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In my blog I uncover the thinking, actions and habits it takes to get the results you want in business and life. No fluff, just facts.
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This is taken from SWAY; The Link Between Autism and Influence.
Jonathan Freedman, psychological reactance is a very popular term in the anti-child-spanking community of parents. If you dig into the research behind the movement you will find his name. You will also find this study cited repeatedly. Freedman didn’t study how to change a child’s behavior in the moment. He studied how to influence lasting change.
Freedman knew that in 1965 most boys of seven to nine years obeyed their parents as a result of the threat of spanking. Spanking was the gold standard of parenting then. There was not an anti-child-spanking community, in fact it was just the opposite.
Consider this Sunday Dec. 12 1965 article in the Chicago Tribune titled Princess Grace Does the Spanking in Monaco.
-In a rare interview with this reporter, Princes Grace discussed how she raised her family.
“Children need much love and affection,”she said, “but also some discipline. “I’m rather severe with mine.”
Did Rainier ever apply a hairbrush to his offspring like ordinary fathers?
“Well, sometimes I use my hand on them,” she replied.
“Prince Albert,” his mother said, “already is being taught that it will be his duty one day to govern the principality,” and she added: “It is fairly easy to teach him. He is quiet, and thinks a lot.”-
Any parent of a toddler knows what a relief those moments of silence can be. The article is not asking about the validity of spanking or if the family used spanking. It asked how did the family used spanking and who did it.
This occurred in the fractured era of Churchill’s death, LBJ’s Great Society, the start of the Vietnam War.It happened during the assassination of Malcolm X and the racial tensions in the American South with Dr. Martin Luther King leading the charge. In that backdrop, the validity of spanking was not on the forefront of societal happenings. The quick peace and quiet it brought must have been a huge relief.
But a small experiment happening in this pivotal moment in history would go on to influence the parenting style of the nation.
This excerpt from Readings in Managerial Psychology by M. Boje explains it best.
“An experiment by Jonathan Freedman gives us some hints about what to do and what not to do in this regard.
Freedman wanted to see if he could prevent second to fourth grade boys form playing with a fascinating toy. But only because he had said that it was wrong to do so some six weeks earlier. Anyone familiar with seven to none year old boys must realize the enormity of the task. But Freedman had a plan. If he could first get the boys to convince themselves that it was wrong to play with the forbidden toy, perhaps that belief would keep them from playing with it thereafter. The difficult thing was making the boys believe that it was wrong to amuse themselves with the toy-an extremely expensive, battery controlled robot. (This was in 1965)
Freedman knew it would be easy enough to have a boy obey temporarily. All he had to do was threaten the boy with severe consequences should he be caught playing with the toy. As long as he was nearby to deal out stiff punishment, Freedman figured that few boys would risk operating the robot. He was right. After showing a boy an array of five toys he warned them, “It is wrong to play with the robot. If you play with the robot I’ll be very angry and will have to do something about it.” Then Freedman left the room for a few minutes. During that time, the boy was observed secretly through a one-way mirror. Freedman tried this threat procedure on twenty-two different boys, and twenty-one of them never touched the robot while he was gone.
So a strong threat was successful while the boys thought they might be caught and punished. But Freeedman had already guessed that. He was really interested in the effectiveness of the threat in guiding the boys’ behavior later on, when he was no longer around. To find out what would happen then he sent a young woman back to the boys’ school about six weeks after he had been there. She took the boys out of the class one at a time to participate in an experiment. Without ever mentioning any connection with Freedman, she escorted each boy back to the room with the five toys and gave him a drawing test. While she was scoring the test, she told the boy that he was free to play with any toy in the room. Of course, almost all the boys played with a toy. The interesting result was that, of the boys playing with a toy, 77 percent chose to play with the robot that had been forbidden to them earlier. Freedman’s severe threat, which had been so successful six weeks before, was almost totally unsuccessful when he was no longer able to back it up with punishment.
But Freedman wasn’t finished yet. He changed his procedure slightly with a second sample of boys. These boys, too, were initially shown the array of five toys by Freedman and warned not to play with the robot while he was briefly out of the room because, “it is wrong to play with the robot.” But this time, Freedman provided no strong threat to frighten a boy into obedience. He simply left the room and observed through the one-way mirror to see if his instruction against placing with the forbidden toy was enough. It was. Just as with the other sample, only one of the twenty-two boys touched the robot during the short time Freedman was gone.
