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The Complete Pragmatic Family of Frameworks


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The Asch Conformity Experiment

This is a famous example of the temptation (overwhelming desire?) to conform. This series of experiments conducted in the 1950s placed one subject in a room full of actors. The person conducting the experiment held up an image with three numbered lines and asked each person in the room to identify the longest line. The actors purposely chose the incorrect line in order to determine whether the subject would answer honestly or simply go along with the group answer. The results showed that people tend to conform in group situations.

Everyone knows the tale of "The Emperor's New Clothes" by Hans Christian Andersen where it took a little child up a lamppost to point out the inconvenient truth. This can show up in Enterprises in very insidious ways. “Don’t Rock the boat” or “He’s a loose cannon” and similar phrases can often be used to implicitly make people conform by effectively shooting the little boy up the lamppost instead of listening to him.


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Questions to ponder...

Do people in your Enterprise “go with the flow” rather than speaking out?

Do people in your Enterprise thank the “little child” or vilify him?

Can you think of examples where this has happened in the past?

Who were they? What was the impact? Why do you think they acted in this way?

What needs to change to reduce the likelihood of it happening in the future?

Who needs to drive that change?

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