In the box thinking

Richard Havers makes an interesting point when reflecting on the actions of the new chief exec of the .  He wonders whether Mark Adderley’s background in HR influenced his approach to cut staff rather than undertake marketing to address the organisation’s problems.

This is something that I think highlights a common problem in organisations, where previous experience guides interpretation of a situation and recommendations of how to address it.

The same is true for consultants and those who comment or analyse a situation.  If I ask an advertising agency, won’t they automatically see their specialism as the answer?  Isn’t the same true for most other external advisors?

Do PR people always see public relations as the answer?  If you specialise in media relations, will you always seek coverage when other approaches may be more appropriate?  If you are in internal comms, is communicating with staff your automatic solution?

applied economists’ thinking to diverse topics with some interesting conclusions.  Reminding us of the benefits and drawbacks of a particular pespective.

There probably is a tendency for “in the box” thinking based on your background.  To avoid this, isn’t it better to include others in your assessment so that a wide range of viewpoints can be considered?  You could also learn more about other discliplines beyond your own area of expertise and challenge your own pre-conceptions whenever making recommendations for what must be done.

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Heather Yaxley

Heather Yaxley is passionate about PR - teaching the CIPR qualifications, lecturing part-time at Bournemouth University and running the Motor Industry Public Affairs Association (MIPAA). I'm undertaking a PhD looking at Career Strategies in PR. I love sharing ideas and knowledge - connecting news and views by blogging on public relations and educational developments, especially relating to accelerated and active learning. I'm also a published author, qualified trainer and experienced consultant.

4 thoughts on “In the box thinking”

  1. Heather, I’m chuffed you picked up on this. I’ve long held this view. In all my experience this is true. The self-fulfilling prophecy element in people’s thinking is what limits their effectiveness.

    Overall the answer has to be effective teamwork. The best MDs and CEOs in my view are those that have had a generalist’s career. small ‘g’ general managers in other words. They are the more likely to take a broader view of potential solutions than one who is a narrowcaster. These days we encourage specialists more than ever and not just in the work place but similarly in politics too.

    In the case of the NT and a new CE there’s always a good deal of jockeying for position under a new boss and as often as not people who should know better fail to speak up when they should.

  2. It is a fine balance between specialism and generalism – there is merit in being an expert, but at the same time, the ability to understand other options and perspectives is vital.

    As you also indicate, the courage to be able to provide effective counsel, especially when it might go against other opinions also needs to be more valued.

    It does need less courage when execs are prepared to ask for viewpoints – so the onus has to be on those at the top ultimately.

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