining what it requires of the organisation’s culture is bound to fail.

An insightful Harvard Business Review article concludes that culture is always the winner when strategy and culture collide. Even the famous Peter Drucker quote says that »culture eats strategy for breakfast«. Drucker pointed out the significance of the people factor, implying that regardless of how effective your strategy may be, your company’s culture always determines its success. Even if you have the most detailed and solid strategy in place, chances are, your projects will fail if the people executing said strategy don’t nurture the appropriate culture.

Culture doesn’t refer only to bean-bag chairs at the office game room. It indicates how people act in critical situations, respond to various challenges and manage pressure, treat partners, customers, and each other. If they don’t share the leader’s passion for the company’s vision, the strategy won’t stand a chance since they won’t be keen on implementing the plan in the first place. The company will most likely struggle to execute even the trivial daily strategies, and accomplishing a new one would be out of the question.

As we all know, change is not easy, and people are prone to resistance, especially when it comes to things they are used to and hold dear. Some leaders might battle cultural intransigence for years. Connecting their desired culture with their strategy and business goals might give the profound answer to the question: Why do we want to change our culture?

Culture and strategy need to work in synergy

We need to spend a significant effort and time planning and strategizing, but company culture happens whether we work on developing one or not. There are cases it’s created unintentionally by the founders and executives. It’s worth noting that their actions speak louder than words in the process of culture creation. As time goes by, cultures tend to evolve even though modifying them on purpose can be a pretty complex process. These unplanned developments are not always for the better, and even though it might sound counterintuitive, leaders shouldn’t fight them but work with and within them.

Culture doesn’t have to trump strategy. They should work together in harmony, complementing each other’s success. Alignment is clearly essential, but it’s getting even more challenging over the past few years as priorities and strategies change in the blink of an eye. To help our people understand the ever-changing strategy, we should recognise them and show appreciation for their successes tied to our company’s values, purpose or objectives. We can ensure our team stays aligned with our business needs in their daily tasks by encouraging them to frequently and instantaneously praise their colleagues for delivering on said expectations.

Developing an in-depth understanding of what people need from each other to perform well is vital in driving complementarity between strategy and culture. We should always make an effort to learn how the culture really works while creating the strategy. Try to grasp what people talk about, criticise, prefer, remember, and admire in the company, and ponder their stories, tonality, and language. By listening and empathising, we will find the unwritten norms and values that characterise the culture and the most prominent strategy enablers (communication, technology, tools, incentives, compensation, and benefits) behind the seemingly concealed sentiments. Take the opportunity to analyse how the cultural weaknesses, like particular mindsets, assumptions, and practices, for instance, reflect on goals and productivity. You’ll probably find they limit the exploration of new prospects and potentials, preventing superior performance and higher growth levels.

To achieve the desired synergy, we need to focus on appreciating and incorporating people’s perspectives, mindsets, and skillsets. The most successful companies managed to develop a culture that has grown greater and more powerful than any individual. People are often inspired to conform to a strong culture since it’s the thing that links everyone together, no matter the department they’re in. When people become engaged with the company, the business strategy is more likely to be perceived as a personal one.

When culture and strategy are created simultaneously, they are more prone to be aligned and in full sync to complement and stimulate each other. This harmony fosters the creation of incredible organisational transformations. When we understand our business’ authentic culture, we’re familiar with all the factors, so creating a strategic business plan is almost effortless.

When we say that culture is critical, we’re not undermining strategy and leadership. A particular strategy a company employs has better prospects of thriving if it is supported by the fitting cultural characteristics. Strategy is important, but if we’re looking for long-term success, it must be accompanied by a strong culture. While the strategy will answer all the »what«, culture should define just »how« people will put it into good practice. Prospering companies don’t think of culture as an obstacle they need to tackle but as a change accelerator, their competitive advantage. Even if companies are performance-driven, they need to be primarily person-centred and values-led.

Jörg Müngersdorff

Collective Leadership

Shifting the Meaning of Leadership Roles: Thinking Leadership from the Employee Perspective

1. How does the meaning come to be shifted?
The Western world has some specific cultural patterns. One of these calls out to us already from the Story of Creation in the Old Testament: »…replenish the earth, and subdue it!«, and it paints an expectation of pain and suffering. We are called upon to be doers, designers, movers. That is the core of the leadership role: design, do, create. Our modern experience of a global, networked world and its dynamics, as well as the confrontation with other cultural assumptions and values casts doubt on our notion of a confident, designing subject who has been given the world as a creative space. The modern experience appears different: it is not us who subdue the world, but the world that subdues, even overwhelms, us. Instead of scaring us off, though, this insight makes us look for new ways of finding a balance between designed influence and acceptance of the fact that the world shapes us as much as we shape it. It is an experience that also shapes our notion of leadership: the confident role taken on by a designing manager is being challenged by the potential of leadership by collectives.

