Immunity to Change, Decision-making and Organisational Culture

Welcome to the May 2013 edition of the Madston Black Singapore newsletter. In this edition we introduce our new programme offering, Immunity-to-Change facilitation and coaching, we look at how intuitive decision-making is not always as reliable as it seems and we see how CEOs are approaching the question of culture in their organisations.


Immunity To Change certification

Have you ever wondered why changing behaviour in people and organisations is so difficult? One of our executive coaches, Lyndsay Potts is recently returned from Harvard University where he obtained certification in coaching and facilitating the acclaimed Immunity-to-Change™ approach. The approach is built on 30 years of research by Robert Kegan and Lisa Lahey who conducted the original research on increasing levels of mental complexity in adulthood. Building on this work, they then discovered the hidden mechanism that prevents people from making the changes that are most important to them.

The workshops are specifically designed to help individuals, work teams, and organisations bridge the gap between their intentions and the doing. The approach helps identify and address the underlying mindsets that can work in the opposite direction of the goals we set ourselves. A common example in organisations is the manager whose goal is to delegate better. Often the achievement of the goal is seen as learning a new technical skill. However, more commonly it requires addressing a belief system that sabotages any attempts to delegate better. One example provided in the Immunity to Change book is David whose underlying belief was that delegation eroded his self-image as a doer and problem-solver. So the key to making him a better delegator was for him to become aware of how his self-image conflicted with him being a good delegator. Overcoming his immunity to change meant adapting his self-image so that there was no conflict with the act of delegation.

The availability of an Immunity-to-Change certified coach and facilitator in the Singapore leadership development space is rare. For more information on how to include the Immunity-to-Change module in your next leadership development programme or as a separate workshop, or individual coaching based on the methodology, please contact us.


Decision-making: Intuition vs Formulas

Our current readings include the book Thinking, Fast and Slow by Nobel prize winner, Daniel Kahneman in which he explains how we make decisions. The fast-thinking part of the brain he refers to as system 1 and is where the reactive decisions are made. In certain situations, we rely on system 1 for survival but it is prone to incorrect assumptions and biases that can adversely affect decisions requiring a more complex or considered approach. The slow-thinking part or system 2 has the capacity to weigh up probabilities and look at options but because of the additional effort, it often defers to the quick and easy decisions emanating from system 1.

A simple experiment he uses as a demonstration of the difference between the two systems is where subjects are asked the following.


A bat and ball cost $1.10. If the bat costs $1.00 more than the ball, how much does the ball cost?

Results of the experiment show that a majority of people, even those of above-average mathematical intelligence, will rely on the brain’s immediate response and incorrectly answer, 10 cents. In order to derive the correct answer, system 2 thinking is required. See bottom of the page for the correct answer.

One chapter that has captured our interest is whether we can rely on intuitive decisions rather than decisions determined by statistical means – either our own decisions or those of others. Does a wealth of experience mean that someone’s intuitive decision is likely to be correct or can we be misled by their self confidence? Read more about Kahneman’s conclusion Read more ».


Does Organisational Culture Matter?

We spotted an interesting interview with Harry Herington, ex-police officer and now CEO of NIC Inc., a provider of online services to US government departments. In the interview in the New York Times, Harry (pictured) was asked about his leadership approach to which he answered, “the number one job I have is to set the culture of the company.” As he sees it, a positive culture includes creating an environment of trust and in the interview he explains how he was able to win the trust of a geographically diverse staff by being prepared to open up about his personal life. Read the article by Adam Bryant, ‘If the Boss Rides a Harley, He Must Be Human’ Read more ».

A recent quote that also caught our attention was that of Netflix CEO, Reed Hastings who in an article in Bloomberg Businessweek said, “We are trying to set this up as a continuously learning organisation. My role is creating that learning atmosphere.” In the same article, it was stated that Netflix tends to employ older people than its peers. Adrian Cockcroft who is Director of Architecture, Cloud Systems commented, “We hire fully formed adults. We let them do five years at Google before taking them on.”


Deloitte and Madston Black breakfast series

Continuing the theme of culture, the topic of our next breakfast seminar on Wednesday, 5 June will be ‘The role of HR in aligning culture and strategy: How culture sustains business success’. If you are a senior HR leader and wish to attend, please register now by emailing Louise: lkovacs@madstonblack.com.sg

The previous event in April featured the topic, Global mindsets: Developing global leaders in Asia. The presentation featured the research of Dr Mansour Javidan of the Najafi Global Mindset Institute. The institute has developed the Global Mindset Inventory assessment tool to help determine a global leader’s ability to better influence individuals, groups and organisations unlike themselves. The presentation slides are available at our website Read more »

For those who didn’t have time to engage system 2 thinking, the correct answer to the bat and ball question above was 5 cents.