We know people are messy and awkward. We recognize that decisions aren’t as rational as they should be. We know things are not always as they seem. It begs the question: just how are we supposed to make it through all of this, get things done, and stay sane in the process? The good news is that there are things to which out for, and processes to follow, all of which add up to somewhat of a recipe for navigating the complex world of organizational politics.
To make good decisions we require good information. The challenge is that in many instances we make decisions with incomplete and imperfect information, even where further insight was possible. Groups whose diversity should enable differences in perspective and viewpoint often gravitate to the lowest common denominator. Pressure to get to the decision and pulls on attention mean that relevant information doesn’t get the attention or consideration that it should. It doesn’t have to be this way; with a little bit of thought and planning, better process is possible and other perspectives become practical.
There are a lot of hard-wired presumptions about what constitutes good presentation. There are a lot of conflicts that get created when we feel pressured to “act different, speak different or be different.” Being a speaker is one of the roles that we play in life. We have a lot of other roles, as well. And in each role, we choose how to perform, whether we make our own choices or accept the scripts of others.
There is a subset of the population that is in love with the idea of “best practices.” It is incredibly appealing to believe that there is one right way of doing things. Simply calling something “best practice” is to implicitly make it unassailable. And yet how we think about best practices says a lot more about the person that it does about the practice.
Culture is important. And context is everything. And yet, when we make decisions, we very often ignore the things that we should pay attention to the most. Worse, our tendency to do that is hard wired. That doesn’t mean it has to stay that way, though.
We have an enormous tendency to confuse confidence with competence. We want someone who can do the work, but we tend to trust the person that looks the part. Doing so is inherently dangerous, and points to some significant biases we may not even recognize.