We have reached a point where we are more likely to describe a manager as someone who enables, sponsors, moderates. We speak of serving managers with the values of humility and caring. It is the path from a strong ego to being part of a greater community.

It appears as if the manager of old had surrendered in the face of complexity, contingency and acceleration. That kind of leadership can no long fulfil the role of the knowledgeable designer and is facing the limits of its own confidence. Hence an answer is sought in the potentially more powerful and more intelligent collective and its multitude of voices. We trust in the wisdom of many views, different discourses and we believe that the collective as a group with a range of perspectives is more likely than the old manager-hero to succeed at the complex tasks of the modern world.

This development goes hand in hand with an insight that the Western dominant model that everything has a reason and can be based on a cause is powerful, but not universally applicable. A complex, accelerating and dynamic world teaches us to look at events in a systemic way: we view events as interactive and interwoven conditions in which we cannot find a single, unmistakeable cause, but instead find networks that might have caused the event we are seeking to explain. Knowing a single cause shows us a single goal-oriented path of action. A network of relationships forces us to follow feedback whatever we do, to become part of the network, to learn to live with the network. (Hence the altered understanding that mistakes, by triggering feedback, are an opportunity to learn.)

2. Has the old leadership role become obsolete with the turn towards the collective?
In order to master the challenges we face, to find an answer that serves the whole, we surely need the many voices of a diverse collective: we need open discourses without fear. For these discourses to be successful and the many voices not to get stuck in unforgiving positions, we also need guides, an orientation and the ties to a common horizon for whatever is needed at that point. It remains the leadership task to provide orientation, carrying the entire risk of having been wrong. Leadership must surely learn to accept that the subject is not the mighty centre but a part of the whole with a very specific role in that whole. It is always a painful task to learn that I am limited and restricted and that the path to overcoming that limitation are the others. There is another old adage that has accompanied the Western people, passed on by an Ancient Greek oracle: Remember, you are a human! Only a human, but also a human. Hannah Arendt attributed to these humans the ability to make a start. That also remains a leadership task.

3. Is the collective ready to assume leadership tasks?
In many years of working in group dynamic settings, I have seen how difficult it is to attain common orientation and goal-oriented cooperation in groups that lack leadership. In addition to the known group effects (finding roles, positions and meanings in a social field – emotionally driven effects), the development of collective, limiting patterns of perception, thinking and decision-taking form the greatest barrier to a multi-perspective and open dialogue. Together with the emotional dynamics of group cohesion, it reduces the opportunities of multiple perspectives, shrinking the group into – usually subconscious – groupthink. Without directed work on these limited patterns, groups stay far below their level and cannot achieve their given task: to better manage complexity. The dynamics of groups keep covering up the factual focus and, as psychoanalysis described for individuals, access to the collective mindset as a subconscious entity is boarded up by many defence mechanisms. This is why working with the collective mindset requires a deep expertise in group dynamics. It is the only way to manage the new balance in leadership: a more productive balance between leading and being led.

#myndleap #mindset #groupdynamic #collectivemindset #newleadership #synnecta #denksinnlich

Rüdiger Müngersdorff
This article was first published at
© Artwork: Mitra Art, Mitra Woodall

Collective Mindset & the Dynamics of Social Systems

Group dynamics are at the root of all work with social systems. There is a myriad of methods to use in trainings and workshops in order to cover these dynamics. They are effective as long as the issues at hand remain in the foreground and in everybody’s joint focus. However, we frequently find what we call relationship topics gaining ground and hindering progress on the so-called factual topics. Nowadays, as positivity is the prevalent group norm, it has become the habit to not only methodically isolate these dynamics, but in fact to expel them from the groups’ communicative dynamic. At the same time, we know that groups are such rich environments only because of the difference, the range of perspective, opinions and attitudes. This wealth is only accessible where emotions are also admitted. Emotions are too frequently considered dangerous and disruptive, even though they are the very thing we need in order to give difference and diversity scope for effect. We are often lacking the required emotional sovereignty. The habit of ignoring and suppressing group dynamics becomes more pointed in the context of virtual, digital work. At first sight, all conflicts, differences and blind spots seemed to have disappeared in that context, but by now it is apparent that they were in fact only hidden – one sign of this is not least the dwindling enthusiasm in virtual conversations. Another indicator for the fact that it is no solution to ignore the emotional side is the growing number of psychological illnesses and burn-out symptoms reported by the health services.

