Structures influence behavior

The Icosystem Game

One of the most powerful teachings of systems theory is that the structures influence behavior.

We could consider as structures to whatever condition our decisions. In one company we can talk about the procedures, rules (written and unwritten), manuals of operation, the database with a type of inputs and formats and not others, how to make the reports and the type of information that contain, and so on. Also infrastructure, hardware, even space or logistics. All conditions to do things one way and not another.

In our day to day life, to go to work, slow traffic lights motivates us to pass with less margin, working in a hierarchical or bureaucratic company will limit our opinions and ideas or being paid with substantial individual bonus discourage our collaborative decision.

If we want to change the behavior in an organization we must jump simplistic solutions aimed at increasing control, the establishment of a myopic systematic focused exclusively on the goal, impositions through direct coercion or external motivation, usually economic.

We must go to the root causes that motivate behavior and seek to change them. We should investigate the limits and constraints and establish mechanisms to overcome them.

We should not doubt that a rule change will change behavior more effectively than if we try to influence it directly.

There is an instructive game that shows very visually the subject and I think it’s worth you to know. It is “The Icosystem Game“.