Between organisational behaviour and luxury

Isaac Mostovicz writes that luxury is remedy to help us understand our behavioural psychology....

I am often asked about the connection between my two areas of interest, namely organisational behaviour and luxury marketing, since they seem not to have any connection at all. My response typically points to the gap between two schools of psychology, one of which is called behavioural psychology and the other cognitive psychology.

The behavioural school is closely linked to people’s physiology and reflexes. It gained wider fame from the experiments of Ivan Pavlov who caused his dogs to salivate whenever they heard the ring of a bell because of its association with feeding time, despite some having had their throat slit and being unable to eat. Pavlov influenced two well-known American psychologists, J.B. Skinner and J.B. Watson, who followed his experiments and further showed that it is possible to influence behaviour.

Most of us are now familiar with the result of this school of behaviourism. Marketing campaigns are mainly based on the findings of this school, and we are constantly influenced to purchase one product or another. The fashion industry uses this knowledge as well by telling us how to dress, and celebrities are used as role models to put social pressure on us to copy their behaviour.

However, under the surface runs a different current. Many of us were brought up on the idea that “money talks”. After all, were we not incited by sales and discounts of all kinds, the industry would have abandoned this practice long ago. However, many studies show that monetary incentives do not play an important role in people’s decision-making. When asked, people place cost and other similar money matters at the bottom of the list even when choosing a bank. So who is right in this debate? Is it the researchers looking at cognitive views or the marketers who influence behaviour by offering us sales and discounts?

The answer is that both researchers and marketers are correct. There is a gap between what we say and how we act. While we say that money does not matter, we behave differently and we are enticed by monetary offers. I recently met an executive who explained this phenomenon succinctly. When commenting on the huge bonuses that executives receive, sometimes even when their company fails, he told me that even when people receive these fat bonuses their heart tells them a different story. By referring to people’s hearts, this gentleman actually talked about our values and worldviews which are not in sync with our behaviour.

So, how does out heart function? Back in 1955, George Kelly published his seminal work, The Psychology of Personal Constructs, based on his 25 years of clinical experience. This work describes how people interpret and anticipate their personal experience. Kelly was able to describe the rules upon which people interpret and the meaning they attribute to the events in their lives. Explaining the meaning and interpreting events is a verbal exercise and as Kelly noted: “If you do not know what is wrong with a person, ask him, he may tell you.”

However, the language we use to describe our experience is metaphorical. That means that we do not express the meaning we give to an event in a mere poetic way and even our conceptual system that is guided by our values is metaphorical, emphasising certain aspects and hiding others. In other words, different people will explain their worldview in a different language that reflects their values or conceptual system.

Our conceptual system is not something of which we are usually aware. One of Kelly’s last students, Dennis Hinkle devised a system to record this conceptual system. In my research, I provided the structure of this system and showed that two systems identical in structure, yet opposing in meaning, exist. I named one conceptual system Theta and the other one Lambda.

Looking at the behaviour manifested we now have two types of worldview to explore. The first one is the actual one which is influenced by all kinds of bias. Part of it is social and part of it results from a lack of awareness of our conceptual system and an unwillingness to follow it for various reasons. My research into organisational behaviour reveals the magnitude of that bias, which comes at a dear price. Not only does it cause personal damage leading to many phenomena of physical and psychological disorders such as addiction, neuroses of various kinds and more.  Acting not according to our values and worldviews damages the very fabric upon which our society is based and leads to social destruction and to corporate disintegration.

On the other hand, luxury enhances our awareness of our value and conceptual systems. When we use luxury, we pit our actual behaviour against our belief system and worldview; we become more aware of our worldview and act accordingly.

Hence,  I believe that whilst research into organisational behaviour highlights the tension between the two behavioural systems, luxury offers us the needed remedy.

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The dark side of rationality

Isaac Mostovicz writes that rationality and logic only offer one aspect of a solution; human values also need to be understood....

Last month I attended the 10th European Corporate Governance Conference that focused on making corporate governance more effective. In addressing the many burning problems that the corporate world suffers from, many speakers offered a utopian, logical and rational solution. Unfortunately, nobody from the world outside the few people who attended the conference will ever pay attention to this. This happens again and again. Scholars point to flaws and have a wishful thinking that if we were to learn the lessons they teach and impose the rules they advocate, the world would be a better place.

Well, people won’t change and even when they listen they will not internalize the lesson and consequently, the world won’t change. For 2500 years we have been told that if we act rationally and logically we will understand the world. Yet even after Freud told us that we have to deal with our sub-consciousness and that nobody is immune from social bias, scholars still believe that it is possible to change this world if only we were acting rationally and logically.