I often see mindset work concentrating on the individual. There is a promise that we can break free of the binds of mindsets we have collected during our life histories and thereby develop greater degrees of freedom in our actions. That does not go far enough. Mindset work also takes place with a person – it happens within a relationship, in a social situation. This social scene is a fundamental aspect of its efficacy. Taking a closer look, coachings in small groups turn out to often be more efficient than one-on-one relationships, because they work in a much more elaborate social space, a richer scene. Group dynamics are so very important precisely because productive work on the collective mindset is work with the social scene. However, those very skills on group dynamics are often lacking: mindset work that relates to collective understanding and cultural factors is still in its infancy.

We live and work in groups – we are always in a social situation. This setting inspires us and opens our own necessarily limited a priori understanding. While it does create openness, however, it also draws boundaries. The boundaries that are typical for groups are often called groupthink. The usually subconsciously effective norms and rules of behaviour within groups define a space or a scene that effectively limits individual impulses and perspectives. The multitude of individual voices is reduced within groups.

Groups have the potential to be enriching, to have many voices, many facets, and therefore to be able to perform better and adapt more easily, to be more agile. It is rare that this potential is productively tapped. Why is that so? Groups very swiftly form a system of norms and assumptions, values and expectations, which effectively reduce the scope for individual perspectives. Social beings have a need, the necessity to belong, to be part of a social system and thereby also a fear of not belonging, of being excluded. There is great pressure to fit in. We often find ourselves succumbing to that pressure subconsciously or under the cover of excuse stories. Without consciously wanting to, we act, speak and engage in a way we believe to be the group norm.

In doing so, we are robbing the group of its greatest potential: the diversity, the differences, the strangeness and otherness, in short: its individual perspectives. Watching groups, we always see that a limiting norm wins out. The simplest methods in use to that extent are to point out a lack of time or, currently very much en vogue, the request to keep displaying a friendly, accepting Yes Set.

The collective mindset, the organizational development or group culture have an effect on individuals in their belonging to groups and organizations: reinforcing, weakening, shifting. The collective is often more persuasive. Whereever we are dealing with a priori assumptions that shift an individual’s tenets, we must work with the social scene in which that human being lives and works. Individual actions are greatly defined by the scene in which we are set or have set ourselves. Groups provide us with a scene as well as a script that tells us how to play that scene. We seek to niche ourselves within that script: to find those roles which we consider most like to to give us a good position within the community of this group or this social organization. In doing so, we frequently abandon our own personal wealth without even noticing it and are by that very act robbing the group of its own greatest potential: the difference, the individual perspective.

We all have an individual a priori understanding with which we encounter the world and which is each our very own. Where we are part of a social system, we also have a collective a priori understanding that we share with others, with our group. The collective mindset (a priori understanding) is often the more dominant one. The desire to belong and at the same time the fear and shame of exclusion lead us to adapt. We are often not aware of the price we pay for that until the evening, when we are alone. (This is why it remains vital to include at least one evening and one night in workshop designs. They provide the spaces where impulses emerge that can trigger movement. The prevalent abbreviation of meetings, trainings and workshops is one contributing factor for the dominance of the collective norm and the exclusion of difference.)

The collective and the individual mindset are connected. They form a dynamic system and tend to balance out in a limiting stability. Effective work on the individual and the collective mindset works at this balance, opens differences and therefore makes movement possible. At the outset, it is important to perceive the scene that is provided by a group; this makes it possible to engage in different versions and therefore facilitates that differences are made visible and can be discussed. The key to change is opening the group’s expressive sphere, perceiving cracks in the group’s evaluations. This is where the potential of the members can enter group communication and have a differentiating effect. For that to happen, the people must be ready to reveal themselves and develop a setting of trust where differences are accepted (psychological & emotional safety). Group dynamics are about trust as much as the readiness for confrontation. Anyone who supports cultural change in organizations knows that sustainability can only be achieved when both poles of the balance, individual and collective, are worked on at the same time.

This is a plea for group dynamics, then. Any effective work with the mindset concept necessarily demands a deep familiarity with group dynamics, the lived roles within the groups and their mutual influence is essential.

