Barriers to change… Should I stay or should I go? A ripped up speech

Ferdinandeo (Triest), Saturday 21st September 2013 around 12:00 a.m.: what to say as a final speech after attending an MBA program in behalf of all the class?

Here below an idea, a story about barriers to change… delivered here, in a comfortable “context”, with 10 day of delay: should I stay or should I go?

Should I stay or should I go? A story about barriers to change

Should I stay or Should I go? That was the question that each MBA participant has faced when applying for the master program in business administration here at MIB School of Management.

Should I get an MBA in my country or abroad?

The MBA class of the 23rd edition was almost equally distributed: 60% foreigners and 40% Italians. Who made the right decision?

Nobody knows… now!

Anyhow, what all the participants of the 23rd edition have in common, both foreigners and Italians, is that they have started a changing process in a way:

someone changed country, some other quit a job and somebody did both.

Was that easy? Of course it was not!

Why? Because each change requires a transformation process, and each transformation process requires resources:

physically, mentally and emotionally.

So… which are the barriers to change? I would say mainly three:

unawareness, laziness and conservation of the status quo.

The first one, unawareness, means that since I don’t know there is a problem, why to invest resources for a change? How to start a changing process in such a situation? Simply by creating awareness: “Houston, we have a problem!”

The second one, laziness, I know there is a problem but it requires too much resources: physically, mentally and emotionally. In this case the therapy is defining an objective that is attractive enough in order to justify the effort.

The third one, conservation of the status quo, is the toughest: I do know there is a problem and I do not want to change since I feel myself comfortable in the current situation. I am not sure… in this case uncertainties about the current situation and status quo will establish a changing process.

Why uncertainties? According to a passage taken from a speech held here in this hall few months ago: “Since the economy is not growing in Europe and in the Western counties, the only alternative for getting good jobs is to go abroad where the economy is booming”

So… should I stay or should I go? According to this story, I would say: it depends!

It depends on how much uncertain and uncomfortable you are with your current situation and status quo… unless new innovative opportunities and unconventional alternatives will be created from scratch.

All the best for the MBA23 and MBA24 classes!

Thank you!

The story was slightly different and this speech has not been delivered because the “context”, the final ceremony for the MBA23 class, was not comfortable for the speaker.

How to break such a uncomfortable situation? …well, you already know the moral of the story: by creating uncertainties through innovative and unconventional alternatives!

Feelink – Feel & Think approach for doing life!


IT, I, WE: A Framework For Assessing the Consumer Behavior

How the consumer behaviours should be inferred? Or, is the brand proposition consistent with the targeted culture? These is the issues to address for defining a marketing strategy.

Along my MBA experience, I had the both the opportunity to study some insights regarding the behavior of a Chinese customer and living a cultural experience in China within an exchange program (Sun Yat-sen University). So, how is possible to create a framework that measure the consistency (correlation) between the culture and the relative inferences about the decision making process of the consumer? That was what stimulate my curiosity during my permanence in China so much that was also the question I have chosen as a final essay for the exchange [2]:

IT, I and WE

Briefly, in order to evaluate the consistency between the culture and the inferred consumer behaviours the idea is to use the IT, I and WE paradigm initially developed by Daniel Ofman [1] within the Core Qualities where are mainly three areas that represent three different ways to see the world and the reality:

  • IT: IT is the world of science, truth and objective reality as well as of tasks and goals to achieve.
  • I: I is the inner world and is about arts and also self-understanding, self-consciousness and self-awareness.
  • WE: the “sense of WE”. Solidarity, inclusion and sense of being part of a group\community are the main values for such a WE personality.

Since the IT, I and WE model by Daniel Ofman has been applied also for managing diversities and conflicts among people (See Blue, Green and Red model by Diversity Icebreaker) [3], why not applying it also for asessing cultures and consumer behaviors? Let’s see how.


The model IT, I and WE in the methodology proposed has been implemented as follow:

  1. First, identify the main topics that in general can assess a culture.
  2. For each topic, given 6 points available, distribute the points among the three areas IT, I and WE.
  3.  Sum all the points obtained respectively for the IT, I and WE areas.
  4. Collects all the findings that describe the decision making process of the customer.
  5. As it has been done for the culture at point 2, assign per each characteristic of the consumer behaviors 6 point distributed among the area IT, I and WE.
  6.  Sum the scores obtained respectively for the IT, I and WE areas regarding the consumer behaviour.


