One outcome of the Power Lab is the tendency to see the systemic patterns in everyday life. "I never read a news story again the same way,” Michael Sales said of his Power Lab experience.Seeing patterns is power. The difference between master chess players and good ones is the greater number of patterns the master sees. And the same is true of organizational life.
Reading Patrick Cockburn's review of Once Upon A Revolution by Thanassis Cabmanis in Sunday's New York Times Book Review, I saw the costs of years of Top/Bottom relationships in which Tops (the Egyptian army) regularly suck up responsibility to themselves and away from others, while Bottoms (the Egyptian people) regularly cede responsibility to Tops. The result: a gradual trained incapacity of all parties. Cockburn is discussing the failure of Egypt's Arab Spring uprising. "Egyptians have paid a heavy price for their centuries-long tradition of authoritarian rule and the consequent political inexperience of its opponents at all levels." Further in the review Cockburn writes, "Poverty combined with miserable health and education facilities ensured plenty of dry tinder for revolutionaries. But the very backwardness of Egypt limited their ability to ignite it." Egyptians had been trained into incapacity. So, when the moment came to create a new Egypt, none of the capacity to carry that through had been developed.Twitter was insufficient. Organizational change projects are vulnerable to the same fate. Years of Top down control can incapacitate Bottoms, such that when Bottom initiative is needed we find it has been trained away.
And, as Bottoms are incapacitated, the burden on Tops mounts. Bottoms keeps looking to Tops for salvation, regardless of how weakened Tops have become. In Egypt, for example, all hope rest on an Army considered sacred, despite the Army's record of contributing to the country's desperate condition.
There is a pattern in serious need of change,.