Friday, March 16, 2012

Psychological neoteny - Insights for Organizational Change?

Bruce Charlton, Professor of Theoretical Medicine, University of Buckingham, UK, hypothesizes that psychological neoteny, “retention of youthful attitudes and behaviors into later adulthood” - thanks to the impact of higher education and more time spent in school - equips people to deal more effectively with our ever changing world. Psychological neoteny would seem to put youthful characteristics of learning readiness and thinking flexibility at our disposal. According to Charlton, "A child-like flexibility of attitudes, behaviours and knowledge is probably adaptive in modern society because people need repeatedly to change jobs, learn new skills, move to new places and make new friends."

So, that perhaps points to value in nurturing youthful attitudes and behaviors in the context of organizational change to help those who are less change-adaptable to become a bit more so.

But, as we all know, youthfulness is a double edged sword, and Charlton points to an associated delay in maturation, particularly among academics, professionals and other groups with long educational cycles. Do you remember being young, unpredictable, quickly shifting priorities, being attached to the next "shiny new thing," maybe being overly superficial, fascinated with short lived fashion?  (I do - though I'll never admit it in public.)

Perhaps then, communications and marketing efforts that support organizational change need to adapt some techniques used to market products and services to youth - "Red Bull gives you wings!"

Bruce Charlton's Miscellany (One of his many blogs)

Psychological Neoteny, NY Times, By Clay Risen

Serious Study: Immaturity Levels Rising - Jennifer Viegas, Discovery News

Charlton BG. Psychological neoteny and higher education: Associations with delayed parenthood. Medical Hypotheses. 2007; 69: 237-40.

Charlton BG. The rise of the boy-genius: psychological neoteny, science and modern life. Medical Hypotheses. 2006; 67: 679-81

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