Why People Don’t Use Systematic Processes: Top Ten Conflict Tips

There are a wide array of excellent books that suggest good ways to do things like make decisions or handle conflict. But in my experience, even those people who are trained in such approaches, and shown that they can be used very successfully, even to regularly practice them, revert to simply winging it and failing to use what they have learned. Why is that we are so resistant to good processes or even the Check Lists that Atul Gawande suggests in his great book ‘The Checklist Manifesto?’ This problem fascinates me, especially as this blog is dedicated to the use of systematic step by step conflict processes such as those of Bill Ury or the Creative Conflict Model of this blog. I worked in automotive labor relations and we had a very strike ridden plant. We used systematic conflict disciplines and things got a lot better. I had to order my people to use such disciplines, and make them use them as the basis for reporting/recommending what to do. The processes worked, they delivered measurable results and everyone agreed they helped and reduced strain. Yet within six months of my leaving they had reverted to winging it and were in deep trouble.

I posted this question of resistance to systematic processes on Quora recently and had some interesting dialogue, which I have converted into one of our Top Ten Conflict Tips, in this case the Top Ten Reasons People Don’t Use Systematic Processes. Thanks to Jan for his/her contribution.

  1.  Most people are rarely disciplined in more than a single aspect of their lives and many are completely without discipline.
  2. Emotions overcome logic in many people’s decision-making processes and they create very poor plans as a result.
  3. Most people don’t read books to learn how to solve problems. They learn to solve problems on a “trial and error” basis, that while may be “inefficient”, is certainly easier for many to focus on.
  4. Many people expect (and have learned to expect) others to solve most of their problems.
  5. Most people have never heard of Atul Gawande. Even if they had, unless his writings could be related to their cognitive biases, they would simply reject what he has to say.
  6. Using Jon Haidt’s Elephant and Rider model I have posted on before,  most of the time, people are operating on automatic subconscious processes or Elephant, and their Elephant doesn’t give a stuff about systematic conflict processes, but simply wants to self-righteously ‘win’
  7. Where systematic processes have been successful such as airline pilots/co-pilots mutually checked pre-take off lists of checks, they were legally mandated and enforced with dramatic results on human error in take off. But it also required that the co-pilot had equal checking authority to the pilot. Hierarchy is a profound blog to many systematic processes if they get overruled as a result.
  8. We don’t tend to problem solve in writing, which is a major restriction on our effective mental work space, as our short term memory is very limited, and not writing down our problem solving is therefore immensely limiting and damaging to good solution creation
  9. We love stories and stories remain with us emotionally. Unfortunately not all good solutions make good stories, and systematic approaches tend to take focused attention away from story-like simplistic narratives and requires endurance and longer attention spans
  10. We find it hard to look at the world through the lens of multiple mental models and systematic approaches tend to force us not to jump to conclusions, with hold judgment, and to use multiple mental models: all things our Elephant hates

Atul Gawande, one of my heroes: See http://gawande.com/

And especially his TED talk on fixing the problems in medicine: http://www.ted.com/talks/atul_gawande_how_do_we_heal_medicine.html

About creativeconflictwisdom

I spent 32 years in a Fortune Five company working on conflict: organizational, labor relations and senior management. I have consulted in a dozen different business sectors and the US Military. I work with a local environmental non profit. I have written a book on the neuroscience of conflict, and its implications for conflict handling called Creative Conflict Wisdom (forthcoming).
This entry was posted in Conflict Processes, Creativity and Conflict, Neuro-science of conflict, PERSONAL CONFLICT RESOLUTION: CREATIVE STRATEGIES, Top Ten Conflict Tips from Great Thinkers, Uncategorized, Ways to handle conflict and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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