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Archive for September, 2017

Finding Business Solutions in the Humanities

At most colleges and universities in the U.S., the schools of humanities and business traditionally have not crossed paths. While you might find business majors in humanities classes, mostly because they are required to take a certain number of electives, it is the rare humanities major who will enroll in a business course. The reason could have more to do with culture than interests. Business seems to draw people with a more fiscally conservative mindset, whereas the humanities tend to draw more liberal minded students. The BA’s and MA’s do not often mingle with the MBA’s.

However, the line dividing business and humanities is blurring. More and more businesses are looking to the humanities for employees or new perspectives on solutions, not only “hard skills,” such as marketing, communications, and graphic arts. Companies are increasingly seeking expertise in the social sciences — anthropology, sociology, and psychology. In 2011, at the iPad 2 launch, Steve Jobs said,

Zero Sum Thinking

How to Avoid Zero Sum Thinking

In the business world, a major force in deal dynamics generated from fear is zero sum thinking — the notion that in any transaction, one party’s gain is, by definition, the other party’s loss. This basic premise forms a simplistic foundation for socialism and communism— the premise being that there is a fixed amount of wealth, so if one person has too little others must have too much. The only solution offered by these economic models is to redistribute the wealth from the haves to the have-nots. Capitalism, on the other hand, is based on the premise that people can create wealth through innovation and investment, a non-finite model of wealth and value. The best solution this system can provide is to create opportunities for everyone to become wealthier, or at least less poor.

I do not want to spark a debate over the pros and cons of either system, and I readily acknowledge that the above is very basic differentiation of the models. Perhaps we need a little of both — compassionate capitalism. However, I would like to generate a discussion over zero sum thinking, because I have witnessed its potential for creating discord in business as well as in personal relationships. Whenever we begin to think that someone else is gaining something at our expense, we feel as though we are being cheated. We can even begin to feel this way when we fear that what we stand to gain from a transaction is less than what the other party stands to gain, even when what we stand to gain is what we wanted all along. Oh, the injustice!Zero Sum ThinkingThe question becomes how do we respond in these situations? The typical response is to feel disappointed and perhaps even angry, but that brings us no closer to our objective of getting a fair deal, or the deal we had hoped for when the process started. There are better options to zero sum thinking.

Find the Value

If you begin to fear that someone else is gaining or is about to gain something at your expense, ask yourself:

Fight, Flight, or Freeze: Are Those the Only Options?

For our own protection, we are hardwired to fight, flee, or freeze when we perceive danger. The brain’s amygdala triggers a release of stress hormones, including adrenaline and cortisol.

Your heart rate jumps, breathing becomes shallow and rapid to take in more oxygen, your throat tightens, your face gets flush, your palms get sweaty. While the fear response has been very helpful historically and in the physical world, it is a useful indicator in our personal or business relationships, our careers, our finances, or even our freedom. The fear response serves as an early warning of potential threats and let us know when “something just doesn’t feel right.” However, it can seriously interfere with our engagement with the world if it disengages rational thought processes. In the midst of a fear response, complex decision-making and memory are inhibited. You lose the ability to view a situation from multiple perspectives, so you tend to see complex issues in black and white.

When I am in a heated moment of a transaction or negotiation I find that I need to actively slow myself down and “take a beat” in order to engage thoughtfully and rationally. Early in my career it seemed as though I would take the emotional bait of fear and anxiety in a situation and find myself being reactive to challenges or emergencies in a transaction. Through experience and self-introspection, I have found that if these impulses can be moderated, better decisions and advice are more likely to occur.

As you might expect, the fear response can lead to conflict and prevent people from making well-informed, rational decisions. It can cause people to act out of

Fear Dynamics 101: Part 4, Reaping the Benefits of a Fear Audit

Welcome to the final part of my four-part series: Fear Dynamics 101. In Part One, “Defining Fear Dynamics,” I introduced the concept. In Part Two, “Recognizing the Warning Signs,” I illustrated several common symptoms of fear that arise in group settings, so you know what to look for. In Part Three, “Counting the Costs of Fear Dynamics,” I discussed the potential consequences of failing to address the fear factor in business. In this part, I encourage you to take the first step toward identifying and addressing fear in your organization and business deals — by conducting a fear audit.

A fear audit provides an objective analysis of interactions within an organization, between among parties involved in a business deal, or between an organization and its clients or vendors in order to identify and correct fear-driven behaviors and communications that often undermine business deals and that hinder performance and productivity. A fear audit is a four-step process, preferably conducted by an objective, third-party observer with expertise in fear dynamics: