The Smorgasboard of Workplace Tools

How does one choose between the thousands of emotional/ social/ relationship/ multiple intelligence tools aimed at corporates? Many are trademarked and most are expensive.

I came across Relationship Systems Intelligence™ this week.  You can download an article on it here. It’s got me thinking about the proliferation of this stuff on the market and how one can assess it.

I’m still forming my thoughts about this but so far I think the effectiveness of any training will depend on:

  1.  the level of consciousness of the facilitator
  2. the participants’ willingness/ readiness to learn the tools being offered.

Of course “consciousness” is a complex term. I’m trying to find some way to capture the concept of multiple intelligences here, rather than using the word “intelligence” because I’m not referring to cognitive ability. There are plenty of smart people useless at facilitating or teaching. My old maths teacher was one of them. Clearly she understood the maths, but most classes she looked at us in bafflement and said “what do you mean you DON’T understand?”.

On the one hand I applaud the multiplicity of new products!  Rather than roll our eyes at another seminar or tool that develops emotional intelligence, we should celebrate the fact that a term like “emotional intelligence” has become mass market. Yes, it is a GOOD thing. Yay for Daniel Goleman! Sure he may have got rich in the process, but his books (bless the publishers) are on the shelves of some of the most neanderthal managers and headmasters out there!   Emotional intelligence is being ever-increasingly recognised  as a vital aspect of successful relationships, and of corporate life, even of government decision making and this is wonderful.

I suppose my “distaste” is the capitalist aspect of trade-marking various products for commercial gain. Billions of leadership courses, values courses, psychometric testing tools – all with clever names and acronyms and the little TM sign…the cynic in me says the sign stands for “we want money for this, even though we’ve kind of just taken a lot of thinking out there and re-packaged it”. But the cynic in me is tempered by the idealist who is aware that many of these tools create leaps in consciousness for many people personally and for the organisations in which they work. This is good for us all – it is good for humanity, it is good for our planet.

So what am I saying? Perhaps we have to examine the integrity with which these products are created.  But integrity is a nebulous concept,  so hard to measure or define – how can you look at a new product or programme and evaluate its integrity? I think as a civilization we haven’t evolved to that point yet – so I would probably use good old common sense and intellect to determine whether I believe a product has integrity (very subjective, yes) and then maybe use kinesiology to calibrate the product’s consciousness.

Whoa, yes, I lost some people there. Applied Kinesiology is considered way out or “new age” now, but could quite possibly be in common use in 100 years time. Only once humanity stops thinking we can figure everything out through our senses. But I don’t want to get lost in a discussion of that now.

I’ve spent some time looking at different organisational development consultancies and each has their own products though many are very similar. Perhaps it’s just an aspect of how this industry functions within the legal constraints of today’s business environment. You’re not allowed to use others ideas so everyone is forced to re-package and make a “new” product.  It’s all about marketing.

I admit that my thinking today is influenced by the wonderful lecture I attended recently by Prof Henry Mintzberg, and also by the week-long facilitation course I’ve just completed. The course included a 200 page manual, repeating stuff from a bunch of books on facilitation. Both have, in different ways, inspired me to eschew mediocrity and continue to question whatever is put before me.

So my advice, if faced with a smorgasboard of tools that will enhance employee engagement and develop leadership potential is this:

  1. read it, learn it, absorb it. Reflect.
  2. See what else is being offered that is similar.
  3. Don’t believe the hype “our product has been proven 78% more effective than all our competitors”. Mostly it’s bollocks.  This stuff is highly subjective.
  4. Choose the smartest, most switched on, conscious facilitators for any programme you do decide to offer – you cannot solve a problem using the same level of thinking as that which created the problem.
  5. Have a look into Spiral Dynamics – it may help you meet your employees where they are. There are many boardrooms where any mention of meditation or kinesiology will have eye balls rolling so far back you’ll think you’re in a roomful of Zombies.  Assess the culture and worldview of your employees and pick a product that’s aligned.

PS when I try to sell your company my DEEP (Deeply Engaged Employees Programme*) next month, don’t laugh. Just go back to the 5 points and decide for yourself!

*real name withheld to protect programme’s identity.

** this is a joke. I don’t have a programme…YET.


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