The real difference between the two samples of boys came six weeks later, when they had a chance to play with the toys while Freedman was no longer around. An astonishing thing happened with the boys who had earlier been given no strong threat against playing with the robot. When given the freedom to play with any toy they wished, most avoided the robot, even though it was by far the most attractive of the five toys available (the others were a cheap plastic submarine, a child’s baseball glove without a ball, an unloaded toy rifle, and a toy tractor.) When these boys played with one of the five toys, only 33 percent chose the robot.
Something dramatic had happened to both groups of boys. For the first group, it was the severe threat they heard from Freedman to back up his statement that playing with the robot was “wrong.”It had been quite effective at first, while Freedman could catch them. Should they violate his rule later, though, when he was no longer present to observe the boys’ behavior, his threat was impotent and his rule was, consequently, ignored. It seems clear that the threat had not taught the boys that operating the robot was wrong, only that it was unwise to do so when the possibility of punishment existed.
For the other boys, the dramatic event had come from the inside, not the outside. Freeman had instructed them, too, that playing with the robot was wrong, but he had added no threat of punishment should they disobey him. There were two important results. First, Freedman’s instruction alone was enough to prevent the boys from operating the robot while he was briefly out of the room. Second, the boys took personal responsibility for their choice to stay away from the robot during that time. They decided that they hadn’t played with it because they didn’t want to. After all, there were no strong punishments associated with the toy to explain their behavior otherwise. Thus, weeks later, when Freedman was nowhere around, they still ignored the robot because they had been changed inside to believe the they did not want to play with it.”
Freedman proved that, at least in young boys playing with robots, forcing them to act a certain way did not change their minds about acting that way. Threats only created the desirable situation in the moment, but it did not create lasting change. In fact, a natural, psychological reaction that we all experience probably had the opposite effect from Freedman’s demands. This natural occurrence is called psychological reactance…………Quick and Stephenson 2008 study proved that dogmatic language initiated psychological reactance. The following are examples of that language.
We can see that demands get us the opposite of what we are after. In contrast, messages that are less dogmatic do not provoke psychological reactance such as.
Psychological reactance explains why so many people have lost their influence on society. From Harry Markopolos, Dr. Ignaz Semmelweis, and possibly you. Are you making demands, or offering options? How much more influence could you have if you simply changed how you speak?
SWAY; The Link Between Autism and Influence studies how influential people are similar to those with ASD. Nick Leeson is a great example.
Nick Leeson may not be a household name, but he did change the world. His influence has everything to do with the psychology of trust and the bureaucracy of hundreds of years of business.
Would you trust the same bank that held the Queen of Englands money? What about a bank that survived WWI, WWII, the French Revolution, and the Napoleonic Wars? Would you feel comfortable having a checking account at the same bank that financed the Louisiana purchase?
If you said yes, you would have been correct, for over 230 years. For two centuries you could’ve slept peacefully knowing that one of the most stable financial institutions in the world was looking after your hard-earned money.
That is until January 16th, 1995.
On that day this British behemoth of money and history was shaken to death by an earthquake. Not physically as in the earthquake reduced the building to a pile of rubble. In fact that would have been a simple fix for the good people at Barings Bank. The earthquake that figuratively piled up Barings Bank happened in Kobe Japan.
Other than exposing the steel and concrete foundations of buildings and fissures in the Japanese ground, the earthquake also exposed a single man, whose fraud and deceit went unnoticed by Barings for years. He caused over $1 billion of losses and murdered a business pillar of England.
That man is Nick Leeson.
Nick Leeson is exceptionally average looking. He is neither handsome nor ugly with nothing remarkable about his appearance. In fact, if a police sketch artist needed a good starting point from which to draw a middle aged, average caucasian male, Nick’s face would be a perfect place to start.
He does not look like the single protagonist of a multi-year fraud that shook the financial world. Of course he does not look like a man who did time in a prison with members of the notorious Triad gang.
But he is both.
