Fix the institute; heal the man – the underlying hypothesis for my over all approach to healing society through organizational design and changing the psychology of an institute
Part of my working hypothesis is, “Humans may have originally created the institutions around us, but eventually these institutions come to create us.”
Industrial or organizational psychology is a management process that knows that both humans and institutions have an underlying psychology. The organizational psychologist also understands that of the two, the institutional psychology is the dominant force. Change the psychology of the institute and you will change the psychology of the individuals.
By institution I mean most any place where humans interact regularly: school, work, home, church, and so on. Think of institutions as any matrix of roles, e.g. mother, daughter, grandparents, or worker, supervisor, executive, or student, teacher, administrator. (Of course for our work we are going to be focusing on the workplace.)
There have always been brave souls who buck the overwhelming influence of societal pressure. Sadly, however, science and history have provided copious evidence for the fact that humans tend to submit to the influence and expectation of the institutions around us.
An institute is not a living being, at least not in the way you and I are. It is, however, a dynamic entity, made up of unspoken and usually unseen expectations, rules, customs, mores, and behavioral demands. Think of institutional psychology as a deep structure that acts as a hidden, generative grammar. This grammar strongly influences behavior. This grammar is made up of rules that inform the psychology of the institute.
These rules and values enter into the so called psychology of the institute at the time we humans create it, so we are responsible. But we often instill these traits without being aware we are doing it. Consequently the psychological traits of the institution tend to reflect what is going on in the culture at large. If the prevalent traits in society are sexism, racism, classism, individualism, or patriarchal, homophobic, atheistic, fascistic, or any other of the fear based human behaviors, these tend to become imbedded into the psyche of the institute without any one purposely putting them there or even conscious of how it happens.
Once we have built our institutions in such a manner we then tend to live within their expectations and under its influence. And this is dangerous, and a sign of going through life inattentively. But you can see how we are living in our creations.
The bright spot in all this, and the essence of my life’s work, is that humans are marvelously adaptive. So, big and small, we can rebuild the institutions of daily life. We can recreate them in a way that will help shape humanity into the best of traits, such as, kindness, courage, honesty, selflessness, and more.
This is not to say that humans do not have sufficient free will to define their mores and behaviors on their own, they do. But in general they don’t. This is because we are extremely social and interconnected beings. We appreciate deeply the support and reinforcement of those around us, and we like to offer the same. But in the context of operating within our various institutions, family life, school, the workplace, where the underlying expectations that lead to acceptable or “appropriate” behavior has been infused with the fear based characteristic I mentioned above, then we inadvertently (or unmindfully) but understandably conform to the norm. Sadly it is easier to just go along with the flow. And sometimes the economic pressure to do so is great. After all, the student needs her degree, the journalist has to pay the rent, so failing to conform can economically unbearable. The added dilemma is that conformity over extended periods of time is rarely superficial. Humans tend to internalize-that is embed into their own psyche-behaviors and expectations that are repeated or maintained over extended periods of time.
This is why I am focused on helping change the psychology of institutions more so than just the individuals (who I am also willing to help). But if I take 1000 people out of an institution with a 1000 people, put them through a three week mindfulness boot camp, strengthening their character and motivating them positively, when I send them back to the unchanged institution, the majority will revert to the influence of the institute’s psychology. Some won’t. But of those, most will end up leaving. This is the overwhelming pattern in humanity today. So you can see why I focus my work around the idea that, “Humans may have originally created the institutions around us, but eventually these institutions come to create us.”