IT, I, WE: A Framework for Assessing the Consumer Behaviour (Infographic)

The result obtained from the analysis of the Chinese consumer behaviors has shown:

  • A consistent preference to the WE area: 45% and 38% from the Cultural and consumer behavior respectively. The result suits the high context mark of the Chinese culture where trust is based on relationships rather that tasks and facts.
  • Divergences between IT and I areas. In fact, with the selected items, the Chinese Culture has shown a preference to the IT area (35%) rather than to I (20%), while the Chinese behaviors has shown a balance between them, 25% and 37% respectively for the IT and the I.

For further details see the references.


  1.  Ofman Daniel. (2004). Core Qualities: a Gateway to Human Resources. Cyan Communications.
  2. Gruer Ivan. (2013). ” IT, I, WE: a framework for the consumer behaviour“. (Slideshare).

A possible TIP for giving effective feedbacks: wearing a SCARF that is SMART, does it make sense?

Four ways to provide effective feedbacks

Few weeks ago, the Time has posted an article by Annie Murphy Paul: “Four Ways to Give Good Feedback” (originally posted in the Brilliant Report blog). As reported in the post, “feedback is a powerful way to build knowledge and skills, increase skills, increase motivation, and develop reflective habits of mind in students and employees“. Briefly, the four ways suggested to provide effective feedbacks are: 1) supply information about the learner is doing, 2) taking care about how a feedback should be presented, 3) oriented feedback around goals and 4) use feedback to build metacognitive skills (develop the awareness of learning).

What’s stimulated my curiosity is the point 2: How present a feedback in a way that is effective? I think is the toughest aspect because requires something that the brain naturally refused to do: deliver the message according to a mindset that is different! In the article mentioned above, taking care about how feedbacks should be presented means avoiding three things: a) closely monitoring the performances because reduce the self-consciousness of the learner b) providing unique solution like “This is how you should do it ” – because it might be interpreted as an attempt to control, c) establish a sense of competition among colleagues because might reduce the engagement.

Thus, how can be ensured a good feedback in practice? An idea could be to combine together the S.C.A.R.F. given by Social\Cognitive Neuroscience and the S.M.A.R.T. criteria for setting well-defined objectives. Let’s see how the SMART-SCARF matrix works after a brief description of the two models.

The S.C.A.R.F. model from Social and Cognitive neuroscience.

M.D. Liebarman & E.I. Eisenberger provided many insights regarding Social, Cognitive and Affective neuroscience. In particular, in their article “The pains and pleasures of social life: A social cognitive neuroscience approach” they discovered that there are mainly two circuits that the human brain activates: simply, one circuit for the pains and one circuit for the pleasures. Acknowledged that, the social and cognitive neuroscience might be useful also for giving some further specific insights in order to provide effective feedbacks. The S.C.A.R.F. is a framework in which the “approach (reward)” and the “avoid (threat)” instinctive responses, given by the “pleasure” and “pain” circuits respectively, are mainly related to five human social domains of experience: 1) Status – the relative importance to others, 2) Certainty – ability\need to predict the future, 3) Autonomy – sense of control, 4) Relatedness – as a sense of safety with the others and 5) Fairness – as the perception of a fair exchange between people and justice.

More: “SCARF: a brain-based model for collaborating with and influencing other“.

Each one of us has lived different experiences in various environments and thus there are many different S.C.A.R.F.s as well… as a matter of fact, have you ever seen in a shop only scarfs made only by silk or only blue colored?

If someone likes this kind of


, it means that the main dimensions that stimulate the “approach (reward)” and the “avoid (threat)” responses are the Status and the Autonomy. A person with such a S.C.A.R.F. tends to be more competitive because for them winning a game, be the best student or being promoted in their company will more likely activate the “approach (reward)” response. While the “avoid (threat)” response will be activated when they perceive a reduction of their Status. For example, pushing solutions might be tricky since an advice might be perceived from a person with a high Status as follows: “You are giving me advises, because you think you have more skills\experience than me.” – The emotional reaction of such perception is more likely negative. Even if the coach has much more experience and skills than the coachee, avoiding to emphasize\remark such difference will make feel the coachee comfortable.

