19, 2000 Issue 5
"Our tendency to create heroes rarely jibes
with the reality that most nontrivial problems
require collective solutions."
--Warren G. Bennis
"If we can recognize that change and uncertainty
are basic principles, we can greet the future
and the transformation we are undergoing with
the understanding that we do not know enough
to be pessimistic."
"The greatest discovery of my age is that men
can change their circumstances by changing the
attitude of their mind."
We are excited to announce the Pegasus Community
Bulletin Board and Forums, a powerful new resource
where members learn and help others learn how to
bring management innovation to their workplaces.
Open forums/topics include:
Creativity and Innovation
the New Economy really all that new?
to be Lean
Please stop by to see what people are talking about!
Feel free to join in and to start new topics on
subjects that interest you the most. A number of
STA Conference presenters will host discussions
after the conference, so be sure to check back after
17-21, 2001. Authority and Leadership in the Global
Community, Mont Marie Conference Center, Holyoke,
This conference, sponsored by the Center for the
Study of Groups and Social Systems, Boston Center
of the A. K. Rice Institute, is designed to provide
members with opportunities to experience and examine
systemic processes--both overt and covert, conscious
in the exercise of authority and leadership in organizations
and, ultimately, in the global community. For additional
information, contact W. Mason Smith III at (617)
423-1700 ext. 161, by e-mail at
firstname.lastname@example.org, or go to www.csgss.org/brochure.htm.
See a complete
calendar of events.
contact Pegasus, send an e-mail to email@example.com,
or reach us at:
Orders and Payment Offices:
PO Box 2241
Williston, VT 05495
USA Editorial and Business Offices:
One Moody Street
Waltham, MA 02453 USA
Pegasus Communications provides resources that
help people explore, understand, articulate, and
address the challenges they face in the complexities
of a changing world. Since 1989, Pegasus has worked
to build a community of practitioners through
SYSTEMS THINKER newsletter, books, audio and
videotapes, and its annual SYSTEMS
THINKING IN ACTION Conference and other events.
This free e-bulletin from Pegasus Communications
spotlights innovative thought, practical knowledge,
and pointers to key resources in leadership, change
management, personal development, and organizational
design. Please forward LEVERAGE POINTS to your
colleagues and friends!
Points on the Web
To subscribe or unsubscribe, please go to our
Culture Shock: The Failed Merger Between Mattel and The Learning
How Can We Develop a Shared Model of Action for the Empowered Team?
and Reader Response to Emotional Intelligence--Fad
or Fundamental Skillset?
Taking the Teeth Out of Team Traps
The Failed Merger Between Mattel and The Learning Company
It seemed like a match made in Wall Street heaven. But when Mattel
announced in September that it was selling the Learning Company (TLC)--
leading educational software firm acquired in December 1998--or
"future consideration," it became apparent that the merger had come
to a hellish end. Analysts place much of the blame on Mattel's failure
to understand the educational software industry. But a contributing
factor might have been irreconcilable cultural differences between
the old-line manufacturing firm and the new-economy startup.
Reliant on sales of its venerable Barbie and Hot Wheels brands, Mattel
was slow to move in the face of change and to make decisions. Former
executives refer to the culture of "learned powerlessness" that pervaded
the toy giant's operations. In contrast, employees at TLC exhibited
a sense of urgency, camaraderie, and entrepreneurial zeal. The conflict
between these styles peaked over the company's Internet strategy.
TLC employees were eager to launch online operations, while Mattel
executives dragged their heels, fearing that Web sales would alienate
The failure to reconcile these differences resulted in massive financial
losses--and serves as a cautionary tale for any business seeking to
forge alliances. The key is not necessarily to look for a partner
with the same culture, but rather for one willing to engage in a productive
exchange of ideas and expertise. This approach will let you capitalize
on the strengths of each organization and increase the likelihood
Source: "Two Worlds Collide" by Matthew Brelis, The Boston Globe,
October 1, 2000.
We often tell people they are empowered, but empowerment cannot be
imposed, and teams who have been told they are empowered do not always
act autonomously. What tools can we use to develop a shared model
of action for the empowered team?
