Thursday, September 08, 2011

Liberalism, Conservatism and Organizational Change Management

I just stumbled upon a Psychology Today article titled The Ideological Animal that made for a very interesting read.  The author positions political stances as less of an intellectual exercises and more of a product of our childhood, education, and, quite surprisingly, fear of death.

For the topic at hand, though, the above article contains some interesting comparisons between liberal and conservative personalities, as derived from a number of significant psychological studies.  A few examples:

  • Liberals are messier than conservatives, their rooms have more clutter and more color, and they tend to have more travel documents, maps of other countries, and flags from around the world.
  • Conservatives are neater, and their rooms are cleaner, better organized, more brightly lit, and more conventional. Liberals are more optimistic.
  • Conservatives are more likely to be religious.
  • Conservatives have a greater desire to reach a decision quickly and stick to it, and are higher on conscientiousness, which includes neatness, orderliness, duty, and rule-following. Liberals are higher on openness, which includes intellectual curiosity, excitement-seeking, novelty, creativity for its own sake, and a craving for stimulation like travel, color, art, music, and literature. 
  • Conservatives have less tolerance for ambiguity.Liberals, on the other hand, are more likely to see gray areas and reconcile seemingly conflicting information.
If an organization has a predominance of one personality type / political stance versus another, I can certainly see how the communications / change management strategy would differ, ranging from more conventional, methodological, structured, with no surprises, to more emergent, conversational, and creative. And, obviously, it is important to align expectations of the scope / pace of change with the conservative or liberal nature of the organization.

1 comment:

Albuquirky said...

You should find some of the foundational research on this subject interesting. Particularly, the works of Bob Altemeyer (recounted in John Dean's book, Conservatives Without Conscience, and included in a decent Wikipedia article).