At the same time, since also the Autonomy dimension is more important than the others, a good mood will be established whenever a sense of autonomy or control increase. For example, that might be achieved by letting to organize the work, schedule and desk. On the contrary, setting, defining and monitoring constantly the performances of such employees will increase the level of control and thus might activate the “avoid (threat)” response.

Now, how is it possible to estimate and figure out which SCARF suit well who is going to receive a feedback? Since it has been described the SCARF model, it’s like wondering which are the preferences regarding clothes and fashion of people: just observe, listen and understand. In other words, before giving feedbacks it’s better to know well each persons. Thus, apart from all the recommendations, some common sense might be useful too.

The S.M.A.R.T model for well-set objectives

As mentioned in the article by Annie Murphy Paul at point 3), a well stated feedback is oriented around goals. A cool and well-known tool for providing well-defined objectives is the S.M.A.R.T. model in which a good objective must be: 1) Specific – What?, 2) Measurable – If you can’t measure it you will NOT handle it, 3) Attractive – Why? What motivated to do such effort?, 4) Realistic – not too difficult and on too easy 5) and Time-scaled – no time limit, no urgency!. The S.M.A.R.T. model might be useful in order to set the objectives for an evaluation feedback as well for the definition of a personal development plan.

As for the dimensions of the S.C.A.R.F., also for the five ones in the S.M.A.R.T criteria each person is more sensitive in some aspects rather than others. Thus, the common sense “know people before” is crucial in order to deliver the feedback in a way that encourage and motivate.

See also the S.M.A.R.T. criteria.

A TIP for giving effective feedbacks: a SCARF that is SMART

Now, given the S.M.A.R.T. criteria for well-defined objectives and the S.C.A.R.F. framework with its five social\cognitive dimensions (Status, Certainty, Autonomy, Relatedness and Fairness), how should be possible to combine these tools together in order to provide feedbacks effectively by engaging people and avoiding threats? Let’s take the S.C.A.R.F. mentioned above with a high perception in the Status and Autonomy dimensions. Which are the “DOs” and the “DO NOTs” for these dimensions?

With a high Status, in order to activate the “approach (reward)” response it’s necessary to recognize the previous achievements\improvements before specifying the new ones (the “S” of S.M.A.R.T) and make them more attractive by emphasizing how the new goals can be an opportunity to achieve a distinctive specialization\quality (the “A” of S.M.A.R.T). Meanwhile, in the “Specific” dimension of S.M.A.R.T, as mentioned above, pushing solutions activate the “avoid (threat)” response and make the coachee uncomfortable and thus unmotivated.

Regarding the Autonomy dimension of the S.C.A.R.F., what is recommended is to give opinions instead of solutions when specifying the new goals\objectives (the “S” of the S.C.A.R.F.). In order motivate (approach (reward)” response) and make the goal attractive (the “A” of the S.C.A.R.F.) provide at least three  possible solutions and alternatives because that will increase the sense of Autonomy and control (only two will create a “dilemma”!). The “DO NOTs” for the Autonomy are linked with the Specific and the Time-scaled dimensions of the S.C.A.R.F. Respectively, avoid to specify only one solution and explain a detailed schedule and plan.

Final Considerations

By combining in a matrix with one dimension for the S.C.A.R.F framework and the other one for the S.M.A.R.T. criteria then it’s possible to define which objectives and how deliver them properly in order to motivate people and reinforce a positive mood in the team, in the work environment and why not, also in our personal life.

More: see also a possible detailed schema for the SMART-SCARF matrix  here (SlideShare).

All the four points mentioned in the post “Four Ways to Give Good Feedback” are present both in the SMART-SCARF, thus nothing new to add. However, organize all the thousands recommendations given by the experience and the Neuroscience research in a structured way such as has been done in the SMART-SCARF matrix might be useful in order to put them into practice.

Well, it’s time to wear and validate the SMART-SCARF in the real world… Do you think it will works?

Feelink – Feel & Think approach for doing life!

Developing Emotional Intelligence with TIP competencies and Kindergarten Cop… Arnold Schwarzenegger!

