Recently someone asked if I knew of the iceberg metaphor for organizational behavior. I responded yes, and they went into a 30-minute lecture on how their perception of a team’s actions is due to their deep subconscious and unconscious feelings of resentment and powerlessness. And how this person will work with them to uncover and reconstruct their fears, knowledge, and memories to reanimate their conscious mindset of autonomy and agency.
This is all interesting, and Organization Development people like to play psychologists, and the impact of Freud is deep within many of our methods and models.
As we spoke, I was doodling in my notebook. Looking at my notes, I wrote, “what if what they are showing us is all there is?”
What if what they are showing us is all there is? And when we are together, is that enough to make progress?
In solution-focused practice, we (work hard to) be interactional and know that progress happens with each person being who they are at the moment, showing all of what and who they are – Knowing social-behavior impacts us as we affect each other and the social-behavior of a collective group.
The iceberg metaphor is filling a perverse need to understand or project something into the other that we wish to see instead of just accepting that we are here, now, and what we have is what we got.
With the iceberg metaphor, we are constantly trying to seek past experiences (a belief that our past remembrance of experiences is unmovable) and to diagnose, through some algorithmic effort, rework something like selfish needs. Now, this may be ok with psychotherapy, BUT managers, consultants, and Organization Development professionals are not there to be your or the team’s therapist.
Our metaphors help and hinder how we all work and make sense together
This fascination with seeking deep-held somethings as if what we see on the surface is insufficient. What you see on the surface and what a person shows and shares is all there is. Plus, we are not solipsistic atoms. We are interactional social behavior with we and I entangled.
As we keep holding the Freudian seek for deep or believed hidden somethings, we fill our pygmalion fantasies of being fortune-tellers or futurists — swallowing our confirmation bias, prognosticating our defecation.
What we see is all there is; what can we do differently?
Below are some ideas on different approaches or efforts that will reduce the resistance to fixing someone’s psyche and increase the cooperation from trying to interact with someone to cooperate towards a shared solution.
- What you see is all there is – what someone or a team shows you are all they are—showing your agency and their obvious actions and feelings. Work with what they give, and accept their words, feelings, and responses as true to them at that time.
- Develop a way to share challenges, secrets, and deviance – gossip and water-cooler talk happen even with the best teams. And having a process for the team to share and discuss collectively will create a conversation around what is there and not being said out loud – and they want to talk about it.
- Go negative, get hyperbolic – the concern “what if this turns into a bitch session” is common. Instead of forcing adults to become toxically positive, let them go toxically negative. Ask them to post-it note all the challenges and go as far as they can – comically – into the abyss of organizational despair. As they share and (maybe) laugh, let them choose which of those things are already happening. Ask them what we can do to decrease the negative or improve things?
- Go positive, get hyperbolic – like in the negative, ask them to post-it note all the great things that can happen, and let them go toxically positive (only after the negative). As they share and (maybe) laugh, let them choose which of those things are already happening. Ask them what we can do to increase the positive or improve things?
- Tip the iceberg – while in conversation reflecting on the interaction, turn the whole iceberg sideways. What you see are the other persons’ and the combined interactional consciousness. There is no need to look below some artificial water line; you are seeing it. Accept, ask a question, accept, listen, ask a question, accept, listen.
- Create a shared map of what’s happening – draw the current environment or challenge (actually draw it). Compare the organizational or team problems in the drawing, ask for differences that matter, how we will see progress, and the common stuck points.
- Facilitate, don’t psychoanalyze – adults within work are adults within work. They have gotten this far, and they know how to act. They are not broken or hoarding some deep sociopathic resentment.
I understand the iceberg metaphor for organizational behavior feels good, makes you look smart, and reinforces your belief that you are intuitive. And it does not help set conditions for change and the emergence of novel and innovative ideas.
…we fill our pygmalion fantasies of being fortune-tellers or futurists — swallowing our confirmation bias, prognosticating our defecation.
Maybe one of the best things I have written 🙂