Management by reducing restraining forces

Photo by Jason Clapp


I was reading an article by Daniel Kahneman titled Reference Points, Anchors, Norms and Mixed Feelings for a negotiation class I am taking, when I encountered this intriguing paragraph:

I find it encouraging that this prescriptive conclusion coincides with that of a very different analysis. In a marvelous essay, Kurt Lewin (1951) deduced from an analysis of behavior as dynamic equilibrium that it is more efficient to induce others to change their behavior by “reducing restraining forces” than by “increasing driving forces.”

Our thinking is so entrenched in the carrots and sticks and incentives thinking that we developed a bias towards “increasing driving forces”. We focus so much of our time trying to think of ways influence others by pushing them that we neglect to understand that pulling is also possible. We focus our attention on futile attempts to control and reduce heterogeneity. Listen to the language most managers use – How can we motivate people? How can we incentivize them? How can we make them act in the ways that we want?

Isn’t it time we develop a different kind of thinking and a different kind of language. One that tries to “reduces the restraining forces”. To help them gain autonomy and mastery and to reach a sense of purpose. To take hurdles out of their way. Unshackle employees and take off some of the stupid rules that surround them. Change the language to a language that is based on humanity and talks about shared purpose, partnerships and creativity.

What forces are restraining your people and what are you going to do about it?



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