In 1992, Nick Leeson became the manager of Barings Bank in Singapore. He seemed an obvious choice because of his stellar record of producing enormous returns from his trading. It seemed the combination of the Asian market and the spectacular track record of Leeson would be recipe for success.
But, Leeson began exceeding the limits of Barings regulations. His unauthorized trades went directly agains Barings policies. He was speculating that the Nikkei 225, Tokyo’s version of the DOW Jones Industrial, would make massive gains.
In 1990 the Nikkei had reached heights over 38,000 JPY or Yen. During Lesson’s tenure at the Tokyo office of Barings, he watched this particular index slide lower and lower until it was hovering around 20,000 JPY.
In the mind of aggressive traders this was a great opportunity. The index was on sale and at some point it had to bounce back, or so Leeson thought. So he broke rank, created a fake account numbered 88888 to hide his illegal trades and heavily wagered that the Nikkei would rumble back.
This went on for three years without anyone at Barings auditing Leeson’s activity. For three years one man had unchecked access to all of the money managed by one of the oldest banks in existence, and was never audited.
Regretfully during that time the Nikkei slid deeper and deeper into the abyss. Every time it did Barings lost, unchecked money from the 88888 account. So Leeson, like a drunken gambler who lost the rent money, was in a position to cover his losses. And he did it by doubling down on the Nikkei, which would, in turn fall again causing the momentum of the snowball to grow along with it’s massive size.
Then Leeson made his biggest mistake. He bought the equivalent of millions of dollars of futures in, what he thought, was a hugely underpriced Japanese market on January 16th, 1995.
But Nick Leesons timing was horrible.
The very next day, January 17th, 1995, Kobe Japan was torn to pieces by a 7.2 earthquake. What seemed to be an undervalued market was crushed along with billions of dollars of buildings, infrastructure and 6000 people. Twice the amount killed in the US during the attacks on 9/11.
As the world pulled their money out of the Asian market, the Nikkei 225 was reduced from it’s former glory at over 38,000 JPY to less than 15,000 JPY that summer. Nick Leeson made a few attempts at a fast recovery, none of which worked out. When it was all over he left Barings Bank completely broke. His three year tryst lost Barings $1.4 billion and cost over 1000 people their jobs. Many workers, drinking in pubs in England had more money in their pockets than their bank did, as long as they didn’t work for Barings.
Incredibly, when the dust settled Leeson was only sentenced to 6 1/2 years of a possible 80+ year sentence. Of the 6 1/2 years he only served four. Today, the man who crushed Barings is a world famous speaker, author and by most accounts a success.
The public is still curious how Nick got away with such a short sentence.
The answer has everything to do with the people around Leeson, and their thresholds.
In May of 1978 the American Journal of Sociology published Mark Granovetter’s Threshold Models of Collective Behavior. Up to that point conventional wisdom held that people either did or did not participate in activities such as spreading rumors, riots, and protests. Either you were comfortable in socially disagreeable settings or you weren’t, the thinking went.
But Granovetter didn’t believe that to be true, so he set out to prove that it wasn’t. In the study he describes his findings in the context of riots. Who does and does not participate in riots and at what point will a typical non-rioter change their mind and join the riot.
His findings show that people are not binary in their thinking, even though most of us claim to be. We feel like we are or are not the type of person who would join a riot. But that isn’t true. The truth is that most of us are not the type of person to join a riot unless a certain number and type of person is rioting. If the people from our church, and our parents and one of our grandmothers are rioting we may decide to join.
This unknown number of people who have to be rioting for us to join is our riot participation threshold. Some of us have a threshold of 1. All it takes is one person to throw a rock through a window for us to join in. Others may be a 5 and still other are a 30, and need the whole neighborhood to join before they will participate.
In the study Granovetter explains it this way.
-Imagine 100 people milling around in a square-a potential riot situation. Suppose their riot threshold are distributed as follows: there is one individual with threshold 0, one with threshold1, one with threshold 2, and so on up to the last individual with threshold 99. This is a uniform distribution of thresholds. The outcome is clear and could be described as a “bandwagon” or “domino” effect: the person with threshold 0, the “instigator” engages in riot behavior-breaks a window say. This activates the person with threshold 1; the activity of these two people then activates the person with threshold 2, and so on, until all 100 people have joined. The equilibrium is 100.
