Spilled M&Ms© 8 – Character, Integrity, Behavior II [FPs]

Attitudes and Behaviors related to emphasis on Self

Another aha! moment came when I considered that our active behaviors are also limited (Conservation of BehaviorsFundamental Principle 14).  We can have a range of behaviors from which we can choose to express in various situations, but we can only execute a small, finite number at any given time.

In the last post I coupled all of these thoughts together and came to an “e-word” (51.7) that appears to describe the interrelationship among character, integrity, and behavior.

The resulting sketch (Behavior Curve) is very interesting.  It shows a high resemblance to earlier video sketches, with green Positive Sum (cooperative, +∑) behaviors in the upper right, Zero Sum (0∑) in the middle, and red Negative Sum (uncooperative, -∑) in the lower left.

Attitudes & Behaviors

What strikes me about this sketch is that it correlates well with attitudes and the resulting behaviors I have seen (and done) in various situations and environments through the years.  For instance,

-A person with high Integrity and focus on values for the common good makes a distinctly positive contribution through cooperative attitude and behavior but can only directly contribute a small amount to overall added value (+∑, upper right).  The person’s greatest impact comes through leverage: influencing, managing and motivating others into the same cooperative +∑ state.

-A person who has a reasonable balance between Values (~50%) and Self (~50%) would appear about in the middle of the sketch, and subtle shifts in emphasis in Values and Self (left and right), while they do not appear to cause big changes in attitude and chosen and practiced behaviors (a movement up and down as one moves along the line), can cause a shift from the uncooperative to cooperative (or back).

-A person whose attitude of self-importance begins to dominate his/her agenda (Self > ~80%, Values < ~20%) plummets quickly into very negative (self-serving and uncooperative) behaviors, which in magnitude can swamp the positive (+∑) contributions of even a large group of people who themselves are balanced in Values/Self or have high Values/Self components.  The “tipping point” for this dramatic change appears to be when one becomes about 80% focused on Self (including a perceived need for survival).

In other words, one self-indulgent rotten apple can spoil the whole barrel.

Reflecting on a few common situations,

In parenting, a group of children can play together and “share” for a while (cooperative, positive sum, +∑), but you know it will soon go south if triggered by one negative sum (-∑) behavior, unless they have already been trained to give priority to sharing (group oriented values), or a parent or adult intervenes.  Watch what happens when one child counters a “Let me have that!” with an “Ok, let’s trade!”  Rather than group behaviors plunging down the negative side of the curve to the left, behaviors are maintained or shifted positive to the right on the sketch.

In speculating on the origins of “self,” I recall helping raise three children.  When they were infants their “world” was their mother’s (and my) arms, and their noses, clothes, and toes.  The creation of values other than self occurred either directly or vicariously through parenting and the family (clan), later influenced by others in their ever-expanding world (tribe).  “Self” is what was there at the beginning, so it can never really go away.  It would be nice if we all could have as a goal keeping it reasonably in balance.

In marriage, I have seen (and experienced) countless situations in which the dynamics of valuing and practicing a focus on ”us” or the family shifts behaviors to the right in the sketch and keeps them in positive added value (constructive) territory (+∑).  Yes, there are always some compromises or “short-term losses” to be sacrificed in order to obtain the larger “overall gain,” but the alternative plunge into negative sum (-∑) territory has too many now very common negative consequences (which is why it’s called negative sum, -∑!)

In organizations, getting people working together to recognize strengths in diversity (different skills, attitudes, and values that potentially make the whole greater than the sum of its parts – truly added value) is critical to moving to the best common outcome and added value.  Retaining a person skilled in one area but acting in uncooperative negative sum (-∑) territory for other reasons will subtract more from the department/team/organization environment than can be added from one given skill.  This should be dealt with, like the apple, by management directly addressing the behavior and getting it to be changed, or, if that does not work, removing or reassigning the person.

If this does not happen, or if the inability to achieve unity on a common plan of action cannot be achieved, especially at the executive level, the survival of the organization can be at stake.  This appears to be what happened at Blackberry.

In politics?  Numerous studies indicate that the main focus, the primary hidden agenda, of people in Congress for some time has been to focus on getting reelected.  In my eye that puts them squarely on the downslope on the far left, the uncooperative negative sum (-∑), part of the sketch.

The consequences of Fundamental Principles 13 and 14 are only a set of heuristics, but they sure seem to be predictive and reproducible.

Worth a thought.


About Jim Edmonds

I am a husband, father, mentor, who once was a chemist turned physicist turned marketer turned executive turned missionary turned professor. And survived it all.
This entry was posted in 13: Values & Self, 14: Behavior and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Spilled M&Ms© 8 – Character, Integrity, Behavior II [FPs]

  1. Jennifer says:

    “As external “other-oriented” Values increase, focus on Self decreases.” This principle makes me think of a tool my mother used on me and one I now use on my kids when they are complaining about their “lack-of” _____ (fill in the blank, but they’re really not lacking anything). Often I refer them to considering others who are less fortunate; hopefully after I’ve given them a compassionate remark! My what perspective is gained when we stop to consider others!!


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