What Zebra Crossings Tell us About Organisational Behaviour

Think of a zebra crossing on a street corner.  
Is the pedestrian who crosses the road or the driver who crosses the pavement?  

Sounds simple, but unresolved Cognitive Dissonance costs many lives in Cities* and erodes employee engagement in Organisations.  Having mixed messages in our heads affects our performance dramatically, taking our focus away from what's important and making us afraid of 'crossing the road'.

Think about this example.  The law, our training and even insurance companies tell us that pedestrians have the right of way.   No confusion about it.

However,  the design of the zebra crossing tells our brains quite the opposite.  Pedestrians walk across a set of perpendicular lines, which happen to flow in the direction of the traffic.  Pedestrians feel they step onto someone else's territory**.

What mixed messages are you dealing with today?  What are the Cognitive Dissonances that people in your organisation are enduring, affecting performance?  What might even be confusing for your customers?

It might be a good idea to gather your team around and look at any inconsistencies between communication, policies, tools, processes, organisational structures, ways of working and performance management interventions.  

Once you spotted them, fix them. 

Because healthy cultures are designed to be coherent. They make sure people don't waste time wondering whether it is safe to cross the road.


* I'm currently helping change drivers and pedestrian behaviours in a large City so could not avoid making this connection ;-)

** In most cultures, the result is a negotiation where age, gender, speed, eye contact, time of day, height, ability and even the expressed intention of those involved in the crossing.