At that conference, and on other occasions, I argued that my colleagues fail to recognize that we do not deal with computers or psychopaths or some economists and lawyers who seem not to have emotions and values. We all love and hate, motivated by our hidden agendas that sometimes we are not even consciously aware of. That is the essence of human material and if somebody doesn’t feel comfortable with everything he only has to look for some extra-terrestrial creatures to do the job.

On the other hand, I also claimed that we need to understand humans. If they are motivated by their deeply held values then our role should be helping people act upon those values and according to their worldviews. We do not follow our inner voice and when we listen to it we bias its recommendation. In fact, our ability to argue logically and rationally allows us sometimes even to act in ways that oppose our values and our worldviews while justifying our actions as being in line those values.

Rationality and logic are helpful when solving a problem that has only one correct answer; when we have to distinguish between good and evil. However, most of the issues we face are a matter of choice which can be as simple as choosing a dish from a menu to choosing a spouse. Choosing between two good options is what makes us human and the mechanism of it is totally different from that of logic and rationalism. It is underdeveloped and obscure and causes us to make wrong choices. Adding logic to it just turns our wrong decision into an unsolvable mess. It is time for change, not in the world but in ourselves. Let’s start to listen to our inner voice, act according to our deeply held values and behave in line with our worldviews. If we start moving in this direction we will not suffer from so many problems in corporations, politics or elsewhere.

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The Value of Centered Leadership

Isaac Mostovicz writes that the most effective leaders are those that make best use of their personal strengths and values...

The results of a recent McKinsey Global Survey show why the personal strengths and values we develop individually can produce the best leadership traits in the workplace. The research identified common traits of leaders around the world, to determine whether the personal characteristics of centered leadership were beneficial to being a good leader.

Centered leadership is a concept that is based on the existence of five key capabilities. These five dimensions are meaning – using your strengths in a way that inspires you, positive framing – seeing the upside of every situation, connecting – building relationships, engaging – taking risks, and energizing – keeping energy levels high.

The survey showed that when leaders embraced all five dimensions of centered leadership, they were most satisfied with their performance in the workplace and with life in general.

The importance of personal values in leadership is reiterated in another article by McKinsey, which states “the purpose of leadership is to change the world around you in the name of your values, so you can live those values more fully and use them to make life better for others.”

Self-awareness, whereby one can understand their own working style and their own strengths, and recognize whether they are Thetas or Lambdas, is important for becoming a good leader. Equally, people must be able to work with others, and whilst that means making your own values compelling to others, it also means connecting with people – one of the key five capabilities of centered leadership, revealing ‘real moments of truth’ to accomplish a successful relationship with employees.

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More Philosophy of Luxury

Isaac Mostovicz writes...

My philosopy of luxury challenges us to examine the ‘Why?’ of luxury…rather than just the ‘What’, or the ‘How’….

Don’t ask ‘What’s luxury?’.
Ask Why do we seek luxury?

I like to think I’m very clear that luxury is a good, not an evil thing. Thinking about this philosophy of luxury… it seems clear that taking a ‘What-based’ view of luxury is causing us to make expensive decisions which will be deeply unsatisying….

What we need is more ‘Why-based Luxury’, which understands users real luxury needs and creates individualised luxury experiences to address them…

Here’s one way to bring this luxury philosophy to life…

Try this little thought experiment, removing the scaffolding from a ‘What-based’ worldview…

1. Imagine yourself alone on a desert island…now ask yourself: what is luxury?

Here are some thoughts to get you started:

a) By removing the social dimension of luxury you’ve already moved towards a more personal definition…rather than a piece of social exhibitionism

b) By removing people, you’ve also removed any quality dimension. You’ve assumed that nothing has been crafted as there is no-one else to craft it. When there is no craftsmanship, All that remains is the beauty constructed by nature.

c) Finally, by removing people you’ve also removed the social conditioning/upbringing that creates an appreciation of such beauty – albeit you have to assume that you are born or at least placed on the island with no prior memory.

What is luxury now?

2. Now assume that the island contains an infinite self-replenishing supply of everything you’ll ever need.

Here’s some food for thought:

a) In doing this, you’ve now removed the scarcity dimension of luxury – so nothing can be luxurious by virtue of exclusivity or rarity or unusualness.

b) And you’ve also removed the waste/gratuity dimension of luxury – by assuming that all resources are self-replenishing.

What is left of luxury now?

3) Now, finally, imagine you will live forever on your abundant self-replenishing island.

a) Eeek! now we’ve removed the time-incorporation element of luxury that considers that things that have taken a long time to make are luxurious –

b) We have also removed the aspects of luxury which are a defence or a reaction against death – a vivid expression of our aliveness…

With all the ‘What’s’ eliminated, all we are left with is the desire – the ‘Why?’…



How much money, time and anxiety have you wasted on ‘What-based luxury’…

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