Now perturb this distribution as follows. Remove the individual with threshold 1 and replaced him by one with threshold 2. By all of our usual ways of describing groups of people, the two crowds are essentially identical. But the outcome in the second case is quite different-the instigator riots, but there is now no one with threshold 1, and so the riot ends at that point, with one rioter.-
Granovetter goes on to explain the reality of threshold distribution. That in a group of 100 there is a mean, or average threshold. As each individual has a threshold, so does the group. If the mean threshold of the group is 25, once 25 people are rioting, the entire group joins in and the riot explodes, sometimes literally. The riot can go from a small group of disgruntled people, to a national event depending on the thresholds of the people involved.
But if it weren’t for the people with low thresholds, the 1’s and 2’s in the group, nothing would happen. The group may have a mean threshold of 25, but if the first 25 people don’t start rioting, the group remains docile.
Every group has a mean threshold before the group acts as a whole, and the dynamic of the group and the situation play a big role as well. Imagine for a moment that same group of rioters is watching a movie in a theater.
Now what is the mean threshold of the group to walk out of the movie?
It all depends. If the group is rioting out of frustration over a white cop shooting an unarmed black student at a local college with no apparent reason, and the movie is about the struggles of growing up as a black youth in a large city, the group probably won’t leave the theater at all. They have a very high threshold
But if the group is rioting because they are heavily Christian and the Ten Commandments was taken off of a public building, and the movie has swearing, nudity and R-rated content, the mean threshold of that group to leave the theater, in the very same movie is much lower than the previous group.
Dr. James Fallon, the neuroscientist I discussed in an earlier post, who learned that he was a psychopath, offers a perfect example of group thresholds in his book. Between 1990 and 1991 he was in Kenya, when he witnessed an example of mirror neurons at work.
(You may remember that we discussed mirror neurons in an earlier post involving Bernie Madoff, Milton Erickson and mirroring.)
Dr. Fallon explains that he and his brother Tom found themselves in a village led by an elder named Bernard. This was near the Ugandan border and most of the villagers had ever seen a white person, let alone played golf. He and his brother had a set of golf clubs and found a spot in which to practice. This piqued the curiosity of the villagers. After they watched Dr. Fallon and his brother both hit golf balls, Dr. Fallon asked if they would like to learn. This is the story as told by Dr. Fallon.
-Among the 100 or so amassed there, a few brave souls stepped forward, including the family elder. A gentleman of about 80 years who was dressed in a full suit and a hat with a Christian cross emblazoned on it. They first watched as I flubbed a shot about 30 yards drawing a chuckle from Bernard and a belly laugh from Tom.
Tom stepped forward and blasted a 3 wood to the very end of the field and there were gasps of awe from the gathered clan. Then the elder stepped forward, grabbed one of the clubs, an implement he had never seen, let alone used before, and took a quick and furious swing at the teed up golf ball. He whiffed if but no one made a peep. Then within 3 seconds, as if clearing a field with a scythe, he swung at the ball again, catching it on the sweet spot, and the ball took off about 150 yards, with a hint of a slice.
Applause erupted from all of us. Then one-by-one very man, woman and child stepped forward and missed with the first swing and then nailed the ball with the second. Some of the adult men drove the ball more than 200 yards. This was an example of the mirror neuron system cranking away with all cylinders firing. The next year when I visited the village it was like they had created their own two-hole golf association, an effect I had never intended to curse them with in the first place.-
In Dr. Fallon’s example, the village had the perfect threshold and influencers for golf, a hideous curse of a game, to infect the entire village. Apparently the elder had a threshold of either 1 or 2 for the game of golf. He need only see Dr. Fallon and maybe his brother Tom golfing before he felt comfortable enough to give it a try. Perhaps the next person who tried had a threshold of 1, 2 or 3, or perhaps their threshold was that the elder had to try first before they would.
This is the crux of influence. The dynamic of thresholds and context is the heart of persuasion and influence. In order to affect a groups behavior, that group needs the mean number of people to make the change first. Those people must have a low threshold and be the right influencers to instigate the change, or it won’t happen. But if that recipe is not just right, the blaze will to catch on.