Group dynamics go beyond moderated, directed conversation. They open up towards a wealth of individual, diverse, multitudinous perspectives.

At the same time, this path leads to the ability to repeatedly take decisions that are fit for the contingency and complexity of our modern world of life and work. Wolfgang Hegewald has described what we need in order to achieve that: »(…) that art and society base themselves on difference, on a curiosity about the Other and a sympathy for what I am not, a desire for change, for rhythm and distance. That my heart beats for my mind: an erotic experience.«

#myndleap #mindset #mindsetcoaching #organizationaldevelopment #synnecta #denksinnlich #collectivemindset

Rüdiger Müngersdorff
This article was first published at
© Artwork: Mitra Art, Mitra Woodall

Simply not good enough: The perpetual message of insufficiency

When Arnold Gehlen described humans as insufficient creatures, he furnished this label with a positive interpretation. The human ability to design our life world grows out of the physical insufficiency of humankind, essentially establishing a dominance within it and an ability fashion it out of the very needs of that insufficiency. This anthropological approach is juxtaposed by a psychological definition of insufficiency in the ontogenetic development of humans with messages that communicate to the individual: You are not good enough! In this case, the state of insufficiency is often frozen in time, arrested without achieving the turn toward design, domination and overcoming. The messages of lack result in resignation, doubt, giving up or an eternal fight against the power of the early messages.

Messages of insufficiency are part of our societies’ cultural attitudes. They play an important role in families. In biography-based work that addresses the proverbs children and young people remember having often, time and again, heard from important attachment figures, it becomes apparent how these messages evolve into attitudes and tenets. ‚Life‘s no picnic‘, ‚No pain, no gain‘ or the at first sight less threatening ‚No sweet without sweat‘: they all convey the same message, namely that the recipients are not good enough, need to deliver more, pull themselves together. The world is not a place of experience and blissful design, it takes the shape of a permanent practical test. There are indeed also messages of power, fulfilment and an awareness of one’s own potential. While both facets are there, the balance is often not right.

This missing balance that is so frequently encountered is often met with the recommendation to form formulaic positive resolutions. Although this can have a positive and stabilizing effect on individuals, it is clearly not enough.

Mindset work as realized by MyndLeap addresses the phenomenon where culture, collective mindsets and individual mindsets meet and develop particular dynamics. Any work that focuses only on the individual and that individual‘s belief systems will not alter the ties between such normative cultural messages and the individual’s related tenets.

Ideally, these very ties will reveal differences and thereby open up a space where an altered narrative can emerge. This altered narrative sees that mistakes are elements of innovation and can thereby change the perfectionist norm so that individuals can find a space in which to fashion their own designs, interacting between the fields of ‚I can do it‘ and ‚I am not good enough‘. The narrative that mistakes are an integral part of the process of learning and growing is still strongly juxtaposed by the narrative that mistakes are wrong in themselves, must be avoided and constitute a nigh-on moral failure. There is often a mutually reinforcing symmetrical relationship between collective and individual tenets. This relationship can unfold a great reciprocal power where the belief systems communicate safety, the ability to design, courage and the joy of a challenge. The opposite is true, however, when tenets of insufficiency reciprocally reinforce each other.

Looking back at the origin of the mindset concept, it becomes apparent once more that it really addresses specific assumptions towards the world that are inherent to social systems and predate any concrete experience. It began by focussing on social classes and moved on from there to the investigation of whether there are typical national mentalities. The pivotal question for us today is in what way the mentality or the dominant collective mindset have a significant effect on the enthusiasm and the ability to perform among company employees. While individual mindset work can be a relief for each individual and often shows a path out of a situation that stabilizes and reinforces a person‘s own awareness of their insufficiency, organizations must tap into the collective mindset here. This is the lever for change. There are tried and tested methods that permit groups as well as larger organizations to work in such a way that it is immediately apparent how the collective mindset works and which normative messages it sets. The individual beliefs work within those normative messages. As soon as the connections are made apparent, it is possible to begin a process that lets in other messages and eventually makes them effective by sustainable, mindful awareness and integration. Cultural patterns establish themselves by repetition, modelling and imitation. The work on the collective mindset as designed by Myndleap leads from an awareness of insufficiency to an awareness of potential. It can therefore tap into a culture of potential within which each person can take it into their own hands what to make of that potential.

