Author, Consultant, Executive Coach - Helping people and organizations grow into desired results

Thursday, 30 October 2008

Global outbreaks of Framework Fatigue and Model Mania

In my recent travels across Australia, the UK, Canada and Asia, I've been talking to businesspeople and consultants about what tools and consulting approaches help them to achieve practical and sustained results - in their lives and in their businesses. In these conversations I have noticed two trends: framework fatigue and model mania.

Framework Fatigue

There are many, many models, personality profiling tools, psychometric assessments, systems and frameworks in the marketplace today. You've doubtless heard of them, possibly used them, possibly been subjected to them. To name just a handful:
  • MBTI - Myers-Briggs Type Indicator
  • JTI - Jung Type Indicator
  • KTS - Keirsey Temperament Sorter
  • FIRO - Fundamental Interpersonal Relations Orientation
  • DISC - four quadrant behavioural model
  • NLP - Neuro-Linguistic Programming
  • EI - Emotional Intelligence
  • AI - Appreciative Inquiry
  • SF - the Solutions Focus
  • CBT - Cognitive Behavioural Therapy
  • BT - Brief Therapy
  • NVC - Non-Violent Communication
  • VIA Signature Strengths Survey
  • MBS - Management by Strengths
  • Strengthsfinder by Marcus Buckingham (Gallup)
  • SDI - Strengths Deployment Inventory
  • HBDI - Herrmann Brain Dominance Indicator
  • Systems thinking (e.g. Senge's Learning Organization)
  • ICP - InterCultural Competence Profiler
  • ILA - InterCultural Leadership Assessment
  • Belbin Team (Roles) Inventory, a.k.a. Self-perception Inventory
  • LSI/OCI - Life Styles Inventory/Organizational Culture Index (Human Synergistics)
  • LGAT - Large Group Awareness Training (Landmark Forum, Goldzone)
  • (...and the list goes on...)
Are you starting to get a case of information overload? Well that's what framework fatigue feels like. So that you can find your way out of this maze, and in the spirit of full disclosure, I'll give my view.

I have used some of the frameworks listed above in my own consulting practice to good effect with clients, notably Solutions Focus, Strengthsfinder, NVC, some systems thinking and some of the ones based on Jungian psychology. Of the others I can say that most are sound, useful and provide some insight to certain areas of human behaviour and performance. Then there are the bad apples; a few have decidedly poor reputations.

Model Mania

You may have had the experience where, despite their better natures and good intentions, enthusiastic people skilled in a given framework, system or method will claim for it explanatory powers far beyond what the thing was ever built to do.

This is model mania: the belief that the entire world can be understood through a particular lens, often to the exclusion of most (if not all) others.

In the famous turn of phrase offered by the American financier and Presidential advisor Bernard Baruch: "If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail."

I've always been partial to a 'toolkit' approach, and in my consulting engagements always look to 'make it fresh' for each new client, using the tools appropriate to the context and issues present each time.

For those of you faced with so many available options and with so many of those options claiming to be all things to all people, how do you know which one does what, let alone which one works? I offer the following checklists, the first one what to beware of, and the second what to look for.

Checklist: what to watch out for

If you observe the following, it's time to ask some hard questions. If the framework, model or system:
  • Actively fosters long-term dependence on the consultant or service providers
  • Features a lot of hard-sell and constant expectations of signing up for more 'advanced classes'
  • Uses processes that are done 'to' you rather than 'with' you
  • Keeps materials, tools and mechanics of the actual processes a tightly-guarded secret from you
  • Categorically condemns certain forms of human behaviour while others are lauded in an unqualified manner (i.e. stop all 'red' and 'green' behaviours in favour of doing only 'blue' ones)
  • Encourages you to recruit others (family, friends, colleagues) in an ever-widening, Borg-like assimilation process
  • Makes far-reaching explanatory claims across all aspects of human behaviour, as seen through a single keyhole view

Checklist: what to look for

To get the best long-term value and real results from your time and money invested, you should reasonably expect the following from an explanatory framework focused on human behaviour:
  • Transparent - the tools are put in your hands for you to use for yourself with guided tuition
  • Holistic - it has language that works 'from the boardroom to the boilerroom' and all the moving parts work well together
  • Integrated - the framework features both internal consistency and an ability to coexist harmoniously with other explanatory models in your existing 'toolkit'
  • Humanistic - its tenets line up with what the great traditions and civilizations of the past have had to say about human behaviour, personality and group interaction
  • Scientific - uses the latest neuroscientific insights on brain function in a practical applicable way
  • Empowering - offers insights to identify blind spots and reactive behaviours, in order to break repetitive patterns of unhelpful behaviour and help you achieve what you want for yourself
  • Positive - is based on the belief you are not 'broken' and focuses on helping people achieve all they are capable of being by accessing their particular gifts and talents
  • Developmental - describes the process toward personal integration and realization of one's full potential
  • Interactive - more than a model for self-awareness, it gives you the tools to better interact with others and relate to them emotionally, cognitively and behaviourally
  • Versatile - has application to the fields of self development, effective communication, management skills, fostering better leadership, transformational change in organizations, interpersonal relations, negotiation, sales skills, persuasion and influencing, difficult conversations...
  • Practical - results-focused and applicable from the very first day of training
Having used and studied most of the frameworks on the long list at the top of this post, I can say that I have yet to see one that ticks all the boxes of the list immediately as well as the NeuroPower framework.

What is most positive about it is that I have not needed to 'unlearn' any of my previous training. The NeuroPower framework (as developed by author and strategist Peter Burow) is an integrated toolkit of useful and practical tools based on neuroscience and brain function. There is plenty of room for other tools and methods that you are already using and that work - because if they work, they must by definition line up in significant ways with brain function.

In this way NeuroPower happily coexists along with other methods and systems...though it's possible that once you have experienced its holistic nature and powerful explanatory insights into human behaviour, it may become your preferred toolkit for any number of applications!

As always, to find out more you can email me to talk about how I am using NeuroPower in my work with clients around the world.

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