Construct vs. Content: When it Matters


The task of changing an organization entrenched in the status quo can be a long battle. The plethora of personality types and the difficulty of creating a consensus around any opinion can quickly derail the effort. Although there are many alternative processes, we have found a fundamental guiding principle that helps us move companies and organizations forward in a constructive manner.

So much of conflict from change can be traced to miscommunication and, subsequently, mistrust. People differ in their motivations and priorities. These act to confuse progress. Goals may very well be agreed upon; however, the process to getting there can involve meeting after meeting of often contentious engagement. If an agreement can be made to focus on underlying principles, and not so much on how things are articulated, progress can be made. If the descriptions of actions can be flexible to accomidate all the parties involved then room for creative adaptation can mean the difference between progress and yet more stalemate meetings. If the team and/or individuals can find the underlying constructs that people unconsciously use to filter information then faster progress to understanding and direction can be realized.

Mental constructs derived from past experience or from a particular knowledge base can unconsciously influence the way people internalize information. I have often found, particularly in technology areas, that the operating construct of one person to the next can be very different and impede communication progress. I can be talking about core technology and the next person might be hearing “product”. To me they are two different things.  

Confusion comes when work histories collide. Checking on a person’s work history can help bridge the gap between competing mental constructs. Make sure you know how someone is thinking and what information they are pulling on to create an opinion. Don’t take things at face value. Find those underlying thought processes that coincide with your own. What may be articulated may hide a different set of assumptions. Find common ground, not necessarily in words, but in fundamental constructs. When this happens then progress comes quickly.

A quick lesson here: Beware of the person who applies pressure on groups to “call” something a particular thing. They are either shallow thinkers, easily derailed, or power mongers. Look for them and you will spot them easily.

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