For instance, why did Justine Sacco’s tweet go viral? When she wrote, “Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m white!” she only had 170 followers, which is nothing in the world of Twitter. Let’s also realize that there are tweets happening daily from people with whom we are familiar, that are just as inflammatory as this one, but don’t go viral and ruin careers.
Here are just a few inflammatory remarks made on Twitter by famous people that didn’t ruin careers.
World famous movie critic, Roger Ebert tweeted, “Friends don’t let jackasses drink and drive.” after the death of Ryan Dunn from the Jackass movie franchise. Ryan died in an alcohol involved car accident with his friend Zachary Hartwell.
Kanye West wrote, “An abortion can cost a ballin’ nigga up to 10gs maybe a 100. Gold diggin’ bitches be getting pregnant on purpose.”
Finally, after a highly publicized domestic violence incident in which Rihanna was left battered by her then beau Chris Brown, Amanda Bynes tweeted, “@rihanna Chris Brown beat you because you’re not pretty enough”
Those tweets may have spread and become famous, but did not garner near the reaction that Justine’s did. These are people whose tweets are often read by more people in one second that Justine had on her entire account.
But Justine’s tweet found it’s way to a man named Sam Biddle. He was the editor of Valleywag which was a leg of Gawker media. When what he saw as a racist tweet from a senior IAC employee he was at his threshold for sharing and mocking a tweet. He shared it on Valleywag’s blog where it exploded and went on to get over 200k responses from an audience with a very low threshold for social shaming.
The opposite happens when a group has a very high threshold for something. In a situation where change needs to happen, if the group is resistant to the change, or lacking the influencers to reach the threshold, the culture of, “this is how it’s done around here” runs rampant. Unfortunately for the customers of Barings bank, the employees had a very high threshold for pointing out glaring problems
For example, the now famous 5-8’s account where Nick Leeson made the illegal trades, showed up every day in the bank’s fledgeling IT department. Every day when the odd account number showed up, the IT professional would simply delete it off of his screen, rather than investigate.
Nick Leeson explains the culture around the fraud in an interview with Nick Batsford on CORE Finance. He says, “I was never challenged, lots of diaspora, technology not communicating with each other, people not asking sensible questions and any challenges that were made were completely superficial, easily to divert, pretty much me just giving cock and ball answers on the spot as the questions were asked.”
He faked it and no one had the appropriate, personal threshold to question what he was doing.
This is part of why Leeson received such lenient sentence. Yes he perpetrated a fraud that ruined entire lives. Certainly he lied, cheated and stole. But he did it in a bank with over 200 years of experience. The people who trusted Barings did so based on their sheer amount of time they had been on the planet. When you have been in business 230 years you should have some regulations in place, which they did.
Unfortunately no one wanted to be disagreeable enough to enforce those regulations. The IT person didn’t take the time to check account number 88888. Leeson’s own management let him facilitate this fraud for three years. Much like Bernie Madoff, it may never have come to light if it weren’t for outside forces. In Bernies case the 2008 sub-prime lending collapse, in Nick Leeson’s case, an earthquake.
So Nick Leeson gets a portion of the blame, but so does Barings, for allowing a culture with such a high threshold to exist. The Board of Banking Supervision of the Bank of England launched an investigation led by Britain’s Chancellor of the Exchequer who released a report on July 18, 1995. Lord Bruce of Donington, in the House of Lords’ debate on the report, said:
-Even the provisional conclusions of the report are interesting. I should like to give them to the House so that we may be reminded what the supervisory body itself decided at the end of such investigation as it was able to make. It stated on page 250:
“Barings’ collapse was due to the unauthorised and ultimately catastrophic activities of, it appears, one individual (Nick Leeson) that went undetected as a consequence of a failure of management and other internal controls of the most basic kind”.
The words I venture to emphasise to your Lordships are these:
“as a consequence of a failure of management and other internal controls of the most basic kind”.
Noble Lords who have read through paragraph 14.2 of the report will be aware that it specifies these deficiencies. The report states:
“Management teams have a duty to understand fully the businesses they manage”.
