Monday, 2 March 2020

ARTICLE 11: 3BL, Incentives, & Urgency

Viable Underdogs concerns itself with anything that is a Type 1, or global, issue. You can check an outline of all Viable Underdogs books and materials in this post:

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A brief note before you read this article: For the most part, in the course of my ongoing ‘Global Diagnostic,’ I usually don’t try to pick on easy targets, and this article is no exception to this. The textbook explored is, overall, a pretty solidly written book (well, the third edition was - I haven’t read most of the 4th edition), and this should be clear due to the amount I have referenced it throughout Viable Underdogs. However, it is still subject to the problems I continually refer back to, so using examples like these allows you to hopefully understand how widespread the problem is when these are present in, what is otherwise, solid material.




Renegades of Disruption explored how human beings are not as individually intelligent as many of us believe we are. For the majority of academic and professional fields and information that exists, our level of knowledge is on par with young children (as in, we understand very little). One of the biggest differences is that children aren’t afraid to ask questions, whereas many adults lose their sense of wonder and curiosity soon after adolescence (See Part 5 of Renegades of Disruption). Throughout much of Earth’s history, civilization has required that the majority of its population not ask too many questions. As always, this is merely a statement of fact, not a comment on whether this is inherently a good thing or a bad thing.

Until recently (the last couple centuries), the standard rate of change of any civilization was typically fairly slow when compared to the rate of change of our current global civilization. During slow, or non-existent, rates of change, it’s beneficial to have a general population that accomplishes what is asked of it.

For the most part, this is still how we educate ourselves in school, and it’s an often touted reason for the ‘sale’ of an education in the first place: Get yourself an education, which will get you a good job, so you can successfully support yourself and your goals, and thereby be a productive member of civilization. Depending on who you ask, and where on the globe you ask this, the response to this statement can be met with anything from strong agreement to disillusioned anger.

I have said before that we are all ‘followers’ for the majority of things in our lives. For example, I follow the advice of a field of medical professionals since I have very little experience and knowledge within that field. Relying on others to be experts in their respective fields is a matter of necessity, since it is impossible for any individual to fully educate themselves on even a small fraction of all the professional fields that exist. I am inclined to listen to my doctor’s advice on my health, and likewise, he’ll likely listen to my advice as a mechanic. This is how our civilization operates; we depend on others to be experts in their given fields, just as others depend on us to be experts in our fields. This extends beyond the realm of occupations as well.


Manual Transmissions

When I state that no individual on this planet is overly smart, I also include myself in that statement. Here’s a story that still makes me shake my head whenever I reflect back on it. This is one of many, so it’s not like I have any shortage of dumb moments.

In North America, automatic transmissions in cars are far more common than manual, or standard, transmissions, so much that many drivers have never operated a manual transmission. This is quite different than pretty much anywhere else on the globe. Growing up, I never had any exposure to manual transmissions, nor do I ever even remember being a passenger in a car in anything other than an automatic.

So, when the first car I bought ended up coming with a manual transmission, it was a tad more challenging. A friend provided a quick demonstration on how to operate one of these bad boys in a parking lot, but other than that I did not receive a whole lot of instruction. However, I had watched a lot of movies that had car chases… 
A couple weeks later, I was driving somewhere to grab some grub with a different friend than the one who taught me. Now, obviously, as I was still learning, my shifting wasn’t as smooth as an experienced manual driver, but my passenger would have understood this, as he had also been taught to operate a manual transmission. After a while, I suppose my erratic shifting had become distracting enough for him to turn to me and say “why the f*** are you shifting gears like the cops are chasing you?”

To be clear, I was driving fairly conservatively and obeying the speed limit, but every one of my shifts was being performed lightning fast, which meant I was dumping the clutch fairly hard and making for rather unpleasant, bumpy ride. My response to his question must have appeared quite idiotic, “How else am I supposed to shift?”
To which he proceeded to inform me that under normal driving conditions, the shifting can be slowed down to become less erratic and a much more enjoyable ride.

Now, some of you reading this may think that this sounds profoundly stupid (and maybe you’re right), but remember back in Episode 3 of the Podcast-Audiobook when I mentioned the influence that media can have on us? In this case, my only exposure, or ‘inputs,’ to manual transmissions was mostly from movies. And in those movies, the characters are typically shifting in this fast, erratic method, so I just thought that was normal.

How about you? Do you possibly have any similar stories where, in retrospect, you’re embarrassed by your momentary lack of intelligence?


Education: The Addition of Inputs


Education is an attempt to provide an individual with additional inputs (knowledge and/or experience) in a particular subject or field (See EPISODE 3 of the Podcast-Audiobook for more info on this). If this person’s exposure to this field, or inputs, is close to zero, then they have no other frame of reference to ensure the validity of the knowledge. They are at the mercy of the education itself. In these cases, the education provides the very foundation for all subsequent inputs, and therefore also the eventual outputs, when this individual commences work in this field.


