St. Louis, MO
Posted - 02/05/2011 : 10:56 AM
Ken Goodpaster, who has written extensively on business ethics, coined the term "teleopathy" or goal disease to describe goal fixation that, in itself, becomes irrational in its pursuit. It is, as he says, "the unbalanced pursuit of purpose in either individuals or organizations." In short, it's a specific case of Merton's imperious immediate interest. There are three symptoms of teleopathy:
Fixation[/]: Individuals become fixated on certain super goals, which take on a life of their own and trump all other considerations. For example, M$F wants to be the only authority in rider ed, the only curriculum taught and to ensure it is a strong liability firewall for their dues paying manufacturer members. H-D is obsessed with maintaining a high rate of growth it has enjoyed for so many years and now they want to manage the international market as well. Stockholders are obsessed with maintaining that stock price as well. And some state administrators can be fixated on keeping their jobs and site managers/owners fixated on making a living"let someone else worry about it, I just want to get through this."
So it's no surprise that Ray firmly believes that looking through the corner is an advanced skill most of those involved in rider education are target fixated.
Rationalization: We all rationalize. It's just human nature. It becomes deadly as it has in rider ed when we do so to the point that we live in a fantasy world. Goodpaster flags the kind of rationalization that leads to unintended consequences from target fixation. He said there is a tendency in considering a decision or organizational practice to deny or suppress a number of possible consequences, focusing solely on one privileged element.
Loyalty is often an excuse in organizations for selective perception and narrowed judgment. For example, when bleeding orange and black makes someone close their eyes to elements that lead to a student bleeding their own red blood on a range. And H-D has the Harvard MBA cynicism that dictates that anything goes, anything is ethical, as long as the bottom line is served.
And M$F feels that anything goes, anything is ethical as long as the interests of its members are served. And what serves them is a shorter, easier course and M$F rationalizes it as what the students want. That M$F operates by rationalization rather than rational thinking is clear in all the waffling you can change the program the way your state/region needs, but you can't change the program. We took over states because they were struggling except 50% of the states we took over. And on an on...rationalizations in pursuit of their target fixation.
Truthiness becomes all the more appealing then as it covers a multitude of rationalization.
[b]Detachment: Individuals begin to view everything in the workplace as a game in which career success is the winning goal. The individual gets detached from his or her sense of identity and integrity while playing this seemingly all important game. So H-D sees nothing wrong with co-opting rider ed as marketing after all, training is a by product of their goal. M$F sees nothing wrong with bullying the states; disrespecting government process; flip flopping on policy and procedures; dumbing down the course it's all part of the game.
Iow, teleopathy takes positive outcome bias beyond the point of wishful thinking.
I.L. Janis, in Groupthink: Psychological Studies of policy decisions and fiascoes. (2nd edition), gives this description of teleopathy run amok in an organization:
- An illusion of invulnerability, shared by most or all group members, that leads to over optimism and excessive risk taking.
- Collective efforts to rationalize or discount warnings.
- An unquestioned belief in the group's inherent morality.
- Stereotyped views of adversaries as too weak or stupid to pose a serious threat.
- Pressure directed at any group member who dissents from the majority view.
- A shared illusion of unanimity.
- Self-censorship of deviations from the apparent group consensus.
- Self appointed 'mindguards' who protect the group from information that might challenge the group's complacency.
Teleopathy, then, describes M$F and the motorcycle manufacturers to the "t". It explains so many things about why what was MSF has changed into what is M$F the manufacturers' bitch.
So focused on their goals to avoid government regulation, gain total control over rider education, and use it more effectively to market motorcycles they are simply blind to all else. Those involved have gone from tunnel vision to ethical if not legal blindness; they simply cannot and will not see how their actions can affect others or what may come from them and they cannot and will not see that there are other ways of achieving their goals. Just as many state administrators and instructors can't see there's any other way to accomplish training except through M$F. Oh rats.
It reminds me of a story a friend related to me years and years ago. He had been out of town at a high-level business meeting that involved a great many execs from several companies. They met together by day and socialized together at night. But even though they were all from different companies and even different companies, all they ever talked about was money. My friend finally pointed out their obsession and asked why they didn't talk about something else. He was met with dumfounded expressions and one fellow said, "What else is there?" And he meant it seriously.
I remember that story because it seems that's the number one target fixation in our society money. Shania Twain's "Ka ching!" comes to mind:
"We live in a greedy little world
that teaches every little boy and girl
To earn as much as they can possibly...
All we ever want is more
A lot more than we had before...
Can you hear it ring
It makes you wanna sing
It's such a beautiful thing Ka ching!... "
That's business today. And that's the motorcycle industry and that's the essence of the Emperor of Irvine. Given that there is nothing else they see, they assume that everyone else sees things the way they do and operates under the same rules they dowhich is, of course, what serves that "imperious immediate interest": money. Ka ching! Oh rats.
It should be pointed out that target fixation could equally well be a riff on corporate America or America's fight against terrorism or any number of other national or global issues. It could be just as well a riff on distracted and entitled BDCs on the road or any number of other smaller scale social problems. Indeed, it seems that teleopathy is more contagious than the Spanish Flu of 1918. That, however, doesn't excuse M$F's and the manufacturers' myopia.
It just explains it.