Really! They really have to understand the businesses! I would have thought that it was an elementary assumption to make that the controllers should understand the nature of the businesses they are trying to control. The next requirement is this:
“Responsibility for each business activity has to be clearly established and communicated”.
Hooray for that! I wonder how businesses in this country manage in their generality to continue without that qualification. The third requirement is:
“Clear segregation of duties is fundamental to any effective control system”.
Tut, tut! We are now treating the real elementum of the whole art and science of management, and it needs to be repeated here. The report continues:
“Relevant internal controls, including independent risk management, have to be established for all business activities”.
Hooray for that! These are matters of plain, ordinary common sense. One does not need to be an accountant or a management consultant to be aware of that. Finally:
“Top management and the Audit Committee have to ensure that significant weaknesses, identified to them by internal audit or otherwise, are resolved quickly”.
Well, well, well! These are all respects which this control body finds were absent from Barings. Do noble Lords really know what is being said? It is being said that Barings ought not to have been authorised bankers from the beginning, because any business — I do not care whether it is a whelk stall (one must not insult whelk stall owners in the context of this catastrophe) or what — knows that these are the basic conditions for the continuance of the business. It seems to me that the Bank of England ought never to have authorised this concern without verifying that all these conditions were in place.-
In other words, Barings threshold for questioning their own business was way out of whack.
And so is ours.
To understand why, click here.
How important is kindness in the art of persuasion? This excerpt from SWAY; The Link Between Autism and Influence answers that very question.
In June of 1957 a young Mike Wallace was broadcast into the homes of America. The white smoke drifting up from his cigarette bore a stark contrast to the black background behind him, and the colorless video accentuated the contrast even more. He opens with, “My guest tonight is the youngest U.S. army turncoat of the Korean War. You see him behind me,” a picture of a young, handsome man flashes on the screen next to Wallace. He continues. “He’s David Hawkins of Oklahoma City.” The screen goes dark. Suddenly the words, The Mike Wallace Interview flash across the black backdrop with cigarette smoke wafting behind the words as they are simultaneously spoken by a man with a deep voice. For some reason there is the sound of a drum being struck twice. Then the interview starts. This is the point where the irritation for Wallace becomes visible.
He fidgets with some papers as he explains, “Three years ago the United States was stunned by an announcement from war-torn Korea. U.S. army private David Hawkins and 20 other prisoners of the communists have become turncoats,” Wallace over pronounces the word turncoats. He continues, “they had renounced their own country and disappeared behind red China’s bamboo curtain.” Hawkins is quietly smoking behind him, leaning on the arm of his chair to the right. Wallace partially swivels around, not facing Hawkins but instead, speaking to him from the left side of his face, as if the empty blackness behind Hawkins was more worthy of his attention.
“Dave,” Wallace says, “let me ask you this.” He goes on to explain that the New York Times had published a piece suggesting that the “turncoats” hadn’t really converted to communism, but that they had committed crimes against their own, and didn’t want to face whatever punishment the U.S. had in store for them.
Hawkins had been captured shortly after his 17th birthday. He was shot, lost conciseness, and when he awoke the first words he heard were, “We are friends. We are not going to hurt you.” He was in a Chinese communist hospital, and this was much warmer welcome than the one he received from Mike Wallace.
The Korean War, like any war, was a complicated political and fundamental contention that, at it’s core, pitted capitalism against communism. WWII resulted in the division of Korea along the 38th parallel. The communist controlled, north side butted squarely against the U.S. occupied south. In 1950 the communists from the north crossed the 38th parallel, sparking what would be the Korean War and a debate between communism and capitalism that still rages, in one version or another, today.
As Hawkins awoke to hear the kind words of his doctor, there was no doubt he was uneasy. At the time there were basically two halves of the communist enemy. There was the North Korean half, which often did not recognize the Geneva Convention mandates. Frequently, South Korean POWs were used as labor for military purposes, which is strictly forbidden by articles 49-57. Or they were indoctrinated to communism, then assigned to the most dangerous battles and positions in the war. The stance of the Koreans in doing this was, why kill ours, when we can kill theirs.