#myndleap #mindset #mindsetcoaching #organizationaldevelopment #synnecta #denksinnlich

This article was first published at
© Artwork: Mitra Art, Mitra Woodall

Mindset: Limits and Opportunities

The concept of mindset and tenets has proved useful in the coaching context. It effectively supports cognitive flexibility and brings coachees into contact with a wider range of tools to actively meet the challenges delivered in their life and work settings. It is good to see that many schools of mindset work are moving away from the normative concepts that hide behind such names as growth mindset and agile mindset. While those used to be and still are often sold to organizations, other phrases – like mindset plasticity and flexibility – make it apparent that what’s really at stake is an ability to react to situations rather than to loyally follow old scripts, as transactional analysis would put it. We are dealing with degrees of freedom and a credo that we know from the very roots of psychoanalysis: Awareness widens the range of possibilities – the possibilities to be able to react and act differently.

Despite this dynamic development in the mindset scene, the sales brochures continue to contain some blind spots – not everywhere, but still frequently enough. I have pointed out the roots of mindset in earlier articles (@myndleap @rüdigermüngersdorff @synnecta) and have sketched out a much wider basis for this approach. In the following I want to point out two aspects of mindset work that have not been fully tapped into.

Firstly, I keep coming across the phrase »emotionally charged belief sets«. As so often in Western culture, our fixation on cognitive structures and contents demotes emotions to secondary events that only serve to charge something. Psychotherapy has throughout its by now quite long history taught us at least that emotions are in fact dynamics in their own right that must be perceived and talked about as such. All research into the effectiveness of psychotherapy and coaching has shown that the most important effective factor is the relationship between the participants. This has to do not least with the fact that emotions are perceived and felt in the relationship between people. Great value can be ascribed here to the discovery of transference. These phenomena do not merely describe a misperception, but shape the very place where emotions take place before they can be translated into cognitive events or speech. The fixation on methods in most mindset schools dramatically underestimates this aspect of the work. In my projects in the Asian sphere I talk not only of mindset but also of heartset. This meets with great approval in those cultures and provides an approach to elevate emotional as well as cognitive flexibility. Repetition compulsion – the very opposite of flexible, appropriate perception and action – is not primarily tied to a structure of insight, evaluation and decision-making, but to an emotional reaction to the inner and outer context: a scene. This is where links are made and limits drawn, where beliefs attain the power of their message to guide actions. As long as we are unable to talk about the scenic feelings of fear, shame and guilt (qualities of transference and counter-transference), mindset work will not be able to deliver more than temporary patches.

In the face of the cognitive fixation and belief in methods that is inherent to many mindset schools, I keep returning to the same question: Who ever claimed that you think with your head rather than with your whole body? We cannot perceive our emotionality without encountering our physical side; as long as we do not experience the heartset, our mindset work cannot penetrate beyond the surface.

The second major fault of mindset discussions is their blindness for the conditions that are material to effective organizational development. While we are witnessing a cultural turn or a sociological turn in the cultural sciences, the soft consulting scene is experiencing the growth of a psychological approach. The statement that ‘I live my life’ holds as much truth as the claim that »My context lives me«. Prevailing resilience concepts call upon the individual to change, and the same is true in organizational development. This approach is based on the conviction that success will follow once all employees have developed a growth mindset, an agile mindset or a whatever mindset. There is a belief that this is the only path to changing our culture and supporting our organization goals. Practice shows, however, that this is an illusion. All organizations have a specific culture: their collective mind- and heartset, if you will. This culture is reproduced within the organization even when all its people are changed. (It is a deflating experience indeed to see a manager behaving so differently during training than in their company context.) In individual mindset work it seems to be apparent that beliefs are localized in the brain – although I would locate them in the body. In organizational development, we need to ask that old question about culture: where and how do we locate the consistent cultural patterns in organizations? Cultural sciences have a number of approaches to meet this question. These need to be integrated into organizational development. They are mostly relational and can hardly be captured with a classic thought pattern of cause and effect. It is about creating visibility for the web of relationships within which perception, decision-taking and action take place. As in individual work, the first step is awareness. These thoughts return the concept of mindset back to its origins: research into mentality in social classes and groups. It grasps how mindset work can help us understand the ties of collective behaviour, while at the same time opening a chance for emergence. Using Robert Musil’s words, we could say that working on the collective mindset means to add a sense of reality to a sense of possibility.

#myndleap #mindset #mindsetcoaching #organizationaldevelopement #synnecta #denksinnlich #collectivesmindset

This article was first published at
© Artwork: Mitra Art, Mitra Woodall