Saturday, October 14, 2006

Changing behaviour in the most exotic of animals – the organization

As I was dashing out of the door to work this morning, throwing my empty coffee cup in the sink and grabbing my bag, my husband handed me a weekly news magazine. "Read this article", he said, "you'll enjoy it." Settling into my seat on the tram, I glanced down to the article in hand. "I trained my husband like an exotic animal", read the headline. He had my attention.

Written by Amy Sutherland, author of "Kicked, Bitten and Scratched: Life and Lessons at the Premier School for Exotic Animal Trainers"
(, the article considers behaviour change techniques - as learned from trainers of seals and other exotic animals, and seemingly effective with the human too.

As I read this, whilst wondering about quite what my husband was trying to say (not sure whether he thought of himself as the one throwing or catching the mackerel), I began thinking about the applicability of these ideas and techniques in the most exotic of animals - the organization.

In our organizations, how successful have we been in:

  • Identifying the ways in which are own actions may fuel those of others and using this to the positive?
  • Introducing "incompatible behaviours” that make undesirable behaviours impossible?
  • Rewarding the small steps towards learning a new behaviour?

And how can we continue to practice and master these techniques until our practice ‘makes perfect’?