New Drug Supports Change

One of the  greatest inhibitors of change – personal or organizational – is fear. There are different sources of fear which combine to lock current behavioral patterns: fear of the unknown, fear of failing, etc. In highly competitive environments such fear can block decisions and actions, or at least delay them – procrastination. One of the most competitive – and dangerous – of such environments is that of military combat.

Please run the following scenario through with me. Neurological research has produced a drug eliminates fear – Rumyodin. The military has experimented with in many of the armed combat situations of the last few years. It has learnt to administer the drug so that its effect does not endanger the soldiers lives any more. Now imagine this drug would be administered to civilians to overcome their fear in daily life.

No more procrastination, resulting in increase of innovation, since curiosity is now stronger than fear. With their key people on such programs, how responsive could organizations become?

Such civil experiments do exist – to overcome debilitating vertigo, fear of confrontation leading to loss of social contact, fear of singing or otherwise performing in public, are being treated in this way. Such an experiment was shown recently on TV by Channel 4 of the UK: “The first part of a two-part event, Fear and Faith is an extraordinary film looking at what happens when people have the experience of fear removed through the use of a powerful new drug.” This is a brief description of the program by Channel 4. Derren Brown is the presenter and he can show immediate and lasting effect with all the test persons who get the drug administered. Darren follows these people for a good number of weeks while they are on a course of Rumyodin. Wikipedia describes one of the cases: “…  Dan, who before starting the course … is too scared of heights to even walk over a small bridge in his home town. By the end of the show Dan has conquered his fear enough to stand inches from the edge of a huge bridge looking into the river below.”

Rumyodin must be every change managers dream! And the fact that it is publicly available for very low cost makes it sound even better, doesn’t it? Yes, everyone has access to Rumyodin– which is an anagram for “Your Mind” – is a placebo – which is just a tool to allow yourself to give your mind the permission to do what it can do.

We are back from the scenario. Does this have relevance to our field of work?

Yes, the transformation happens in the mind – the same mind that previously generated the fear. Darren Brown did not turn the test persons into puppets, no he enabled them to gave themselves permission to do something, which at the outset they believed they could not do.

The first thing he did is to remove the fear of failing from them. The “drug program” was administered by professionals. The participants were not certain of success, but they themselves would and could not be blamed for failure. Doctors tend to look for better cures, not better patients. Management in companies often behave differently: they are not looking for a cure, but someone to blame.

The accompanying program while “administering the drug” consisted of many positive feedback loops – supportive leadership rather than control on the basis of a pre-determined plan. Their achievements at any stage were given more importance than the distance to their ultimate goal. And the continued positive feedback multiplied the forces of change. Step by step more fear was reduced and the new behavior anchored.

Work from the inside, in an environment of trust – where there is no blame. no fear – and you will see that the mind is the most powerful drug. Only the mind determines what can or cannot be done – if we trust ourselves.

What we need is “Lenin-1.”


About Hans-Jürgen

I am Chief Scientist of Kugler Maag Cie GmbH, an independent, international consulting company, specialising in the improvement of business and product development processes – from analysis, consultancy, and operative implementation to training and coaching. Most customers work in the context of emerging critical systems, such as automotive and transport. These require leading edge techniques to be deployed and organizational readiness for future challenges to be established. I have 35 years of experience in the software determined systems sector. As adjunct Professor, University of Limerick, I was Industry Director of Lero, the Irish Software Engineering Research Centre, which I helped to establish. Previously I was a lecturer at Trinity College Dublin, a director of software product and services companies, and Technical Director of the European Software Institute. I was involved in the design of means for industry-wide competence development in the automotive sector, and I conducted the first independent organizational software development capability assessment in the automotive industry in Germany. In my opinion the key competitive factor of the future will be a personal and organisational ability to embrace rapid change of the ecosystem and to proactively and continuously implement sustainable change. I have an M.Sc. in Computer Science from the University of Dortmund and an M.A. of Trinity College Dublin. In 1986 I was awarded the IFIP Silver Core.
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2 Responses to New Drug Supports Change

  1. Winifred Menezes says:

    Interesting post Hans-Jurgen, but I didn’t understand the need for Lenin – or is that another anagram?

    • Hans-Jürgen says:

      “Trust is good, control is better” is a famous saying attributed to Lenin. And, interestingly, most of the (capitalist) business world lives by this. “Lenin-1” says that we need to turn that on its head.

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