Triple Bottom Line (3BL)

In the Podcast-Audiobook, I refer back to the Triple Bottom Line (People, Planet, Profits) quite a bit. The reason I have included this so many times in the ‘Lewin Modified Global Change Message’ is to correct the foundation of incorrect inputs many individuals have in regards to what’s most important to a business organization. In EPISODE 24, I mentioned a quote that I said I would refer back to at a later date. Here it is:

The following excerpt was taken from an ethics article, titled Economics and Ethics, published in September, 1990, in the Journal of Business Ethics. Volume 9. Written by B. J Reilly, and M. J. Kyj:

“The theory of business organization that is taught in economics classrooms throughout the country (and reiterated in corporate circles as well) argues that the corporation has to maximize itself, regardless of the effects on the environment outside the firm. Welfare of the employees, health of the communities, and loyalty to suppliers, customers, and the nation itself are taken into consideration only as a means for maximizing the corporations wealth.”

A business entity requires all 3 (People, Planet and Profits) to stay in operation. Now, maybe you think that a business entity being concerned about people and the planet should be common sense, but then you’re forgetting what I mentioned before about human intelligence. There are far too many fields of study and knowledge in existence, for knowledge to be ‘common.’

This isn’t to blame the business sector exclusively for the state of our Sustainability Crisis. We all contribute to this problem in different ways. The Role of Business should ensure that businesses consider People and the Planet in its business decisions, but the Role of Information should ensure that business-people are educated in this manner. Unfortunately, this business-people, for the most part, have not been educated in this manner.


Dated Material - Whether not removed or not added

The textbook, Management, by John Schermerhorn Jr. & Barry Wright, provides one example of many about not adding or removing information to reflect our changing world. To be clear, the reason I used this textbook is because I personally feel it is well written. There’s good information in there. I would not have referenced it as many times as I did if there wasn’t. However, it is also guilty of a problem that is rampant throughout Academia - knowledge in dire need of updating. To be clear, this is a problem that exists in many texts, and I am not trying to pick on this text, but here is a couple examples of dated material:

First, included (both in the third and fourth editions) is the Myers-Briggs Personality Test (MBTI), which has long since been debunked. Here are a few links to back this claim:

Sci Show Pshyc (YouTube):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JN6_K6ALeZI

(This video does a good job both explaining and debunking Myers-Briggs)

https://www.theguardian.com/science/brain-flapping/2013/mar/19/myers-briggs-test-unscientific

https://www.psychologytoday.com/ca/blog/give-and-take/201309/goodbye-mbti-the-fad-won-t-die

http://www.opd.net/abstracts5.html


You’ll find no shortage of sources that praise the MBTI (including some organizations I have used as references for other material in the past). The MBTI, after all, is big business since many organizations use these types of tests as screening tools during the hiring process.
As mentioned in Renegades of Disruption, the 20th Century saw a lot of overlap between the Role of Information and the Role of Business, and this would be another example. In some cases, this overlap is beneficial (such as how I have laterally adapted many business concepts like Lewin’s Change Process), but in cases like teaching debunked material like MBTI, you can see how the overlap has disadvantages as well.

At the very least, if textbooks and universities insist on teaching dated and debunked material, they could at least mention that there is some dispute over its validity. The MBTI has been arguably debunked for at least 25 years, as can be seen in the references section. While I don’t dispute that there is likely a financial incentive for some business to ensure this continues to be taught, this is mostly due to the problem I am outlining in this article - knowledge in dire need of updating.


‘Type A’ Personalities

On the subject of personality types, ‘Type A’ personalities is another example of dated material included in the Management textbook. What’s interesting is that the origins of this ‘knowledge’ was in marketing, dating back several decades:

https://www.businessinsider.com/type-a-personality-traits-smoking-marketing-2016-8

The tobacco industry funded scientists to produce a desired result. This is an example of what I discussed in Episode 29 and Renegades of Disruption. How about knowledge about our ongoing crisis - is that in need of updating too?

You betcha.


Sustainability

If you happen to check out a copy of the textbook, Management, explored in this article (which I do recommend if you want to learn introductory Management concepts), then I would also encourage you to pay attention to how often sustainability is mentioned.

According to responsible academics and journalists, we are in the midst of a Sustainability Crisis. On page 9 of the fourth edition of Management, you’ll find an outline of the ‘changing nature of organizations.’ Although ‘concern for sustainability’ is noted as being “relevant to the study of Management,” and “one of the pillars of stewardship” in organizations, they then proceed to cover the subject of sustainability for less than 1% of the material: 2 pages out of a 481 page textbook. (Also see upcoming ‘Perception’ article for another issue on education / communication of sustainability - even though Sustainability is stated as important, it makes up less than 1% of the material, and then also suggests a possibility that sustainability is no longer a crisis).

Can students then be blamed for being given the impression that sustainability is not really a priority? We are in a crisis, and yet despite the fact that some of the causes of this very crisis is relevant to subject material taught in universities, we allocate less than one percent of the material to it.