Emotional Intelligence and TIP competencies

The Emotional Intelligence (EQ) has been defined by Daniel Goleman in his best seller “Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ“. Nowadays, Emotional Intelligence (EQ) is a well-known concept both in the everyday life and in the work environment and it has become as much important as Analytical Intelligence (IQ).

Moreover, EQ is even more important for a “finely Attuned” leader in order to develop a Social Intelligence (See Social Intelligence and the Biology of Leadership by D.Goleman & R.Boyatzis – Harvard Business Review) and thus improve the team effectiveness with better decisions, more creative solutions and more productivity (see Building the Emotional Intelligence of Groups by V.Urch Druskat & S.B. Wolff – Harvard Business Review). In the book mentioned above by D. Goleman, there are many useful TIPs for being aware and learn how to deal with emotions such anxiety, sadness, anger, etc.

Few weeks ago I saw two colleagues of mine that were talking and suddenly one of them started to talk louder and faster. The other colleague, who was listening, when perceived such change in the para-verbal communication he suddenly exclaimed: “Please, calm down! Calm down“. In that moment I realized how the non-verbal communication can have an impact (positive or negative) on our emotions (see also the post “A Good Picture for Acceptance: feel the divergences and think how to deal with“). Is it possible to deal positively with our emotions? The Competencies in The International Profiler (TIP), that I discovered during the MBA, might be a powerful tool  in order to learn how to be more Emotional Intelligent. How? Let’s analyze another similar case from the movie Kindergartener Cop with Arnold Schwarzenegger where some competencies of TIP such Attuned, Copying, Resilience and Reflected Awareness with a pinch of New Thinking played a key role in order to succeed with the tougher species that inhabit a typical kindergartener environment: kids! (see the TIP’s competencies here).

Emotional Intelligence case study: the “Kindergartener Cop” A. Schwarzenegger

See the clip here taken from the movie “Kindergartener Cop” with Arnold Schwarzenegger (3 minutes), before reading the analysis.

So, what happened to our Kindergartener Cop Arnold Schwarzenegger? Let’s start from what our hero pronounced before realizing what’s going on in the class: “Don’t worry! Everything is under control!“.

  • Symptom 1:  once our Kindergartener Hero realized that in the class everything was not exactly under control because there were kids that were shouting, screaming, touching and destroying everything he started to show some signs of impatient. Such a shock and stressful situation made him shout in anger:  “Shuuut Uuuup!“. Diagnosis 1: definitely a low Copying for Schwarzenegger since he was not able to handle the stress. Continue reading

A good picture for Acceptance: feel the divergences & think how to deal with

How should Acceptance be defined? A definition should be as the ability to accept positively different behaviors and ideas.  Ok, and what does it mean in the real life?

In the Leadership Development course, that I am attending as an MBA student, in a lecture was analyzed and practiced the one-to-one communication and that day I saw this meaningful picture:

Acceptance_modFor me was illuminating: I found a great metaphor for Acceptance in the each day life. How? I will try to explain you.

In the communication there are the following actors: you with your values, the other with his\her values and the message.

In the picture the values are represented by the ground, a field in which each one of us feels himself comfortable. Someone likes to run in a field of green grass, someone else likes to run in the sand and other likes mountain landscapes just because we are different!

The world is the message of the communication that is made by the content (what is said) and the context (how is said) like the non-verbal communication: gestures, postures, volume of the voice, tone, rhythm,…

So, how should Acceptance be achieved by the actors that are playing the communication comedy (or drama, it depends)?

Well, Acceptance will lead an effective communication that means floating in the air in a perfect harmony and balance without touching each actor: you and your believes, the other and their believes and the message (content + context).

Nice words, but how such a harmony should be achieved?

Usually, an issue in the communication process is due to two different kind of negative reactions: “I am NOT OK” or “You are NOT OK”. (see also Thomas A. Harris and Transactional Analysis).

Thus, there are two requirements, as showed in the figure,  needed in order to establish an effective communication:

  1. Respect yourself: how? By leaving for a while you comfortable ground made by your values, believes and habits, but not too much in order to still remember who you are. So, leave also a pair of shoes in you ground! Moreover, respect yourself by also feeling involved without been touched as a person by the message (the world) if this is not a direct and explicit attack to your ground (your values). This means avoid judgments and asking for clarification\feedback. Continue reading