Ego, Truth, and Transformation

Edgar Schein teaches us that people and organizations will change when personal defenses, group norms, and organizational culture are unfrozen. This involves three processes. 1. Disconfirmation of expectations. 2. Induction of learning anxiety if the disconfirming data are accepted as valid and relevant. 3. Provision of psychological safety that converts anxiety into motivation to change.
Unfortunately, the second step is often negated because we fear that, “If we admit to ourselves and others that something is wrong or imperfect, we will lose our effectiveness, our self-esteem, and maybe even our identity.” Given such risks it is natural that our defense mechanisms serve to shut down the change process. Both personally and collectively we remain frozen.
In contrast, a person with a purpose may choose to move forward into uncertainty. If they do, they become very alert. They seek out and pay attention to signals. They welcome negative as well as the positive data because truth is suddenly more important than ego. Seeking and welcoming negative feedback itself becomes a signal to others. This state of openness is so unusual that others immediately recognize that the person is in need of help and willing to act upon the truth. Those others are now more likely to tell the truth. When conversations increase in authenticity, the relationship, group or organization begins to transform.

  1. Underline the phrases in the above statement with which you most resonate.
  2. List the life experiences that come to mind.
  3. List the ideas and concepts that come to mind.
  4. Write your own paragraph, explaining what you believe about this topic. Your paragraph should only contain the things you understand and truly believe.


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