--Submitted by Malcolm Jones
Please take a minute to share your thoughts about this issue at the
Leverage Points Discussion forum, part of our new online Community
Bulletin Board. Selected comments will be shared in a future issue
of LEVERAGE POINTS.
From Issue #4: Is Emotional Intelligence--as defined by Daniel
Goleman and others--a fad or a fundamental skillset?
Emotional Intelligence is a term coined by Peter Salovey and made
popular by Daniel Goleman's book, wherein he condenses the essentials
of several hundred people's research on emotions and intelligence
between 1975 and 1994. Goleman's Emotional Intelligence implies that,
to be successful, we need to be aware of our own emotions in order
to manage them and to motivate ourselves. We also need to be aware
of and take into account other people's emotions in order to interact
So the buzzword "Emotional Intelligence" is probably a fad. But people
in business who have to deal with others--colleagues, subordinates,
customers, or even suppliers--can
always practice emotional awareness, emotional management, self-motivation,
recognition of others' emotions, and the art of human relations.
Dealing with emotions and feelings is from all ages and all human
beings. So in fact Daniel Goleman's book on EQ and related articles
only describe--in a partly new vocabulary--what is already experienced,
done, and known by man for centuries.
The book is based on the paradigm that EQ is a consequence of thinking,
which is misleading. But Goleman is not to blame; he too is the result
of an educational system that puts brain-intelligence on the first
place. It is thanks to Descartes, Newton, and the like that feelings
have been reduced to secondhand thoughts. To them, emotions were annoying
aspects of the human soul that disturbed the path to so-called objective
science. And what has it brought us? As a result of their efforts,
we can fly to the moon but we have difficulties crossing the street
to meet our neighbors.
In my perception, it is the other way around: Thoughts are second-degree
feelings. In other words, clear thinking is an attempt to objectify
feelings into crystal-clear conclusions and focused actions. On the
other hand, the necessity of a book like Goleman's is obvious. Goleman
understands that feelings and emotions have to be reintegrated in
organizational life. It is a brave attempt to find a language of how
human beings function.
I just reread some of Denham Grey's material last night on decision
making and how it must include both technical processes and social
processes in order to be successful. I think this is an important
step forward. Not having read the EQ book, I'm a bit at a loss to
comment on it. I do worry that it may allow people to think about
emotions on an intellectual level and not move to the deeper level
that Winfried mentions. OTOH, if it gets people moving in a useful
direction, they may continue.
Readers who wish to view the complete responses to this question or
to continue this discussion are invited to go to the Community
Bulletin Board and Forums area of our Web site.
Taking the Teeth Out of Team Traps
by Alan Slobodnik and Kristina Wile
Have you ever worked as part of a team that was truly stuck, unable
to move forward on a project? Have you seen negative team dynamics
actually destroy a team's potential? The majority of us have experienced
one or more "Team Traps"; that is, vicious cycles of unproductive
behavior that undermine group performance.
Most proposed solutions to dysfunctional team behavior offer little
insight into the underlying structure of relationships that drives
complex human interactions. But because teams are complex systems,
any attempt to "fix" them without understanding the structural causes
of their problems runs the risk of becoming a "Fix That Fails."
Because Team Traps involve both task and relationship issues, we have
found that a combination of approaches from the fields of systems
thinking and human systems can be a potent force for altering these
common structures. Useful tools for tackling sticky team problems
such as False Consensus, Weak Leadership, and Unresolved Overt Conflict
include causal loop diagrams and the Four Team Roles and System Types
defined by family systems therapist David Kantor. Creating a causal
loop diagram and using insights from human systems can lead to a new
understanding of both the problem behavior and the structural solution.
Read the complete article on our Web site
or see THE SYSTEMS THINKER V10N9, November 1999.
Readers who wish to discuss this topic are invited to go to the Leverage
Points Discussions section of the new Community
Bulletin Board and Forums area of our Web site.
Copyright 2000 Pegasus Communications. LEVERAGE POINTS can be freely
distributed in its entirety, or reproduced or excerpted for another
publication with written permission from Pegasus Communications.