The Organizational Zoo character cards were used to assess the which metaphorical “animals” (representing behaviours) supported or detracted from a creative environment at Creative Bangkok. This activity was repeated at the HEC Creativity Summer School in Montreal in June 2015. The Montreal group was larger (about 70 people broken up into 18 groups) and of a more mixed cultural background. Despite this there were strong similarities in the outputs of the activity. For example the strongest characters supporting a creative environment in both occasions were: Owl, Quercus, Eagle, Whale, Bee and Mouse. In Bangkok Eagle was selected as positive by 100% of the groups and all but one of the groups in Montreal selected it as positive, but this divergent group went for the entirely opposite category of not tolerated. Their logic was around the Eagle having strong vision of “their path” and this would overly influence others opinions, thereby diminishing idea generation.
There was strong agreement on which animals were selected in the middle territories (more then 50% of groups selecting them as desired or tolerated) between Bangkok and Montreal as well: Ant, Dog Kid, X Breed and Yak. What in interesting to explore is that Bangkok had Gibbon (social fun) and Beneficial Insect (cross pollination of ideas) in positive territory, whereas Montreal placed it lower in the middle ground. An interesting conversation to explore… The alignment for the “negative” characters was close with Chameleon, Feline, jackal, Nematode, Piranha, Sloth, Triceratops and Pestiferous Insect all being agreed by both Bangkok and Montreal.
An interesting insight is that the Lion (usually the most contentious of behaviours) was the ONLY animal selected in ALL four categories in BOTH activities. It seems that dominant control and command can be appreciate and not appreciated! There is no doubt this is the one that causes most conflict in a mixed group. Lion was the only character in all four groups in Bangkok, but Montreal groups placed five animals in all four groups, indicating there was more diversity in perspective about the appropriateness of these behaviours: Lion, Hyena, Beneficial Insect, Unicorn and X Breed. These five are interesting as they can be both aggressive and strong, which causes very mixed responses in group environments and across different cultures. Montreal elevated the status of Rattlesnake, Hyena and Unicorn (compared to Bangkok), whereas Bangkok was more comfortable with Gibbon than Montreal. It will be interesting to see responses on why you think this may be the case…
The visual representation of the results (below) across all groups for Montreal shows how complex data sets can be represented in a concise “code”. It is like representing DNA as a colour codes patterns that shows how each group selected, making it possible to see patterns within individual groups, but also across animals behaviours. Exploring these outputs in both directions generates rich conversations that lead to us understanding each other and why we interpret each others behaviours differently. Armed with such insights, we can leverage our differences to create new ideas and knowledge through collaborative reflection, rather than not talk and experience the relationship degenerate into conflict.
What this activity does reinforce, is that it is possible to have constructive insightful conversations about the impact of behaviour on group dynamics AND have fun doing so. The similar patterns that emerged in less that 20 minutes across different continents with different mixes of cultures shows a strong support that this approach is robust and also highlights interesting insights to stimulate conversations in an inclusive engaging way to collaborate. We learnt as we interacted to create these results and now we can continue to learn as we reflect on what questions these results elicit and the diversity of answers these in turn will generate.
I wonder if Asian culture interprets a monkey differently to people in Canada. Asia has a ‘Year of the Monkey’ and exposure to the meaning of this may result in the Monkey character standing out as being stronger.
I’d be in interested to hear what others think.
This is a good insight. There are some different interpretations of different animals in different countries, just as there are different meanings of words in different English speaking countries. Rather than be seen as a weakness of the metaphor, this is leveraged as a strength, because it stimulates a great conversation about cultural influences on interpretation. These conversations are actively facilitated in workshops as they accelerate the insights of the impact of behaviour on interactions, which is the whole purpose. The metaphor is a vehicle to generate rich constructive conversation about behaviour. It is a metaphorical representation of the culture and behavioural expression, not a literal accurate “measure” of it. The outcomes are more important than the outputs.
Thanks for sharing these results. The visual “DNA” chart is helpful to quickly grasp the patterns.
I find it interesting that the Eagle-Owl-Quercus triad comes up very strongly across multiple domains, such as creativity, collaboration, leadership, continuous improvement etc. when people are asked what they expect.
I wonder whether they are truly a requirement for effectiveness (as measured in the domain of interest), or just one that we expect rationally. Would observing effective teams and coding the behavioural characteristics displayed (using the zoo) lead to similar results, or are we entrained to this way of thinking and unable to detect the weak signals of other “DNA” that produces similar or better results?