Home Concepts Employee Engagement & Motivation Possibility Deficit Disorder

Possibility Deficit Disorder

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Everyone suffers from PDD in some areas of their work, community, and personal lives. The very act of naming PDD is a breakthrough for many. Prior to identifying PDD for one’s self or one’s organization, it’s hard to know that Possibility is missing. For some, the addiction is too strong for them to act on the insight. Others, in the moment of seeing that they have been incapable of doing it, immediately begin to identify or invent possibilities.

PDD has many causes, not all of which have been identified. Recent brain research may provide clues. Cultures hard-wire certain behaviors and attitudes into the neurons of the brain. Culture, therefore, makes people blind to certain possibilities. Americans, for example, usually cannot see possibilities transparently available to the Chinese, such as the power and satisfaction in collective effort. Other cultures cannot and will not see possibility in personal freedom and full self-expression. It has been said that “people do not think what they are paid not to think.” Culture is the protector of the status quo and new possibilities are not welcome in many corporate, national, and family cultures.

At the broadest levels, it seems that economic, technological, and educational success derives from the sum of the sense of possibility and opportunity in the culture. Undeveloped countries seem to have less possibility in their cultures. Fundamentalist groups, certain in their beliefs, whether political, religious, ideological, or commercial, appear to struggle with new possibilities.

PDD is a pervasive disorder. War, persistent animosity, and the unwillingness to risk maintain a vicious circle of past-based behavior. At a recent Innovation conference in Shanghai, one Global IT executive discussed broadly-based research showing that 90 percent of companies did not sustain innovation, and 75 percent of new product developments fail. 0ver 50 percent of acquisitions and more than 50 percent of partnerships either fail or don’t live up to expectations.

While success can be achieved, many organizations place too great an emphasis on technical solutions and do not invent possibilities that could help them move beyond the obstacles that yield failure and loss. While PDD is not the only source of failed innovation, evidence suggests that most companies suffer from acute PDD and remain clueless as to this source of repeated difficulty.

Identity itself is a root cause of PDD. Identity is defined as, “all that constitutes the objective reality of a thing.., the distinguishing character or personality of an individual entity.” Everything seems to flow from who one considers oneself to be — one’s essential character or identity. There are national identities, e.g., to be Canadian is to be moderate, to be British is to be understated. There are personal identities, e.g., I am a father, a friend, a consultant, a believer in the true God.” There are corporate identities, e.g., “We are a service organization” or, “We are smarter than the competition.” Once you consider yourself to be anything, you seem to get stuck with it. The game is over. New possibilities are hard to come by. The past repeats itself, effortlessly guided by the identity.

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