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Syria, Iran, Israel, Russia, America, etc. - Who's the "hammer?" Who's the "nail?"

An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind - Mahatma Gandhi

Years ago I wrote about how we (more specifically MBA schools) needed to go from "transactional myopia" (i.e. find the deal, do the deal, next deal) to "transformational vision" (i.e. what we could be). Since that time it appears to me that we are moving in the opposite direction towards "transactional blindness" (i.e. it's either you or me and it's not going to be you) where it's not just about winning and not losing, it's about not even being able to see the other person's points of view at all.

We're all familiar with the saying, "when you're a hammer, the world's a nail." It appears now that more and more of the world feels that it is a nail in which case, "when you're a nail, you're about to get hammered." And a mindset of believing you're about to get hammered seems to lead to a "self-protective/self-defense" justification for taking action before all the facts are in (sound like any recent wars?).

What we need to realize and accept and then change is that as long as we approach others with each side having a transactional mindset where each side believes that either you're a hammer or a nail and nothing in between, we won't be able to conceive of "win/win." Compound that with the intense anxiety as if we are the nail about to get hammered and we won't be able to even stop at "zero sum." Instead we will go immediately to "life or death/survive or be annihilated" and that dramatically and dangerously increases the chances of taking hasty action.

In order to break the stalemate/détente we need to deconstruct what created and sustains our mindsets and dogmatic beliefs that we are either a hammer or a nail. To do that we need the best minds from neuroscience, neuropsychology and evolutionary biology to work together to deconstruct how our minds become hardwired into either a hammer or a nail that are mortal enemies rather than complementary tools that together can build something much greater than the sum of the two.

At Heartfelt Leadership we have developed a: "Conflict Mastery" tool that extricates two transactionally, diametrically opposed parties from a "no win" (and possibly "no survive" outcome when the stakes are high). The tool (and program to train people in it) is based upon Dr. Goulston's experience as a former FBI hostage negotiation trainer, evolutionary biology, developmental psychology, neuroscience and neuropsychology and a model that neither side can or will disagree with.

From a position of consensual agreement and acceptance a step by step process occurs that achieves mastery of the conflict and a solution that both sides can and will agree upon which can lay the foundation for cooperation and collaboration that is currently impossible.

After Conflict Mastery has enabled opposing parties to truly resolve conflicts from the inside out of each party rather than the outside in, we have developed a Culture Shift tool that we have used to break down silos and turf protection within organizations and that spontaneously leads to cooperation and collaboration.

We think Gandhi would approve.

Reader Comments (1)

A sagacious posting. I agree the collective has moved even deeper into left brain isolation. The mindset seems to have become worse than the promised rewards of successful transactions. It is now "my way or the highway" ultimatums.

Dr. Iain McGilchrist has covered this same ground wonderfully well. In case your readers do not know his recent work, it can be heard on Big Ideas on TVO.

A question arises. Are we (collectively) getting smarter and at the same time getting worse? By this I mean that we are far better informed by competent professionals about mental health and wellness than we have ever been but at the same time our actions display our caveman/cavewoman survival instincts more and more.

Gandhi made serious choices and had the discipline to subject himself to the consequences. For the modern world, his life became a model of what a person can be and what such a person can achieve. I am not aware that he sought disciples or asked people to model on him. For this reason, the putative postulation of his posthumous approval seems oddly insincere.

Your thoughts?

September 5, 2013 | Registered CommenterJamie Laidlaw
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