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Green Templeton College | Oxford

Reframing: A look at the subjective side of the street

In his summative work, Reframing business: When the map changes the landscape, Richard Normann highlights the subjective elements of decision- making.

The title of this book is deliberately constructed to reverse the typical assumption that a change in market conditions, or reality 'out there' leads to new thoughts about the marketplace. Instead, imagination, enacted through investments and policies, changes the market place. As he notes, he is interested in: "the relationship between the symbolizing processes of the mind and the shaping of the reality we think of as being `out there.'"

In this presentation Larry Hirschhorn explored the dynamics of this mental process; how cognition, emotion and group dynamics shape the decisions executives make to reorient their businesses. This focus on the mental is fundamental to understanding business decision making because, as many consultants have learned to their sorrow, presenting the most suitable strategy to an executive team in the most effective possible manner may not persuade them to make any change to their current practices and strategies. We can't treat the decision making process itself as a black box any longer.

Larry Hirschhorn covered:

  • The difference in emotional meaning between crises and opportunities
  • The distinction between ambiguity and uncertainty
  • Under what conditions do companies drift rather than develop
  • What role regret and the experience of loss play in decision making
  • The Achilles heel of two methods for arriving at a strategy; negotiating between different interests groups, and subordinating to a leader's vision
  • How strategic changes are framed by reversing "figure and ground" in the perceptive field
  • The interplay of passion and politics in strategy formation and execution
  • The role of a wider cultural narrative in shaping strategy formation.

The lecture drew on both his own consulting experiences as well as public case studies.

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Larry Hirschhorn

Larry Hirschhorn is a principal with, and founder of, CFAR, a management-consulting firm in Philadelphia.

He has a PhD in economics from MIT. He consults to professional service firms, universities, and hospitals on a range of strategy and organization development issues. He is a founding member and former president of the International Society for the Psychoanalytic Study of Organizations (ISPSO).

He has published five books; among them, Beyond Mechanization: Work and Technology in a Post-Industrial Age, The Workplace Within: Psychodynamics of Organizational life and Reworking Authority: Leading and Following in a Post-Modern Organization, all published by MIT Press.

He is an affiliated faculty member of the Organization Dynamics Program at the University of Pennsylvania. He has conducted seminars on the consultation process in the United States, Russia, Germany, the Netherlands, Israel and Australia. His article, “The Fall of Howell Raines: A Study in the Moralization of Organizational Life,” was awarded the “best article” prize for Journal of Consulting Psychology, 2007. He has recently published an article in the Organization Development Handbook, 'Backcasting: Creating a picture of the future and how to get there'.

He writes a blog, which can be found here, on issues at the intersection of strategy, leadership and psychoanalysis.

 

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