Prioritizing Sustainability

Now, the reason that sustainability is so vital to teach in every subject in universities (not just in Management) is that eventually, those obtaining an education will become members of various organization, and sustainability is “one of the pillars of stewardship,” meaning every member of an organization needs to take sustainability into account for every decision they make. And if it appears obvious, or common sense, that an individual should do so, then once again, I’d like to remind you of what I said before. But instead of me repeating it, here’s a quote from the book, Administrative Behaviour, by Herbert Simon:

“The phenomenon of identification, or organizational loyalty, performs one very important function in administration. If an administrator, each time he is faced with a decision, must perforce evaluate that decision in terms of the whole range of human values, rationality in administration is impossible. If he need consider the decision only in the light of limited organizational aims, his task is more nearly within the range of human powers.”
If sustainability is not prioritized as an aim (which I have just proved to you it is not), then why are we surprised when we live in an unsustainable world? This is no different than my idiotic transmission shifting due to the exposure I received in media. If the only exposure to sustainability a student or employee receives does not create urgency and incentive on the subject, then the corresponding outputs will correspond with the communicated and educated inputs:

That sustainability is…kind of important? Enough to warrant a couple pages in a nearly 500 page textbook. And then, it’s also suggested that the crisis may already be under control (See Perception article).

For the record, this is not intended to lay blame exclusively at the business sector, nor the educational sector. This is one factor of many that all compound one another to create our current Sustainability Crisis.

To further explore the ideas presented in the preceding quote, here’s an interesting article by the individual who originally coined the term ‘Triple Bottom Line (3BL).”

https://hbr.org/2018/06/25-years-ago-i-coined-the-phrase-triple-bottom-line-heres-why-im-giving-up-on-it

The super short version of it is that although he still feels sustainability and ethics is important, he thinks the framework did not achieve its desired effect. As your only Global Systems Consultant (or Global System Technician - whichever you prefer), I have another question to ask you:

Do you think it’s possible that the 3BL has been ineffectively taught and communicated within business schools and in the business sector in general? Particularly as it takes the same amount of time for it to be updated in textbooks that it does for the creator of it to give up on it?

Alright, alright. You got me. I exaggerated by one year. The third edition of Management, written in 2014, does not discuss the Triple Bottom Line in the 2 or 3 pages it discusses sustainability (roughly the same number of pages it allocated to sustainability in the fourth edition of the textbook). 3BL is discussed in the fourth edition published on 2017 - 24 years after the term was originally coined. It’s no wonder that the individual who coined the term gave up on it the following year in 2018. The academic world can take decades to update its textbooks with new material (Like 3BL), and decades to removed dated and disproven material (Like MBTI & Type ‘A’ Personalities).

I am not trying to insinuate this is the only reason the idea behind why the Triple Bottom Line fell short of expectations, but it certainly didn’t help. While the idea itself may not have been executed as intended, the underlying concept of the Triple Bottom Line is more relevant today more than ever. We are in a crisis, which means every sector needs to play their part to address the issue. This was the reason I repeated the idea so much. Maybe the 3BL framework needs to be re-worked or re-branded, but the fundamental idea behind it is still highly relevant.

To clarify, every member (front line staff or CEOs) of a business organization should concern themselves with all three aspects (profits, people and planet). This would help repair the Role of Business in the Sustainability Crisis. There requires adequate incentive for change to occur, and currently, the material taught in many business schools is out of date and creates no urgency on the crisis nor the importance of sustainability. 



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References


Burnett, D., (2013). The Guardian. Nothing Personal: The questionable Myers-Briggs test.
https://www.theguardian.com/science/brain-flapping/2013/mar/19/myers-briggs-test-unscientific

Elkington, J., (2018). Harvard Business Review. 25 years ago I coined the phrase “Triple Bottom Line.” Here’s why I think it’s time to rethink it.
https://hbr.org/2018/06/25-years-ago-i-coined-the-phrase-triple-bottom-line-heres-why-im-giving-up-on-it

Grant, A. (2013). Psychology Today. Goodbye to MTBI, the fad that won’t die.
https://www.psychologytoday.com/ca/blog/give-and-take/201309/goodbye-mbti-the-fad-won-t-die

Kane, S., (2016). Business Insider. The strange and somewhat icky reason we call people ‘Type A’ personalities goes back to the tobacco industry.
https://www.businessinsider.com/type-a-personality-traits-smoking-marketing-2016-8

Kyj, M.J., Reilly, B. J., (1990). Journal of Business Ethics Vol 9. Economics and Ethics.
https://www.jstor.org/stable/25072087?seq=1

Nowack, K. (1997). Personality Inventories: The Next Generation. Performance in Practice, American Society of Training and Development, Winter 1996/97
http://www.opd.net/abstracts5.html

Sci Show Psyche. (2017). SciShow (YouTube). Do personality tests mean anything?
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JN6_K6ALeZI

Schermerhorn, J., & Wright, B., (2014). Management. Third Canadian Edition. Wiley

Schermerhorn, J., Wright, B.,& Bachrach, D., (2017). Management. Fourth Canadian Edition. Wiley.


Simon, H., (1997). Administrative Behavior 4th Edition. Free Press. 

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