Keeping awareness to a minimum

Those of us who serve processes of changing are "in the awareness business". We may be consultants of enterprises, designers of systems, leaders of communities, counselors of target populations or mentors of individuals. We know that successful change requires expanded awareness. Our own awareness has come at a price and sacrificed some short-term gains. We expect to be valued for increasing the awareness of others with less struggle than we endured.

When a change is long overdue, limited awareness is an impediment to the process of changing. People don't see the effects of their actions and outlooks. They don't admit to feeding the escalating problems or doing more harm than good. They deny how the repercussions of their actions could be really toxic.  Their limited awareness is easily provoked to "shoot the messengers" who deliver a message of expanded awareness. Our constituencies want to keep their awareness to a minimum and defend their blind spot with a vengeance.

When we show up offering expanded awareness, we look like trouble. We say things that threaten and disrupt their complacency. We expect to be appreciated for giving gifts that Steve Roesler characterized yesterday in: Change: Reflection, Discernment, and Wisdom. We're planning to meet on the common ground of doing what it takes to support the process of changing. We're surprised and dismayed when clients and colleagues oppose us being "in the awareness business". We get caught up in stalemates where opposing sides cannot both be right.

Here is the kind of stalemates (me vs them) I get into the most often when peddling expanded awareness:

  • This looks good on paper but is actually toxic for the environment, community, future generations or the global economy vs. This is a business success that our performance metrics capture accurately
  • This is doing more harm than good to your customers (reputations, marketing efforts, etc) vs. This is an established practice that delivers our value proposition reliably
  • This is a show of hubris that leaves the enterprise vulnerable to getting blind sided by unforeseen rivals vs. This is beating our competitive rivals by  showing who's in the dominant position
  • This occurred by luck/happenstance/chemistry and cannot be consistently repeated with different people, customers or situations vs. This is a reliable procedure that works every time we execute it properly
  • This is a cognitive distortion which feeds into chronic problems vs. This is objective realism of the actual situation

When faced with stalemates like this, we face three obvious choices that I added to the comments on Steve's post:

  1. Do we play along with the delusional confidence to maintain credibility with our constituencies?
  2. Do we change our tune and become a whistle blower?
  3. Do we leave the employer/client with our conscience intact?

All three choices offer costly, negative consequences. As I've pondered these choices since yesterday, I've realized they all provide incentives to find a fourth option. I suspect these three negatives point at a positive alternative we've been exploring as:

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