Then there was the Chinese half of the North Korean army. They also frequently ignored the Geneva Convention guidelines, but for a much different reason. They adhered to the Confucian Code. Although Confucianism is a deep system of actions and beliefs, it is often described as being built on three values.
In other words, if you were captured by the North Korean army, you could be captured by a Korean enemy that used you as fodder, or by a Chinese enemy that viewed you as an equal. Hawkins, along with mountains of others, had been captured by the Chinese.
So many soldiers were captured that the Chinese army had to hire hundreds of staff to manage the POW camps. Amongst those hired was Zhou Shangun, a translator. She said of the POWs, “They didn’t know our policy. They didn’t know if we were going to kill them, or force them to do hard labor or keep them in China forever and not let them return home. So they worried a lot.”
But most, at that point had little to worry about. Qian Meide, who was also a translator said, “My supervisor asked me to read the regulations to the POWs. It began with Dear Students. I was very surprised and asked why, because to me they were prisoners and we were their captors. My supervisor said yes, they are students and you are instructors.”
The Chinese often held lectures and classes for the prisoners, athletic events between camps and essay contests for the POWs. It was the latter that produced the comments of U.S. soldiers, which the Chinese used as propaganda. After the soldier had experienced unexpectedly kind treatment, great meals, and lectures explaining the communist view of the world, the Chinese captors would offer small prizes to the winners of essay contests. More often than not, the winners of these prizes had dotted their essays with small, pro-communists statements. After all, these men had come to Korea with the purpose of killing the Chinese. Now, those same Chinese were treating them better than some had ever been treated at home. William White, a black POW said of the Chinese, “For the first time in my life, I have witnessed complete equality.”
In his fabulous book, Influence, The Psychology of Persuasion, Robert Cialdini explains why the Chinese offered small prizes for men who won these contests. He explains that, not only were the little, pro-communist statements great for propaganda, but they also held a deeper, psychological power. The power of written commitment.
The prizes for these essay contest were kept purposefully small. Cialdini explains that items such as small bags of rice went to the winners. The reason was the Chinese wanted their POWs to own what they had written. They needed the authors to think that they themselves believed the small incremental shifts that were happening in their opinions. If a prisoner was offered something very valuable for his winning essay, he could explain away his writings. But no one would compromise their beliefs for a bag of rice, would they?
The answer is not simply yes or no. It depends on the value they placed on the rice. They would not place massive value on a bag of rice, if they were being treated as guests rather than prisoners. Imagine the poor souls detained in the Korean POW camps. If they were offered the opportunity to build a bridge rather than fight their own, on the front lines, in the most dangerous places, for the enemy, just for writing a pro-communist essay, it would be easy to explain away writing almost anything.
But what is a bag of rice to a man who is so healthy, he is competing in athletic events? The reason a bag of rice was a small prize had everything to do with the condition of the recipient. In an article by Reuters named, American POWs remember life in Japanese prison camps, Wayne Miller explained that their food ration was usually two bowls of rice, with little meat or vegetables. Imagine offering that prisoner a bag of rice for a sentence degrading capitalism. That bag of rice could double his calories for a day. When you are starving, that is a huge reward. But, the men under the kinder, Chinese control in Korea weren’t starving, so the bag of rice seemed small, and the sentence written supporting communism seemed their own.
Not long after the contentious beginning of the Mike Wallace interview with David Hawkins, Wallace is finally facing Hawkins. He asks, “You became a turncoat…Why? What did you have against the United States?”
Hawkins voice is soft and quiet. He answers, “Well Mike it wasn’t actually that I had, uh, something against the United States.” He stops. Perhaps the longest pause during the interview. Hawkins seems to be searching for his actual feelings. He goes on, “I underwent the, uh, mass indoctrination program that the Chinese, uh, instigated in the camp, and there was a lot of things that they told me that, uh, sounded to me like common sense.”
As part of the agreement of peace, a 90-day window was offered to any soldier to consider, or reconsider his choice. If they had initially renounced their citizenship, they could change their mind and choose a repatriation plan. After denouncing the U.S. two soldiers did change their mind. Edward Dikenson and Claude Batchelor returned home. They were both immediately court-martialed. Their repatriation plan included prison sentences. Batchelor served 4 1/2 years and Dikenson 3 1/2, but both were sentenced to much more.
