Zombie Thinkers and the Cult of Gurus
WORKING WITH IDIOTS (2): THE AMAZING POWER OF ZOMBIE "SYSTEMS" THINKING
This title may seem contradictory, surely Zombie Thinkers don’t exist? After all Zombies just want to consume flesh and blood. They are very certain about their purpose. They don’t think, they just do, and that’s the point.
We know that Zombie Organisations recruit submissive, deferential managers who are naturally incurious, uninterested in the nature of the ongoing change around them, focused on replaying bullying behaviours to establish victim employees. This explains the need for leadership training and coaching for Zombie executives as they try to assume the persona and clothing of live leadership. But it is often a mere performance out of context as they struggle to perform in the continuum between doing things right and doing the right thing which they cannot even visualize.Most organizations encounter a Strategic Inflection Point at some point, a situation where the ecology in which an organization operates mutates and adapts, where organizations find their success formulae in decline, where old techniques deliver less and new customers and competitors appear. In such situations where the future is uncertain, the appearance of uncertainty has to be managed by the acquisition of new certainty.
This new certainty can only be managed through the introduction of packaged ideas that are purchased externally. Hence the love for consuming the products of management gurus providing magical lists of dos, and the introduction of new magical language.
Zombie “Thinkers” in organizations reduce their need to understand and pay attention to the introduction of new value and its inevitable decay, by abandoning one type of unthinking certainty and acquiring new forms of unthinking ritualistic certainty.Zombie Thinkers are programmed to acquire forms of certainty that tend to include the following features:
a. Cult of Personality or the personalisation of branded ideas around a guru.
b. Simplicity: They love simplicity: they don’t want ambiguity and contradiction – hence the love of models.
c. Contradiction: it is essential that a successful Zombie Thinker guru model has a deep logical contradiction embedded publicly within it, that followers misunderstand key elements of the guru’s model: failing to understand that some ideas were mere prototypes and others pure decoration.
d. Glamour: Having built the cult of guru/ personality they use it as public identity reference for enhancing their personal status and sense of worth by association.
e. Parasitic bullies: models are used as weapons rather than as mere tools for insight. They have to be right or wrong, even though we all know that models are only useful for generating insights.
A classic example is so-called systems thinking, where people use the idea of “system” to impose a machine view of the world in order to deal with managing symptoms, instead of understanding causes and the reflexive nature of human behavioral adaption to all interventions.