16th December 2016
Sam Dods

Can groups be stupid?

There seem to be a number of articles circulating now describing stupidity in groups including this article by André Spicer on enshrined organisational stupidity and this article by Mariah Milano titled “America: The Land of the Stupid”.


While collective stupidity appears to be on the rise with Oxford Dictionaries selecting “post-truth” as 2016’s international word of the year, it’s certainly nothing new.


Human history is littered with groups/societies being certain of prevailing knowledge, such as the Earth being flat, and not welcoming new perspectives resulting in people such as Charles Darwin apparently postponing publication of his theory of evolution for 20 years because he was afraid of the reaction.


In these situations, there appears to be a willingness to sacrifice new thinking in order to maintain group cohesion – people choosing, often unconsciously and for many reasons including fear of authority, not to address issues in the group and to attack those that do.


But it doesn’t need to be that way so maybe a challenge for all of us in 2017 can be to spend some time identifying and raising awareness of the blind spots in our groups so that issues can be addressed together.


If you have any thoughts or comments, please share below or send me a LinkedIn connection request.

21st November 2016
Sam Dods

Tribe & Prejudice

As the drive to increase diversity and inclusion in our organisations continues to gather pace Sam Dods, Organisational Consultant and Founder at Koru explores why this change is such a challenge and what steps can be taken to improve it: Tribe & Prejudice


If you have any thoughts or comments, please share below or send me a LinkedIn connection request.

11th November 2016
Sam Dods

What factors do we need to be aware of when managing conflict?

Conflict seems to be an inevitable part of being alive.


And the cost of poorly managed conflict is on the news every day with divided countries such as seen after Donald Trump’s election and the BREXIT vote, strikes and in the ultimate extreme, wars raging for years.


At the root of these conflicts are angry and scared people who see other individuals or groups as the source of their problems.


Under pressure our thoughts tend to become polarised, making us blind to the full range of factors contributing to conflict as well and the range of possible solutions. We forget that people’s behaviour is the result of their genetics and environment. And it is the environmental factors that can have a significant impact on conflict generation.


It is generally accepted that our early environment, including the nature of the relationship with our parents, plays a significant part in our development and how we relate to others. But it is equally important to realise that our immediate environment is also an important driver of behaviour; we are not islands immune to our surroundings after our childhood.


Numerous experiments were carried out in the second half of the twentieth century which demonstrated that our immediate surroundings had a significant impact on behaviour and could drive us to the most extreme acts. These experiments, many of which could not be repeated now for ethical reasons, were generally asking the same question: what drove people to do the terrible things that had been seen in wars such WW2 and Vietnam as well as other situations such as the abuse of prisoners.


In the 1971 Stamford Prison Experiment, for example, students were randomly selected to be prisoners and prison guards in an attempt to understand what was behind the reports of the brutality of guards across America in the late 1960’s. The experiment had to be stopped after only six days because of the threat to the psychological and physical health of the prisoners.


Since the environment including uniform, social roles and physical setting generated brutal and sadistic behaviour in a random sample of relatively well-educated students in only six days it is not difficult to imagine what can happen in the work place where the environment may not be as extreme but where most us spend a lot more time.


In the work place we can be influenced by similar factors such as the physical environment including the type of office space (e.g. open plan) and its state of repair, clothing / uniform requirements and various behavioural norms. It was also realised in the 1970’s that people’s role in an organisation, much like a uniform, had a significant impact on their behaviour.


This understanding lead to the development of coaching techniques such as the Organisational Role Analysis (ORA) which focusses on identifying issues with a person’s role and how it interacted with the wider organisational system. And in so doing removed the focus from the individual’s psychological build; reducing the chances of defensive behaviour when trying to resolve problems.


But whatever techniques are employed it must be remembered that conflict provides an opportunity to build trust and team cohesion if handled appropriately. This is because human relationships can become closer and more trusting if they work through issues and gain a deeper understanding and respect for each other in the process.


Guidance on managing conflict effectively is available from a number of sources such as ACAS and many of them contain similar themes:


1. Don’t avoid it. It can be tempting to avoid issues, particularly if we feel some responsibility for them, because in the majority of cases the situation deteriorates and achieving a positive outcome becomes increasingly difficult.

2. Suspend judgement. It’s very easy to blame an individual or group but remember that conflict is almost never the sole responsibility of an individual. It is rather the result of a number of factors within the organisational system.

3. Maintain organisational values and processes. It is important that the organisation’s values are adhered to while dealing with conflict as the way in which these events are managed can have a significant impact on culture.

4. Get some help. Conflict resolution can be challenging, often generating difficult emotional responses in all parties. Help should therefore be considered on a number of fronts including training and coaching on how to manage the situations as well as mediation.


If we engage positively with conflict when it arises then the frequency of issues will reduce over time, trust will build and organisational effectiveness will improve.


Have you had experience of any of these situations? If you have any thoughts or comments, please share below or send me a LinkedIn connection request.

10th October 2016
Sam Dods

Radio interview on organisational consultancy

Sam Dods discusses his background and views on organisational consultancy; considering some the thinking of Karl Popper, organisational development (OD), sociotechnical systems theory and organisational role analysis (ORA).


The interview can be heard here and starts at 35:40.


Have you had experience of any of organisational consultancy or are you interested in the area? If you have any thoughts or comments, please share below or send me a LinkedIn connection request.

26th September 2016
Sam Dods

The power of our unconscious

Most of us have probably heard something about the power of our unconscious and wondered if there was any truth to it – and whether we could benefit from it.


It is generally accepted that we are unaware of the majority of the activity in our minds including much of our emotional world and our autonomic nervous system which influences the function of internal organs.


Recent research lead by the University of Cambridge has shown that those with greater access to their unconscious are more effective. The study found that the more aware financial traders were of their “gut feeling” (measured in terms of heart rate) the more successful they were.


And the good news is that we can all benefit from the power of our unconscious with the help of techniques such as mindfulness, coaching and psychotherapy.


These techniques have evolved out of various areas of study including psychology and Eastern practices and each provide different approaches to increasing self-awareness and mastery of our own minds.


None of them have all of the answers but they can all play a part increasing our effectiveness and satisfaction with our lives.


Have you had experience of any of these techniques or are you planning to do so? If you have any thoughts or comments, please share below or send me a LinkedIn connection request.