A Positive Future; Not A Positivist One

Positivism seems to have a stranglehold on the commercial world, dominating the ineffective tools people continue to use and the flawed worldview behind them. It can be tempting to despair. But Value Management provides a way in, a way out and a way forward: the Things That Matter. And so whilst the future isn’t positivist, it is positive!

When surveying the continuing deluge of traditional management practices that attempt to define and control everything – whether new standards, new measures or new legislation – I admit I’m sometimes tempted to despair.

After all, these things have been shown again and again to not work…!

That temptation to despair then becomes almost overwhelming when seeing something like McKinsey’s summary of the latest WEF meeting at Davos.

All that’s there is the familiar refrains of speed, “will, skill, rigor, and scope” that imply that everything is knowable and ultimately controllable – and that the WEF (alone) know the right ways to do that – and continued unsupported assertions of their agenda (e.g. with ESG).

Positivism is – sadly – alive and well. Or at least if not “well” – it’s not working – it’s clinging on tenaciously in spite of everything.

And so I find myself asking how things will ever change and how the needle will ever move towards the way of thinking that actually reflects reality…

In particular, I wonder what it will take for Complexity and emergent change to be understood and harnessed… for Value to be rightly understood as subjective… and for People to be empowered to flourish; not coerced and controlled into compliance?

And then I remember the answer: through the power of the Things That Matter.

The Way In: The “Things That Matter”

Now, it’s quite possibly true that those at the WEF and their ilk are beyond help at the moment.

After all, they’re totally committed to their ways of seeing the world, and stepping away from it would not only mean acknowledging that these aren’t working, but also relinquishing all the opportunities for profit and power that come from being in the club that tries to dictate, recruit-to, enforce and audit the approach for everyone else.

I guess you can never say never, but at best they’re likely to be last to come into the fold.

For the rest of us, though, it’s the Things That Matter that provide the real alternative – a way into a new way of thinking, and then a way out from under the cloud of command and control.

The Way Out: Introducing “Things That Matter”

It all begins with the beauty, simplicity and power of the phrase, “Things That Matter”.

It’s a phrase that everyone intuitively understands and which everyone just “knows” what it means,

By default, they then know that it means the same to others, too, which is a great start – there’s no need for complicated explanations, definitions, “training” in a new idea, etc.

When moving from the concept to the specific ‘list’ of Things That Matter to an individual or group, there’s then almost always an entirely organic a mix of subjective and objective things all ‘coexisting’ at the same time. 

That’s important because the Things That Matter frame therefore side-steps – or at least blurs – the subjective / objective distinction, whilst enabling focused attention on the current state, and encouraging progress to be made towards a desired future state…

….all before any position-taking takes hold and sets in: the new way of doing things gets in ‘under the radar’, so to speak, and we don’t need to fight the positivists directly on their own territory.

And that means there’s a way forward.

The Way Forward: Progressing Things That Matter

The next stage is to demonstrate that the Things That Matter can be measured – or, as we prefer, “evaluated” (a more nuanced, softer term, that reflects the subjectivity involved).

This is then further ‘under the radar’ progression, because measurement/evaluation is familiar, and so it reassures (or at least doesn’t ‘trigger’) that part of us that – through a combination of habit and even the way our brains are wired – continues to gravitate towards assessment, quantification and measures.

However, what happens next for people with Value Management is participation in either:

  • The process of Value Coding, which re-expresses the Things That Matter as measures.
  • An ARC Diagnostic to evaluate those Value Codes.

In either case, people are then unwittingly – or (perhaps more accurately and kindly!) subconsciously – subjectively evaluating things through what looks like an objective process!

Another (benevolent) Trojan Horse to get past the positivist defences…!

This is critical on a number of levels, but principally because it’s exercising left and right brain harmony in creating an internal ‘sweet zone’ – a ‘space between’ the poles of stability and change that harmonises them – and this leads to all kinds of benefits:

  • For the individual, mental health and wellbeing through a holistic approach that reflects how they operate, together with a sense of being engaged, motivated and able to effect change.
  • For the organisation, the harnessing of its critical human intelligence around crucial things previously “beyond” the scope of what could previously be measured and managed.

Especially if there has been the recommended Things That Matterdiscovery process‘ before this point, the chances are that aspects previously thought of as ‘intangibles’ will naturally be included in the set of Things That Matter

….and even if the initial set is biased towards traditional stuff, the gaps and shortcomings will quickly become apparent.

In Conclusion: There Is Hope

So, yes, the temptation to despair is real.

The power and influence of those with a vested interested in maintaining their vice-like grip on the narrative of how we need to operate is real.

But the good news is that there only needs to be the tiniest chink in the armor – the tiniest willingness to try something different – and the Things That Matter will get a foothold and then, organically, quietly and wonderfully, do their thing.

At that point, the erosion of positivism is inevitable, because the bastions of positivist thinking are all inexorably, inevitably and gently encroached-upon, undermined and shown to be the empty shells that they are.

Whether it’s rigid structures, command & control, vertical transaction processing systems, elaborate job descriptions, or any other talisman of positivism, the Things That Matter cannot fail to supersede them…

…and all without taking on positivism directly, but instead just letting it fall by the wayside, almost without anyone realizing.

At that point, we’ll finally have moved into a future beyond positivism… and that really is positive!