The Age of Disconnection, Inequality and Ego

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I have a song swirling around in my head for some time…a bit like an annoying fly that I just can’t zap. The song – ‘Who’s Zoomin Who’ (by Aretha Franklin) are about people making fools out of each other. I believe that this cracking song has reared its dulcet tones into my head as I quietly ponder who’s fooling who in our societies today where increasingly it feel as if we are living in an age of disconnection, inequality and ego.

Isn’t it the greatest paradox of our world today that we are so connected via technology and yet be so disconnected? We email, text, Facebook, WhatsApp, and Snapchat all day, every day, but very really do we take the time to speak or listen to each other. Our communities have broken down into a frenzied state of bite-sized chuncks of information. A state where we move around like zombies with our heads buried into technology with little room for eye contact or a smile. A kind of technological imperialism that begs the question, is there room for both technology and humanity?

In an age where our world has become richer per capita, the poor have become poorer. I remain very moved by a movie that I watched recently – ‘I, Daniel Blake’ – a movie that painted a realistic picture of the massive inequities that exist in our public services in the UK today. Services such as the NHS, social care, housing and prisons that are at breaking point. Where the very people who are the pillars of our community are on the lowest of incomes and are relying for their very sustenance from food banks. A level of dehumanisation that begs the question is this the State against the poor?

Despite the continuous chants of ‘better together’ individual and organisational egos supersede what is best for the collective. Individualism is encouraged in our schools, universities and organisations at the expense of working together to achieve the best for all. Opportunities to demonstrate the act of togetherness are silenced by a feverish zealousness to prove that we are better and greater than each other. A culture of consistent competition permeates that is shrouded in a thin veil of narcissism that begs the question can we unify for the better of society or will social tensions continue to rise?

These areas of our society mirror those of many an organisation. That is, say enough, but not enough to be deemed a troublemaker. If you know how to play your part in the game you will get by and be on the inside. If, you are deemed an oddity or even a novelty or, not aware of the rules of the game or, simply do not ‘fit’ into the culture then you are destined to remain an outsider. Similarly, for leadership positions, if you come from the desirable background, educated at the right schools and universities then you rise easily into a position of leadership – that is, the few rise, the rest fall by the wayside.

Disconnection, inequality or ego is rarely evident when the great football clubs of Manchester United and Chelsea meet. Supporters from all classes stand behind their teams willing them to do their best, engaging in the atmosphere, euphoric with passion and teams are aligned on to shared goals and with an appetite to win together. So why isn’t it like this for all aspects of society or organisations? Why do we all have to ‘fit’ into one model rather than our contributions be valued and moulded to accommodate differing ideas that invariably will offer different kinds of solutions?

I want to take action and then the song ‘let it go’ wafts into my mind. Do I need the mental anguish of most likely being labelled an activist and as such perhaps being disenfranchised from society and role opportunities in organisations? Do I want to be in a state of continuous dicombobulation? And, then deep down, I know that I have to act. There is much talk, discussion, debate, empathy, sympathy and very little movement or change.

How much longer can we evade the consequences of ignoring reality? How does reality get reasserted? And how are we complicit in these three areas of disconnection, inequality and ego?

Why do organisations seek my services to fix crises rather than seek my services to facilitate innovation? Why do organisations seek to achieve competitive advantage and then seek to suppress and repress ideas that go outside of the boundaries of what is comfortable rather than invest and facilitate dynamic dialogue? Why do they run away from disruption to the status quo rather than creating resilience to adapt to changing circumstance?

Change is like a supplement – you have to take it consistently to benefit – it is not an instant fix. To provoke deep and sustained change requires a movement, not a programme and it takes courage to navigate the challenges that change reveals.

So, like change programmes, society and organisations have to move beyond structures, process and systems and interrogate and reshape attitudes, beliefs and behaviours and this is the tough part because habits are hard to shift and people are complex. For change to happen we have to be open to different ways of thinking and different ways of behaving so that. You can appreciate that there is much science around understanding and carrying out behavioural change stemming from the disciplines of ‘Behaviourism’, ‘Cognitive Psychology’, ‘Systemic Psychotherapy’ and ‘Behavioural Economics’ and tools such as gamification and nudging exists. However, for getting across the message that I want this blog to convey, I offer you five factors that should be in place for attitudes, beliefs and behaviours to change.

1. Our experiences that we encounter need to take place within a dynamic that motivates us. So both intrinsic and extrinsic motivation is key. And whilst we are determining what motivates us it is important to remember that what motivates you might not motivate me!

2. Ability needs to be appraised. That is, do we know what to do? And, do we have the skills required to do it?

3. The external context in which decisions are made has to be altered in some shape or form. That is the environment and situations in which we are in should be more supportive, collaborative and accepting of difference for change to stick.

4. From a psychological perspective we need to understand our internal context. That is what’s going on inside our heads. Psychological capital has to be built up in relation to confidence, commitment, willpower, perseverance and resilience.

5. At a cultural level, all should feel engaged and included. That is a culture exits where every voice is heard and opinions are valued. One that allows people to engage whereby they design and develop a culture that allows them to grow. Let’s call it an enabling culture.

A final word on change…change isn’t difficult – people are difficult. In time, and with hope, if change is done well we will become more connected, more equal with less ego.

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