The psychic Prison was developed by Dr Gareth Morgan suggesting that organisations can act as and become psychic prisons.
If you have not heard the term “psychic prison” before, your first reaction is probably a negative one that invokes images of worker drones toiling away mindlessly in a dimly lit factory for as far as the eye can see. I guess I cannot blame you as that was the first thing I thought of when I was exposed to the idea that an organisation can be a psychic prison.
Rather than being fodder for a proletariat labour revolution, the purpose of the psychic prison metaphor is to illustrate how an organisation can become trapped in a favoured way of thinking to keep the peace, which restricts creativity, prohibits change, and limits its ability to progress into the future.
Organisations which have become trapped in a psychic prison often share a common set of the following traits:
- Group think is pervasive – Humans have a natural tendency to conform. When team members conform and do not deviate from what the rest of the group thinks, ideas or processes are never challenged. Group think occurs to keep the peace, but keeping the peace is not always productive, which leads to the next trait of a psychic prison.
- Conflict is avoided – Conflict in the workplace has got a really bad rap in recent years, and the avoidance of workplace conflict has had some pretty negative consequences. The truth is that productive conflict in the workplace is critical to the success of any business and helps prevents bad ideas from being implemented without serious discussion and consideration.
- “We’ve Never Done it like that Before” – If these seven deadly words frequently find their way into the corporate board room, there is a good chance your organisation could be trapped in a psychic prison. If this is the case any attempts to create meaningful change are typically devoured with incredible voracity.
Below is a simple diagram of the Psychic Prison;