Nine is the final and wrap-up chapter of Jacobs’ book. It does not present new information and I will use this post to summarize my ideas about this book.
First, what is the contribution of Neuro-science? I believe that neuroscience and fMRI studies are very important, especially going forward, but at this point they seem to be insufficient in themselves. We still need to understand and interpret the data and that depends on psychology more generally. Jacobs’ suggestions are very interesting, and management could certainly benefit from a stronger connection to the insights of other social sciences, it is just that his positions could be better supported by the findings outside neuroscience. In a future post I will look at the social nature of learning, working, and the artifacts that we use to make sense of organizations. I think this can not only support Jacobs position, but may be able to extend them further.
What are the primary insights that I have gained from this book?
- The mind works holistically. Don’t be ruled by emotion, but logical mind sets that discount emotion can cloud important insights. When logical thinking discounts emotions and the holistic nature of the mind, it is constraining decisions not making them better.
- Higher mental functions like stories, paradigms, metaphors or theories can focus and enable thinking skills in a way that honors the minds holistic nature.
- Relationships are complex and understanding that people are active thinkers with minds of their own is a much more functional method of management. Treating people and organizations as mindless machines is counterproductive. Jacobs makes the mind (behaviorism’s epi-phonemena) central in management.
- Instead of relying solely on managers abilities, avail yourself of employees mental capabilities. Be like Socrates: ask don’t tell, ask for objectives, for reviews of their work, for their ideas about support needs.
Chapter 5 discusses the benefits of organizing through small cross-functional teams over hierarchal forms and chapter 6 talks about examples of strategy and how emotion and other previously mentioned themes can have an impact for good or ill. There is nothing particularly new in either of these chapters.
The topic of chapter 7 is change and change management. Jacobs addresses this subject through previously introduced topics. He suggests leading change by changing the paradigm and avoiding negative relationship dynamics. Because we often think of organizations like machines (he calls this Aristotelian logic) rather than mindful thinking people, the best path to change can often seem counter-intuitive rather than direct.
In chapter 8 Jacobs talks about transformational leadership (as opposed to transactional leadership). The idea of a transformational approach is consistent with the main themes of this book, but I think it can be better viewed by looking at the distinction between leading and managing (See the subsection Leadership versus management in the Wikipedia leadership article). Jacobs’ ideas of Socratic management de-emphasizes power relationships while emphasizing vision and empowerment. This makes the distinction between leading and managing to almost nil. His 5 key actions of leadership reads like a summary of the book in actionable terms (paraphrased):
- Transform the way people think; shift the paradigm
- Make it Participative;
- Convey an aspirational vision
- Tell the Story: Use the power of narrative
- Create focus and urgency
In Chapter 3 Jacobs begins to address relationships. First the idea Jacobs develops, that each person experiences their own version of reality. It is close to the theory of mind. We can’t understand how a person behaves until we have some conception of what their thinking. In general, trying to manage relationship can become very complex. It does not lend itself to a proscriptive approach and Jacobs acknowledges this. The emotional IQ people have a good handle on the complex process of reading and responding to others.
Where Jacobs analysis picks up is when he begins to look at how a theory of mind changes our base behavioral expectations regarding reward, punishment, how they are often used to manipulate behavior, and how the results of manipulation are often counter intuitive. Behavioral science made one fatal error. They considered the mind an epi-phenomena, when the mind proved to be the central point when trying to understanding human behavior.
In chapter 4 Jacobs offers a proscriptive approach that seems appropriate in a broad sense: switch from an Aristotelian approach to a Socratic one.
Rather than tell an employee what to do and create all the negative relationship dynamics, the manager needs to ask . . . ask the employee to set (objectives). . .ask them how they think they are doing . . . it turns the relationship upside down. As the prime mover of the organization, the employee now calls the shots and the manger is in a supportive role.
I believe there is an important role for Jacobs here. This Socratic role is consistent with suggestions by other management thinkers, but what Jacobs does is associate these approaches with current social science. Management is a branch of the social sciences, but there were not good linkages between management theory and current directions in the social sciences. Jacobs provides a rationale for making these linkages explicit.