Lewis Griggs, one of the “turncoats” said in a televised interview, “Even if I had wanted repatriation, the fate of Dikenson and Batchelor would stop me.”
Kindness caused US soldiers to choose to stay with their captors in Korea. It’s one of the things that make those on the autism spectrum so influential, and it could be the thing that helps you take your influence to the next level.
NUMMI changed the way management is done in the US. SWAY; The Link Between Autism and Influence explains how.
In 1982 General Motors was forced to shut down the Fremont California plant. It was widely accepted that Fremont was the worst auto factory in the world. Commenting on the employees at Fremont, Bruce Lee, not the martial artist but the manger for the western region for United Auto said, “It was considered the worst workforce in the automobile industry in the United States.”
But, on Dec. 10th, 1984, Toyota had renamed the plant New United Motor Manufacturing Inc. or NUMMI, and began making Chevy Novas. But many were skeptical about the success of the new plant. Most of that skepticism came from part of the agreement GM had made with UAW. The part in question was that NUMMI had to hire 80% of laid off employees from the original plant. These were the same people who were, “the worst workforce in the automobile industry.”
Rumors of on the job antics including prostitutions, drinking, drug use and purposeful sabotage of the vehicles at the Fremont plant were admitted by many of those who performed the acts themselves. Prior to the 1982 shut down, the plant resembled more of a brothel/bar combination than a workplace. But, GM had one rule that was always obeyed. That rule was, the line doesn’t stop. As chassis rolled into workers areas on the never stopping line, workers had to assemble it as it went. Henry Ford had pioneered the assembly line and GM wasn’t about to stop the process that had been working for almost a century.
The rumor was that it costs $15,000/minute to stop the line. So the culture of Fremont was one of, drinking on the job, prostitution in the parking lot, drug use at work, but never, ever stop the line. If an employee had a problem installing their given piece of the car, that employee would mark the car and let it continue down the line. Often the repair would not be made until the car was fully assembled.
This was the mindset and culture of the workers Toyota had agreed to re-hire. The question on everyones mind was how could they turn this around? The answer was with kindness, in the from of fixture in Toyota plants called andon chords, and a completely different management style.
In the book Smarter Faster Better, Charles Duhigg tells story of Rick Madrid, an employee of Fremont and NUMMI who had travelled to Japan to see what Toyota manufacturing looked like. He watched a worker struggle with a bolt. Rather than continue, the worker pulled an andon cord. The entire line stopped at the end of the station. As it did, the mans direct leaders took orders from him, handing him tools and assisting him with the bolt. Once the bolt was fixed the man pulled the cord and work resumed.
Madrid said of the event, “I just couldn’t believe it. Back home I had watched a guy fall in the pit, and they didn’t stop the line.” In Jan 1985, a month after the opening of the plant, Tetsuro Toyota, the newly appointed president of the plant, was observing the assembly lines. Duhigg explains that Toyota watched an employee struggle with a particular tail light installation. As the man struggled Toyota approached him, read the name on his uniform and said, “Joe, please pull the cord.”
“I can fix this sir.” Joe said. Toyota repeated himself, “Joe, please pull the cord.” Eventually Toyota guided Joe’s hand to the andon cord and they pulled it together, stopping the line. Joe, overcoming his fear, fixed the tail light. Toyota bowed to Joe afterwards and said, “Joe, please forgive me. I have done a poor job of instructing your managers of the importance of helping you pull the cord when there is a problem. You are the most important part of this plant. Only you can make every car great. I promise I will do everything in my power to never fail you again.”
This simple cord and kind gesture from Toyota instantly put the management and the workers at NUMMI on the same side rather than at each others throats. by 1986 their productivity was higher than any other GM plant and double what it had done when it was GM Fremont. It happened with essentially the same work force and in about one year. The main difference was that workers were not judged for stopping the line, and management was kind enough to help.
This is the opposite of how people like Democritus, Rick Barry, and Harry Markopolos tried to influence society. They were missing the kindness and generosity they needed to make the type of change NUMMI made to the American workforce landscape.
To understand how autism and influence are tied together, click here.
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