I read a lot. Mostly business books, but I’m also interested in books that delve into the workings of human behavior and how it affects the workplace. In my book, I go into great detail about the fact that perception is truly more important than fact when in the workplace. So I was very interested when I came across a book about just that subject. In the book, The Believing Brain: from Ghosts and Gods to Politics and Conspiracies—How We Construct Beliefs and Reinforce Them as Truths, © 2011, Michael Shermer provides a very telling analysis supporting that old saying, “perception becomes more important than fact.” It’s an interesting read…you don’t have to have a degree in psychology to understand and be entertained.
Shermer’s basic explanation for this truism is that, “first come our beliefs and second we construct the facts to support those beliefs.” He details how people will search out the facts that will support their beliefs and reject any fact that runs counter to what they believe. According to Shermer we all do this and it’s subconscious.
This phenomenon happens at the organizational level also as the collective consciousness of the organization actually develops fundamental delusions about itself and how it fits into the larger scheme of the business world. This organization-wide delusion becomes part of the culture, the glue that binds the inhabitants together as they haphazardly work toward the organization’s goals.
I guess we all intuitively know that people can be delusional, but how do organizations practice delusion? One of the most common ways for an organization to delude itself is though the phenomenon of “The Halo Effect,” a term coined by Philip M. Rosenzweig in his 2007 book by the same name.
“The Halo Effect” refers to the cognitive bias, of the members of an organization, through which their overall perception of their company is framed by a single good quality. For example, people will make a positive judgment of an organization's overall well-being, e.g., their level of customer service, or the quality of their products−even their quality of leadership−solely because of good financial performance (share price, revenue, or profitability). The Halo Effect is definitely alive and well and is exactly the mechanism in play in the workplace. In my book I talk about the fact that many organizations live in a fantasy world ignoring their real problems. As Shermer’s book and “The Halo Effect” would predict, most organizations will seek out any fact that supports their belief that they are successful, and are well run.